Prebiotics and Probiotics
What are Prebiotics?
How Prebiotics Work
Prebiotics are really the new kid on the block. The term was coined in 1995. A prebiotic is a special type of soluble fiber that is used mostly by the beneficial good bacteria as a fuel. These good bacteria, in turn, produce certain substances that acidify the colon (a very good thing) and serve as a nutrition source for the colon’s own cells. Isn’t this remarkable? The colon provides a warm, oxygen-free environment for these beneficial bacteria to grow. These bacteria, in turn, manufacture the nutrition source for the colon itself. This is a true symbiotic relationship where both the bacteria and colon depend on each other and promote each others’ health. Of course, the body benefits even more as some, rather remarkable health benefits occur when this system is operating maximally.
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So what are prebiotics? The ones with the most science behind them are inulin and oligofructose. Inulin itself, is remarkable in that it has been around in the plant world for a very long time. It has been found in over 36,000 different plants, so it somehow has been a vital food source for plant-eating animals and humans for a very long time. Interestingly, as our food industries and agriculture have developed, the foods in which we get inulin have become limited.
We now find inulin in wheat, onions, bananas, garlic, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, wild yam, agave, and jicama.
In the U.S., most people get very little of this valuable fiber, perhaps only 2-3 grams a day on average with 70% of this coming from wheat and 20% from onions. Europeans eat three to five times this amount of inulin-containing foods.
- is not digested by the small intestine
- is used as fuel, or fermented, by some colon bacteria
- produces health benefits by objective measurements
According to some leading authorities, only inulin and oligofructose have fulfilled these three criteria. There are only a few others, but none with as much medical research.
So, the proven prebiotics fibers are a relatively new discovery. More than this, they have been found by careful research to provide significant health benefits, not only to the colon but to the body as a whole.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that are present in yogurt, other fermented foods, and in pills. They are promoted as a benefit to the human digestive system. Normally you have trillions upon trillions of bacteria within the colon. Normally we ingest bacteria every time we swallow. Many of these swallowed bacteria may be beneficial while most are simply innocuous and cause no problems. The question for everyone who takes a probiotic much beyond yogurt is whether they really are a health benefit. Here is what we know medically about probiotics.
The Role Probiotics Play in Your Health
Up until the past few years, scientists in the medical profession paid little attention to the colonies of bacteria that live in the lower gut. Today, we know maintaining a healthy balance of good versus bad bacteria is important because people with more beneficial bacteria are less likely to suffer from a wide range of diseases and conditions.
Once GI experts realized there is more to the lower gut than first assumed, the push to understand the diverse roles these bacteria play became urgent. Many mysteries still need solving, but clinical evidence increasingly indicates that people in good health should optimize lower gut bacteria. You can accomplish this by eating prebiotics to encourage the growth of your existing gut microbes, and probiotics to add to the ones that are already there.
The science on what probiotics do is still emerging. There is some hard evidence that suggests eating probiotic foods and supplements can have a beneficial effect on health. Other evidence suggests probiotics benefits are limited to those individuals in good health and should be avoided by those who suffer from certain serious health conditions. There is no research that demonstrates the risks or the benefits of probiotic supplements on children.
Despite the uncertainty, foods enriched with probiotics and probiotic supplements are increasingly popular in the U.S. Finding probiotic supplements in grocery and health food stores is easy. For example, you may already know that yogurt contains probiotic bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Many clinical studies suggest these bacteria relieve symptoms related to lactose intolerance.
In addition, probiotic bacteria also help with common digestive complaints such as diarrhea and gas. Although some yogurt brands advertise themselves as being specially formulated to help with digestion, any yogurt with “live” or “active” cultures (bacteria) can help.
Yogurt and supplements aren’t the only places you can find probiotics. More foods that contain probiotics include:
- Unpasteurized sauerkraut and kimchi — These prepared dishes contain three essential probiotics plus many vitamins. Always choose unpasteurized versions of these prepared foods since pasteurization kills the helpful bacteria (probiotics).
