By now, you’ve certainly heard of probiotics and the incredible health benefits they provide. But what about prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a unique form of carbohydrates (mostly fiber) that are indigestible to humans. Where probiotics are the beneficial bacteria, prebiotics are the food that feeds them!
Since your body can’t break prebiotics down, they pass through the upper digestive tract and into the colon where they are fermented by healthy gut flora. This strengthens the “good” bacteria in your gut while promoting the growth of more.
And this process provides a wide range of health benefits…
What Health Benefits Do Prebiotics Offer?
Better digestion, stronger immunity, improved heart health, less inflammation and a sunnier mood.
These are just some of the benefits experienced by adding prebiotics to your diet. Now let’s take a look at how these unique carbohydrates work in our bodies to produce health-promoting results…
Better Gut Health and Digestion
Hippocrates said: “All disease begins in the gut”. Though the wisdom of the Father of Medicine is over 2,000 years old, more scientific studies emerge each year proving this to be a more powerful statement than even Hippocrates himself may have realized at the time.
If your gut isn’t healthy, you can’t be healthy.
It really is that simple. Once you start improving your gut health, everything else falls into place. And prebiotics (along with probiotics) will help you do just that.
From a study published in the Journal of Nutrition
“A developing body of evidence supports a role for prebiotics in reducing the risk and severity of GI infection and inflammation, including diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis as well as bowel function disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome.”
This means if you are living with any kind of inflammatory bowel condition, adding prebiotics to your diet can help relieve these conditions naturally.
Many individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis undergo bowel resection. While this may temporarily ease the pain and symptoms, the prognosis for this type of surgery is not good.
In fact, research shows that 50 percent of patients will become symptomatic again within five years! This could indicate the need for more surgery, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
These conventional methods may address the symptoms of an inflammatory bowel disease… but not the cause.
A 2008 study published in Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology states:
“Research has shown that higher intakes of prebiotic foods can increase numerous probiotic microorganisms, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri, bifidobacteria, and certain strains of L. casei or the L. acidophilus-group.”
Another wonderful benefit of having a variety and abundance of good bacteria in the gut is that while the bacteria are fermenting the prebiotics, they produce a short-chain fatty acid call butyric acid, which has been shown to improve the health of your intestinal lining while reducing inflammation.
Treat and Reverse Inflammatory and Metabolic Diseases
Millions struggle with chronic pain and inflammatory diseases. One of these diseases includes our nation’s number one killer: heart disease.
Studies have shown that the consumption of prebiotics helps to reduce inflammation and promote healthy cholesterol levels thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
While the prebiotics are at work in your gut, they also reduce inflammation throughout your entire body, which can be incredibly beneficial in treating a variety of metabolic diseases (including type 2 diabetes) and autoimmune conditions.
Improve Immune Health
According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, consuming prebiotics causes something called the “prebiotic effect”, which is associated with modulating the activities of the immune system, and reducing the concentration of cancer-promoting enzymes and bacterial metabolites in the gut.
This means prebiotics may have a significant role in the prevention of cancer.
In fact, a study published in Nutritional Reviews claims:
“Prebiotics may prevent colorectal cancer (CRC) development in humans by modifying the composition or activity of the colorectal microflora.”
As prebiotics enhance immunity, the can offer a significant reduction in yeast infections, digestive disorders, urinary tract infections, and cognitive disorders, as well.
Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
As mentioned briefly above, prebiotics have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Previous in vivo studieshave shown that both probiotics and prebiotics were effective in reducing serum/plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
In addition, the ability of the prebiotics to balance the body’s electrolyte and mineral levels helps control blood pressure. 
Another bonus for your heart!
Helps Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
If you find your appetite is insatiable and you have difficulty controlling your weight, prebiotics may be just what the doctor ordered.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that prebiotic foods help you maintain a healthy body weight in two ways
- They promote a sense of fullness and satiety.
- They reduce levels of ghrelin, the body’s ‘hunger hormone’.
Improve Mental Health and Mood
If you struggle with anxiety or depression, prebiotics can help there too. In fact, prebiotics have also been found to help you feel happier, calmer, and more in control of your moods.
In a 2005 study published in Psychopharmacology, study participants who received prebiotics (instead of a placebo) for three weeks showed positive changes in their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The prebiotic group also exhibited decreased “attentional vigilance” to negative versus positive information on an emotional test.
Increased Bone Density
Many nutrients – including calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D and magnesium – are known to help keep your bones strong. But if your gut cannot properly digest these nutrients, they won’t be put to use in your body.
Prebiotics have been shown to enhance the absorption of essential nutrients, including the uptake of calcium, which leads to an increase in bone density.
The Best Food Sources of Prebiotics
Now that you know about the many health benefits prebiotics can offer, let’s take a look at some of the best food sources:
|Dandelion Greens||Jerusalem Artichokes|
|Unmodified potato starch (not potato flour)||Cocoa|
|Burdock root||Jicama root|
For best results, these foods should be eaten raw and included with probiotic foods (lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt) as part of your nutrient-dense ancestral diet. Be sure to start slowly with prebiotic-rich foods to avoid digestive discomfort.
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