What are prebiotics and should you be taking one?
Prebiotics are a source of fiber that helps good bacteria to grow your gut. They can make our gut feel better, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion. If you’ve ever considered taking a prebiotic or are interested in bettering your gut health, keep reading to learn more about if you should be taking one!
What are prebiotics?
As mentioned above, prebiotics are a source of fiber for our body. They are indigestible, meaning that when we consume them, they go directly to our lower digestive tract. When they get here, they act like food, or a precursor, to the healthy bacteria in our gut. This helps more good bacteria to grow.
Many individuals think that bacteria are a bad thing, however, bacteria can be both good and bad! Our body is filled with trillions of bacteria. Bacteria makes up the microbiome in our body, and while some bacteria are associated with certain diseases, others have positive benefits for our health.
Prebiotics are the food for the good bacteria, and therefore can potentially have positive benefits. One of the main potential benefits is our gut health, which we’ll discuss next.
Why having a healthy gut matters
When our gut bacteria out of balance, meaning that we have more “bad” bacteria than the “good,” it can cause many health issues. Digestive issues, chronic pain, and obesity are all linked to poor gut health. A healthier gut is also linked to better immunity and therefore less risk of disease and illness.
Our gut health is also related to our brain. This is called the “gut brain axis.” Research shows that there is a direct communication link between our brain and our gut. Think about it this way. Say you have a poor-quality diet pretty consistently. Our gut sends a signal up to our brain that we are not properly nourishing our body. This then affects our mood, ability to concentrate, and risk of mental health diseases. Having a good quality diet filled with real, whole foods can help to support a good relationship between our gut and brain.
For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD,) having a healthy gut can help reduce symptoms such as bloating, cramps, and abdominal pain.
What else prebiotics do for us
In addition to promoting gut health, prebiotics also serve other purposes in our body! Prebiotics help to absorb calcium. This is important to ensure that we have adequate calcium supplies in our body to have healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Prebiotics can also impact how quickly our blood sugars spike. They are slowly digested, making our blood sugars rise gradually. This keeps us full longer and increases energy.
Sources of prebiotics
You can find prebiotics naturally in many foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some examples include apples, barley, garlic, flaxseed, oats, and onions. There are also some fortified versions of prebiotics. These typically might say “fortified with.” These sources include breads, cereals, cookies, or yogurt. Instead of looking for the term “prebiotic” on the nutrition label, look for terms like galactooligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharide, oligofructose, chicory fiber, or inulin.
There are also prebiotics that you can take in supplement form. Before taking a supplement, we recommend checking with your healthcare provider. It’s also important to make sure that your supplement brand is third party tested, as the supplement industry is not regulated. This is to ensure that the supplement is pure and not contaminated.
So, should I be taking a prebiotic or what?
Long story short – we recommend first focusing on real, whole foods for your prebiotics before trying a supplement. As shown above, there are many food sources with prebiotics naturally found in it. Pure Plates offers many food sources with prebiotics such as our Black Bean Quinoa Burrito, Protein Pumpkin Muffins, and our Ultimate Power Bar. We take care of preparing your food using the freshest ingredients and deliver them straight to your door.
If you have IBS, IBD, or have recently been on antibiotics for an extended period of time, a prebiotic may be helpful and should be discussed with your provider.