- Miso soup — Fermented soybean paste may not sound delicious but it is. It’s also extremely nutritious. Miso contains over 150 bacteria, is low in calories and high in vitamins and antioxidants
- Soft cheese and enriched milk — If yogurt doesn’t appeal to you, consider soft cheeses such as Gouda. Evidence suggests probiotic bacteria that live in soft cheese are better able to survive the trip through the acidic stomach. Probiotic-enriched milk, as well as kefir, are more potential sources
- Naturally fermented sour pickles — Pickling in salt water instead of vinegar encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria
- Sourdough bread — Sourdough contains lactobacillus, one of the bacteria found in yogurt
Are Probiotics Safe?
Here is what we know about the safety of probiotics so far:
- Most probiotics are safe. However, if you have an immune disorder like lupus, take chemotherapy or have any serious chronic disease, check with your physician.
- All probiotics are not equal. Most are considered of the good types to have in the gut, but unless a complicated stool test is done on the bacterial makeup of the gut, it will always be a guess. Remember that there are well over 1000 species of bacteria already in the colon. We don’t really know if adding a few more will make any difference.
- It is known that it is unlikely that that taking a probiotic by itself will result in its taking up permanent residence in your gut. Some experts say that you have to take it indefinitely.
- Some probiotics have been effective in certain intestinal disorders like childhood diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. Again, check with your physician.
- Antibiotics taken by mouth are terribly disruptive to the entire healthy bacterial complex. Try to avoid them as much as possible.
- Antibiotics in animal feed may get into your body in small but significant amounts. Check with your butcher on where his meat and poultry come from.
- A low saturated fat diet is likely far more important in establishing a good bacterial flora than any probiotic.
Also, remember that while a billion or so bacteria sounds like a lot, it is really a very small quantity compared to the trillions upon trillions of bacteria that we know are present in everyone.
Probiotics and Fiber
What about prebiotics vs probiotics? Prebiotics are the food fibers that go through the gut unchanged and are then used by good colon bacteria as a food source for their own growth. Everyone already has most of these good bacteria present, but often in small quantities. Prebiotics are used to stimulate their growth. Simply stated, you already grow your own probiotics within your colon. You do not rely on them to make the passage through the stomach acid — acid that can destroy many probiotic bacteria. That’s why taking a probiotic supplement or adding probiotic foods to your diet does not always help your digestive system. You can eat as many probiotic bacteria as you want, but if they don’t survive the trip to the colon, your effort will be fruitless.
Nevertheless, the presence of certain bacteria in the lower gut benefits overall health, not only digestion. The science on the role of the lower gut is changing every day and has advanced significantly — even over the past 10 years. Research strongly suggests that a favorable bacterial balance in the lower gut positively affects the factors influencing heart disease, immunity, bone strength, depression, and obesity and weight loss. Science has only just begun to determine the roles that bacteria play in human health, but it seems clear that healthier people have healthier bacterial balances. People with poorly balanced bacteria levels are more likely to suffer serious health problems.
For the generally healthy person, you can make a very good case to trust your own body to select and grow the best bacteria that are already in everyone. The foods you eat greatly influence your bacterial mix. Although probiotics offer many positive health benefits, there is no guarantee that they can make the trip from your mouth to your lower gut intact. Although adding more prebiotic fiber to your diet cannot guarantee safe passage of probiotics, it can influence the healthy bacteria that already live in your system. If probiotics help you, eating prebiotic foods or supplements will cause those healthy bacteria to flourish.
That’s why adding probiotics and prebiotics to your diet provide the best possible outcome from a bacterial perspective. It isn’t always easy to eat naturally prebiotic-enriched foods, however, because they are often distasteful to eat in quantity. Would you enjoy eating several cups of raw onion or garlic every day? Probably not. Other foods that contain prebiotic fiber, such as bread and bananas, are high in calories. Consuming hundreds of calories of these foods every day is counterproductive if you’re trying to lose weight.
