Do I Need a Prebiotic Supplement?
Prebiotic vs. Probiotic
By now, most health-conscious people have heard that the bacteria in your gut are very important and that gut health affects just about everything in the body. Perhaps you are even taking a probiotic supplement that contains live beneficial bacteria. Though the name is similar, a prebiotic is different than a probiotic. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that humans cannot digest. However, the bacteria of our digestive tract can ferment it in the colon and use it as fuel.
A prebiotic supplement is a food source for the beneficial bacteria of the gut. When you pair probiotics with prebiotics, it helps to improve the effectiveness of your probiotic supplement. Even without supplementing with probiotics, studies show the intake of prebiotic fiber supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
As an important part of building a healthy digestive system, higher intakes of prebiotics are linked to many health benefits including:
• Improved gut health
• Less digestive symptoms like bloating and gas, plus improved regularity
• Improved energy
• Less brain fog
• Fewer cravings
• Healthy metabolic function
• Improved immunity
• Lower levels of inflammation
• Better insulin and leptin control
It is very likely that the list of benefits of supplementing with prebiotic fibers will continue to grow as scientists continue to reveal the importance of a maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Prebiotics Support Butyric Acid Production
Consuming prebiotic fiber helps to produce a beneficial fatty acid called butyric acid in the colon. When bacteria in the colon ferment prebiotics they produce butyric acid as a by-product. Butyric acid is the primary fatty acid required for repair of your digestive tract lining, supporting health of cells in your colon, and helping to offset injury from elevated lipopolysaccharides (LPS) in the gut. Bad bacteria produce toxins called LPS which trigger inflammation, insulin resistance or pre-diabetes and weight gain. Elevated LPS levels in the blood are found in almost all overweight people.
Prebiotics for a Healthy Weight
Gut health is intimately involved with metabolism. Supplementing with prebiotics to promote the growth of probiotics and support a healthy gut is a good way to support a healthy weight. Butyric acid has been found to improve fat burning metabolism. A study in mice published in Diabetes, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, found that butyric acid helped the mice improve their ability to burn fat even on a high fat diet. Their muscle function, brown fat health, and various gene signals involved with fat burning also improved.
A separate study from Harvard University showed that gut flora influenced weight loss more than calories. The study followed 120,000 men and women for 12-20 years. The findings found that those who ate more fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains gained less weight over the years. Regular consumption of yogurt turned out to be the most helpful of all the foods for weight – not because of calories but because of friendly flora (probiotics) in the yogurt.
These studies offer more evidence to support the fact that gut health and the microflora of the gut are intimately involved with metabolism.
Get More Prebiotics in Your Diet
Prebiotics are a fermentable fiber that can be found in many fruits and vegetables. Some especially good prebiotic options include: artichokes, asparagus, green bananas, burdock root, chicory, dandelion greens, eggplant, garlic, honey, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, and legumes.
A prebiotic fiber supplement can also be helpful to supplement the diet. Good options include fructooligosaccharides (FOS), arabinogalactan, psyllium, guar gum, acacia gum, and others. Make sure to check labels. A high quality probiotic supplement will have a prebiotic fiber such as FOS mixed with the probiotic strains to enhance health benefits.
When you begin taking a prebiotic supplement, start slowing and gradually increase your dose to the recommendation on the label. If you notice gas or bloating, reduce your dose. This is a normal sign of growth of the beneficial bacteria. Gas or bloating could also be a sign of undesirable bacterial growth in the small intestines. Various natural remedies such as oregano oil, caprylic acid, and noni help your body balance gut bacteria.
Consistency is the most effective way to use prebiotics to improve gut health. It can take time to improve gut health, but using a prebiotic supplement is a great way to begin improving the health of your digestive system. As research continues to reveal how important gut health is to your overall health and quality of life, adding a prebiotic supplement to the list of your daily essential supplements is wise.
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