Prebiotics: Food for the Good Guys!

What are PRE-biotics?

Doctors have been prescribing antibiotics for a long time (you may think that's all they prescribe, if you have young children 🙄). And now more and more physicians are recommending PRO-biotics for increased gut health (see this abstract study). But have you ever heard of PRE-biotics?? No, it's not a misspelling of probiotics; it's actually a thing. 

So what are they, and what do they do for you?

Definition

Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds. They usually pass undigested through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, and they encourage growth of "good bacteria" in the gut. In other words, these fiber-rich foods (oligosaccharides) are broken down by the good bacteria in your digestive tract so that these bacteria can perform the digestive functions God gave them.

Pre-biotics were first identified and named by Marcel Roberfroid in 1995. These pre-biotic fibers pass through the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract without digestion -- the human digestive system does not break these fibers down (unlike ruminants like cows, deer, and sheep). After moving through the small intestine, they land in the large intestine and colon, where they are fermented by gut microflora. They then provide support to the helpful bacteria in your digestive system.

When pre-biotics move through the stomach without being broken down by either gastric acids or digestive enzymes, they bring about changes in the digestive tract and organs. They basically become "food" for the good bacteria in your gut. And because gut health relates to whole body health (see here and here), prebiotics and probiotics together can help increase overall nutrition for your body.

Where do you get Pre-biotics?

Prebiotics are usually found in vegetables, some whole grains (properly prepared), under-ripe bananas, and in honey. Good natural sources of prebiotics include:

  • raw garlic
  • raw leeks
  • raw or cooked onions
  • raw asparagus
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • under-ripe bananas
  • Also, such foods as raw honey, oats, whole-grain wheat and whole-grain corn.

Recommendations for the amount of pre-biotics you should ingest typically range from 4 to 8 grams (0.14–0.28 oz) for general digestive health support, to 15 grams (0.53 oz) or more for those with active digestive disorders. 

How do you know if you're getting enough pre-biotics?

This site helpfully explains:

Lately, some food manufacturers have started adding prebiotics to packaged foods as a way of enhancing their health profile. Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are two types of prebiotic fiber that are commonly used for this purpose. You even see them marketed all by themselves as prebiotic dietary supplements.

But, honestly, I don’t think you need to go out of your way to get prebiotics. As long as you’re eating a varied diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, [properly prepared] legumes, and [properly prepared] whole grains, you should be getting enough soluble fiber to keep your beneficial bacteria happy. Certain probiotic foods, like wine and fermented soy, even come with their own built-in supply of prebiotics! Of course, that’s not a license to overdo it with the wine .....!

I love the fact that red wine (good quality of course) contains pre-biotics! 😀 Here is a video overview of pre-biotics (I'm not endorsing this guy's product, but I do think his synopsis is good -and sometimes its good to see a pictorial demonstration).

Summary

If you make sure you eat good "feeder pre-biotics" for your good digestive bacteria, you will optimize the productivity of the probiotic / good microorganism activity in your digestive system, which will make your gut happy!

Have you ever heard of pre-biotics? Do you eat them regularly? Post a comment and let me know your thoughts!