The foods that are highest in prebiotic fiber are also difficult to find and prepare. Jerusalem artichoke — not the average artichoke sold in your local grocery store — and chicory root contain the highest amounts of inulin and oligofructose. The good news is that Prebiotin offers an easy solution: with our simple supplement, you can get enough prebiotic fiber through normal dietary intake instead of eating a high amount of chicory root a day. Prebiotin is also low in calories. Unlike other fiber supplements, Prebiotin does not have an unpleasant taste or texture. It is slightly sweet and easily combines with beverages such as coffee. You can also sprinkle it on top of food.
With Prebiotin, you can easily add prebiotic fiber to your diet without worrying about eating huge amounts of troublesome foods or hunting down hard-to-find ingredients. You also won’t have to worry about loading up on high-calorie foods that can negatively affect any effort to lose weight. Combining Prebiotin prebiotic fiber with a diet enriched with probiotic foods can only help your effort to positively influence the bacterial balance in your lower gut.
Prebiotin® Fiber Complements Probiotics Perfectly
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of probiotics and you also want to make sure the beneficial bacteria you already have is optimized to its full potential, supplement your probiotic regimen with Prebiotin. A trained microbiologist cannot tell you which probiotics are the best ones to choose, so why try to do something you are not trained to do? Eat lots of foods with prebiotics in them and take a prebiotic supplement like Prebiotin. It’s the best thing you can do to maximize the benefits of both prebiotics and probiotics on the bacteria in your gut, and your overall good gut health.
Finally, there is a great deal of good research being done on probiotics. Keep tuned as interesting things may be happening.
Prebiotics vs Probiotics
|PREBIOTICS are a special form of dietary fiber that acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut.||PROBIOTICS are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods. There are hundreds of probiotic species available. Which of these species are best for the average healthy person is still unknown.|
|PREBIOTIC powders are not affected by heat, cold, acid, or time.||PROBIOTIC bacteria must be kept alive to be active. They may be killed by heat, stomach acid, or simply die with time.|
|PREBIOTICS nourish the good bacteria that everyone already has in their gut.||PROBIOTICS must compete with the over 1000 bacteria species already in the gut.|
|Research has determined that supplementing with an oligofructose enriched inulin-based (OEI) PREBIOTIC fiber can be helpful with a wide range of conditions and disorders, including digestive disorders, obesity, and bone loss.||Certain PROBIOTIC species have been shown to be helpful for childhood diarrhea, irritable bowel disease, and for recurrence of certain bowel infections such as C. difficile.|
Doctors often prescribe probiotics in supplement form to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to repopulate the colon with desirable bacteria after the course of antibiotics has wiped out both beneficial and undesirable bacteria. Some find taking probiotics can combat gastrointestinal side effects of the medication and reduce the bacterial growth leading to yeast infections.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of a select group of desirable bacteria already in the colon. A helpful metaphor may be a garden. You can add seeds—the probiotic bacteria—while the prebiotic fiber is the water and fertilizer that helps the seeds to grow and flourish.
"Both probiotics and prebiotics have been added to some commercial infant formula and child food products to improve intestinal health." [Thomas 2010]
Benefits of PROBIOTICS
The beneficial effects of probiotics have been widely demonstrated. [Toscana 2016] Health professionals often recommend probiotics in supplement form to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to repopulate the colon with desirable bacteria after the course of antibiotics has wiped out both beneficial and undesirable bacteria. [Hyman 2016]
Some find taking probiotics can combat gastrointestinal side effects of the medication and reduce the bacterial growth leading to yeast infections.
Since each body is different, it is necessary to determine which probiotics will be helpful to one’s own system. [Laurence 2018] In addition, it is important to make sure the bacteria in probiotic supplements are alive. Probiotic bacteria are fragile and can easily be killed by stomach acid, time, and heat.
“The biggest influence you can have on the state of your gut lining, and a healthy microbiome, is your diet—which you control.” — Jeannette Hyde, Nutritional Therapist BSc., a leading nutritional therapist, regular BBC commentator, and author of The Gut Makeover and The Gut Makeover Recipe Book.
