In the last post we talked about how probiotics, the healthy bacteria, can keep your GI tract healthy and therefore prevent disease. The other great thing about probiotics is that they help with bowel regularity, something that is important to everyone!
Today our topic is prebiotics, the fuel for probiotics.
What are Prebiotics?
It’s pretty simple! Prebiotics feed, or stimulate growth of probiotic bacteria (the good guys!). They nourish Probiotic bacteria and yeasts so that they
can grow faster.
Some experts have argued that consuming prebiotics, rather than
probiotics is more practical since taking probiotic bacteria by mouth is more unpredictable in how it can survive in each persons GI tract. In
contrast, prebiotics are not sensitive to digestive acids or enzymes.
The criteria for classification as a prebiotic are:
- resistant to digestion
- fermented by colon microflora
- able to selectively stimulate growth of good bacteria
- beneficial to the host’s health
Inulin and oligofructose, are the best-studied prebiotics. You may be able to find these in supplement form, usually as
Fructo-Oligosaccharides (FOS) or Inulin. However, you don’t need to take supplements of prebiotics; There are many foods that provide prebiotics!
and oligofructose are present in varying amounts in more than 36,000
plant foods. For example, there are oligosaccharides in soy, peas, and beans which might be one of
the reasons they are cancer-preventive. Fermentation of prebiotics
in the colon produces butyrate, which may reduce cancer growth.
Food Sources of Prebiotics:
Excellent food sources of prebiotics are chicory root (roughly 15% to 20% inulin and 5% to
10% oligofructose) and Jerusalem artichokes.
Personally, I have consumed a coffee alternative that was made of chicory root, called Teeccino. I’m not sure if you get any prebiotics by consuming the brewed liquid, or if you actually need to consume the root. I don’t think I’d be up for eating the grounds! I have also seen inulin in the Stonyfield yogurts.
Others sources include:
- whole grains,
- greens (dandelion, spinach, collard greens, chard,
kale, mustard greens),
- bananas, and
used commercially in foods is extracted from chicory or synthesized from
For those undergoing treatment for cancer, there is actually some animal research showing that FOS and Inulin may help your chemotherapy
treatments work better!
So here’s the bottom line on biotics, both pre and pro. Eat plenty of sources of prebiotics every day to promote healthy bacteria in your gut. The healthy bacteria will help with bowel regularity, and will strengthen the immune functions of your GI tract to reduce your risk for cancer.
Have a great New Year! I can’t wait to hear about all of your healthy eating resolutions!