Knowledge of the health benefits that supplemental probiotics bring continues to grow over the years. High blood pressure, urinary infections, allergies, diabetes and overweight are a slither of the surprising problems that a good probiotic may help. However, less is known about prebiotics, even though they directly impact on health and how well probiotics work.
Prebiotics are a form of fiber that we, humans, cannot digest. Their function is not to feed us, but to nourish our good gut bugs. By selectively encouraging the growth of only certain gut bacteria, they enable a healthy digestive microbiome to flourish, to multiply in advantageous ways, and to keep us well. Just as our food does for us.
How do prebiotics multiply the benefits of probiotics?
The very definition for a prebiotic provides insight: A prebiotic is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-bring and health.”
In essence, prebiotics nurture a balanced gut flora and healthy gastrointestinal system function. The benefits are far reaching because prebiotics multiply the benefits of probiotics.
Let’s take a look…
Prebiotics improve gut health
Have you heard about a leaky gut? The lining of the digestive tract is only a single cell in thickness. This barrier between the inside of the gut and the inside of us has several important roles. Of those, allowing nutrients to pass through, while keeping foreign invaders and harmful material out is primary.
In a leaky gut, technically known as increased intestinal permeability, this lining is damaged. This can precede inflammation, infection and ill health.
We’ve known for some years that probiotics enhance gut lining strength. We also now know that prebiotics encourage probiotics in this role. However, the right prebiotic may also directly protect against barrier impairment.
Prebiotics boost immunity
Probiotics act as the soldiers of the gut, maiming and destroying foreign invaders. Prebiotics support them in this role by enabling a sturdy mix of healthy bugs.
It’s also likely that prebiotics improve the immune system in their own right. As the review article, Effects of prebiotics on immune system and cytokine expression, noted, this type of fiber helps to increase the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines and reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines. That is, it reduces inflammation.
Inflammation damages the cells of the gut lining and, in doing so, harms the body’s ability to respond to threats. Prebiotics appear to play a key role in immunity.
Prebiotics can calm anxiety and stress
In a stress-filled world, where anxiety is the most common mental illness in Northern America, finding safe ways to calm psychological strain matters.
There is growing awareness that probiotics can reduce anxiety. But many are unaware that prebiotics play an important role, too. How? Prebiotics have been shown to lower the release of the stress hormone, corticosterone. One study investigated a high prebiotic intake over 12 weeks and found a significant improvement in anxiety. The broad health implications of being able to calm anxiousness without pharmaceutical interventions are potentially profound.
As you can see, prebiotics and probiotics work both synergistically and through direct action. They are the perfect pair for improved gastrointestinal, and so general, health. We can increase our healthy prebiotic intake in two ways: food and supplementation.
Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, beets, Belgian endives, cashews, chickpeas, corn, dried fruits, garlic, grapefruit, green and snow peas, Jerusalem artichokes, lentils, leek, oats, onion, pistachio nuts, pomegranate, red kidney beans, scallions, shallots, and watermelon.
As the above study also noted, a high prebiotic intake might be necessary to amp up your health. Our Microbiome Plus+ Prebiotic scFOS Fiber - Boosts Probiotic Benefits is designed to do just that. It naturally promotes the growth of a healthy gut microbiome to support the normal inflammatory response and optimal digestive health.
Remember: Looking after your gut and the bugs that live in it can transform your gut, your immunity, your mood and your life!