Benefits of PREBIOTICS
Researchers have found that prebiotics are helpful in increasing the helpful bacteria already in the gut that reduce disease risk and improve general well being. [Florowska 2016] Prebiotic fiber is not as fragile as probiotic bacteria because it is not affected by heat, stomach acid, or time. Nor does the fermentation process differ depending on the individual.
Scientific literature indicates that increasing prebiotic fiber intake supports immunity, digestive health, bone density, regularity, weight management, and brain health.
Which foods help me to boost PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS in my diet?
As discussed earlier, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt are rich sources of probiotic bacteria that go directly to populate the colon.
By boosting your total daily fiber consumption, you will also boost the prebiotic fiber you ingest to feed probiotic and other desirable strains of bacteria in the gut for improved health and well being. [Pandey 2015]
Many high fiber foods are also high in prebiotic fiber. The following chart includes a sample of foods high in total fiber—and prebiotic fiber.
Foods Rich in Prebiotic Fiber:
- Chicory Root - About 65% of the chicory root is fiber by weight and is an extraordinarily rich source of prebiotic fiber.
- Onions and Garlic - 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup - about 17% is prebiotic fiber.
- Oatmeal - 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup - very high in prebiotic fiber content.
- Wheat Bread and Wheat Bran - About 1 gram of fiber per slice; nearly 70% of the total fiber in wheat bran is prebiotic fiber.
- Asparagus - 2-3 grams of prebiotic fiber per 100 gram serving (about 1/2 cup)
- Dandelion Greens - 4 grams of fiber per 100 gram serving (about 1/2 cup) - most of this fiber is prebiotic.
- Jerusalem Articoke - 2 grams of fiber per 100 gram serving (about 1/2 cup - 76% comes from inulin prebiotic fiber.
- Barley - 3-8 grams of prebiotic fiber per 100 gram serving (about 1/2 cup).
- Apple with Skin - 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 apple (mainly in the skin). Pectin, which has prebiotic benefits, makes up about 50% of the total fiber in an apple.
Why take supplements when we can eat fiber-rich and fermented foods?
Prebiotic fiber occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as chicory root, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, yams, barley, rye, wheat, asparagus, beans, and many others.
While many of us attempt to include these healthy sources of prebiotic fiber in our diets, our modern lifestyle of fast, processed foods that include high amounts of sugar and synthetic ingredients can make it difficult to eat the daily recommended amounts of total and prebiotic fiber. It is very difficult to eat enough of these high prebiotic fiber sourced foods to get the minimum daily requirements of prebiotic fiber from food alone. That is why supplements such as Prebiotin can be so important.
In addition, as both Americans and other Western countries integrate gluten-free diets or stop eating wheat products altogether, the loss of fiber has become a major health concern, especially since Americans get about 70% of their prebiotic fiber from wheat. Fiber is critical to maintain heart and bone health, to name just a few benefits.
Research has determined that the best of the prebiotic supplements include the two types of fiber derived from the chicory root, inulin and oligofructose (not a sugar), a subset of inulin. Prebiotin® Prebiotic Fiber includes oligofructose-enriched inulin (OEI) naturally derived from the chicory root. It is a full-spectrum prebiotic fiber that nourishes bacteria on both sides of the colon and inhibits the growth of undesirable microbiota.
Suggested Fiber Amounts*
- Dietary fiber: 25-38g
- Prebiotic fiber: 5g-20g
* From the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotic
Average amounts of total dietary fiber actually consumed daily: 15-18 grams per day
(according to USDA statistics)
Comparing PROBIOTICS and PREBIOTICS
It is clearly vital to nourish a healthy bacterial mix in the colon. It is best to start with a foundation of healthy eating, focusing on fresh, organic vegetables, while avoiding processed food products and sugary foods and drinks.
Supplementing with both probiotics and prebiotics can be helpful, but it is important to understand that probiotics, especially as supplements, are fragile. Probiotic bacteria are only effective if they are alive. They can be killed by heat, stomach acid, or simply die with time.
Since hundreds of types of probiotics are available, it is hard to determine which types are beneficial for our unique systems. Prebiotin Prebiotic Fiber has the advantage of not being affected by heat, digestive juices, or time. Prebiotin nourishes the beneficial bacteria already in the gut and inhibits the growth of undesirable microbes. The impact is universal and not determined by the body’s unique requirements.
When is the best time to take Prebiotics and Probiotics?
The best time to take prebiotics and probiotics is regularly. Both can be taken at the same time, daily. We recommend taking them at the same time each day in order to establish a healthy routine. Your gut microbiome will be grateful!
First published on April 22, 2014 and edited with updated content and references on March 15, 2018.
- Florowska A, K Krygier, T Florowski, and E Dłużewska. 2016. “Prebiotics as functional food ingredients preventing diet-related diseases.” Food & function 7(5):2147-55.
- Hyman, Mark MD. 2016. “Do Probiotics Really Work?” blog
- Kechagia, Maria Kechagia, Dimitrios Basoulis, Stavroula Konstantopoulou, Dimitra Dimitriadi, Konstantina Gyftopoulou, Nikoletta Skarmoutsou, and Eleni Maria Fakiri. 2013. “Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review.” ISRN Nutr. 481651. Published online 2013 Jan 2. doi: 10.5402/2013/481651
- Laurence, Emily. 2018. “Which probiotic is right for you? These are the exact bacteria strains to look for.” Well + Good. February 13, 2018.
- Pandey, Kavita R, Suresh R. Naik, and Babu V. Vakil. 2015. “Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review.” Journal of Food Science and Technology. Dec; 52(12): 7577–7587. Published online 2015 Jul 22. doi: 10.1007/s13197-015-1921-1 PMCID: PMC4648921
- Thomas, DW, and F Greer. 2010. “Probiotics and prebiotics in pediatrics.” Pediatrics Dec 1;126(6):1217-31.
- Toscano M, R De Grandi, L Pastorelli, M Vecchi, L Drago. 2017. “A consumer’s guide for probiotics: 10 golden rules for a correct use.” Digestive and Liver Disease 49 (November): 1177-1184. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2017.07.011. Epub 2017 Aug 1.
- Verspreet J, B Damen, WF Broekaert, K Verbeke, JA Delcour, CM Courtin. 2016. “A critical look at prebiotics within the dietary fiber concept.” Annual review of food science and technology Feb 28 (7):167-90.
How The Colon Works
The Gut Bacteria Factory
Prebiotics play a critical role in your nutritional health.
New, revolutionary, medical research techniques have clearly shown that the large bowel or colon and its enormous bacterial content provide many health benefits, but only if it is properly nourished. Mother’s milk even contains natural prebiotics that stimulates the growth of the best colon bacteria in the newborn. This unique growth then continues throughout life but only if the individual continues to consume a prebiotic rich diet. In turn, the bad bacteria, which everyone gets into their gut periodically, are prevented from growing. These examples of good and bad bacteria help us understand the role the colon plays in our overall health.
Promoting Good Digestive Bacteria with Prebiotics
The colon contains over 1000 species of bacteria. There is always a balance between whether the good, health providing predominate or whether bad groups of bacteria are in charge. Promoting digestive bacteria is easy by ingesting prebiotic rich foods and or using a full-spectrum prebiotic supplement.
So, in a very real sense, prebiotics are like fertilizer sprinkled on the lawn, which encourages the growth of lush grass and so crowds out the weeds. Probiotic bacteria, while at times helpful, are more like scattering seed on the lawn and then hoping that they will germinate and flourish. Adding prebiotics to good bacteria that are already in the colon will be much more successful in this goal.
The stomach is the reservoir that collects the food and liquid we eat and drink. It grinds up the food and ejects it in little amounts into the small bowel. The small bowel is over 20 feet long and receives digestive juices and enzymes from the liver and pancreas. The food is digested in the small bowel. This means that the calories, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body.
The residue from the small bowel flows into the colon which is about five feet long. This is where fiber enters the picture. Fiber comes from plant material. It is mostly unused by the small bowel and is not digested. It enters the colon pretty much as it left the stomach. In the past, we knew the colon was packed with bacteria but did not understand it very well. The colon was viewed simply as a waste depot, as this last residue moved to the rectum and was evacuated.
The colon, as a healthy organ, is an incredible idea. Who would have thought it? Facts, however, have a way of pushing themselves in front of you and, sooner or later, you just have to pay attention. So, here are some facts about what prebiotics do when they are acted on by the good bacteria in the colon. These facts are supported by research. Some of it is hard, meaning there is a lot of support in the research community. Some is soft, where there is early work showing benefits but more is needed. So consider the following benefits for the body when prebiotics, either in food or supplements, are taken in adequate doses.
- Increased probiotic growth. Yes, the probiotics you take need nourished by prebiotics.
- Improved bowel regularity-softer and more regular BM
- Increased absorption of calcium and magnesium throughout the colon
- Increased, stronger bone density. This is particularly true for young teenagers.
- Enhanced immune factors in the colon
- Reduced triglyceride level
- Controlled appetite and reduced weight
- Dramatically increased the growth of good protective colon bacteria, bifidobacteria, and lactobacillus.
- Decreased growth of bad colon bacteria, Clostridium, and others
- Decreased or cessation of offensive flatus smell
- Weight control and management
- Correction of dysbiosis(bad bacteria in the colon)
- Correction of leaky gut and endotoxemia(toxins in the blood)
Microbiota – The Glorious Cauldron of Colon Bacteria
In the recent past, researchers and physicians have come to understand the makeup of the colon bacteria to a remarkable degree. Microbiologists have been able to isolate and grow some 300-400 different bacteria from the colon, along with some viruses and yeasts – all entirely normal to find in the colon. Then in the past few years, researchers have been able to use new techniques to analyze the DNA within all the colon’s bacteria, an amazing feat. Still more amazing, it has been found that there are likely over 1,000 different types of bacteria growing in the colon, twice the number previously known. In addition to that, the total number of bacteria in the colon is measured to be many trillions, about the same number of cells as in the entire body. It gives you pause when companies that sell probiotic bacteria products claim to have 5 or 10 billion bacteria in a pill, an incredibly small number compared to what is already in the colon.
Here is a final fact to consider. There is no place in the world, no organ or colon in any other animal or fish where there is such a tightly packed collection of bacteria, as in the human colon. This is normal. So, the question is – why do humans have this incredible collection, this glorious, chaotic, tightly packed mix of bacteria as a normal part of our bodies? The answers are slowly coming in. They are incredibly surprising and exciting to scientists and physicians. The story can be best understood by knowing something about prebiotics.
The Forgotten Organ
Although “flora” is commonly used in the medical community to describe the healthy community of bacteria living in and on the human body, consider this term more like slang — generally speaking, “flora” means plant life. Although plant life does indeed play a role in maintaining healthy bacteria levels in the human body, the term “microbiota” is more appropriately used because it encompasses the entire community of microorganisms. These microorganisms include not only bacteria but also fungi and archaea.
The role that these microbiota play in health has been largely unknown because science has been unable to research and classify the huge number of microorganisms living in the human body as well as the diverse roles they play. Some may be essential to health; some may be harmful. For example, the past 15 years has seen an incredible amount of research on gut bacteria. As recently as 20 years ago, no one considered the colon a major player in overall health; today, scientists from all over the world are making important discoveries every year on the incredible effects of maintaining a well-balanced gut microbiota. In fact, the vast number of microbiota in the human body and the lack of knowledge surrounding this community lead researchers to refer to it as the “forgotten organ.”
The Human Gut
Hundreds and possibly thousands of species of bacteria call the human gut home and most of these bacteria live in the large intestine, where they break down carbohydrates. These cells, which are much smaller than human cells yet are several times more numerous, perform a diverse array of functions; some are good, some are not so good. Although medical science is still proving the link between healthy gut bacteria and better overall wellness, research strongly suggests that healthy bacteria not only improve regularity, mineral absorption, and gastrointestinal disorders, they also may help with obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and more. Bad bacteria, on the other hand, break down the protective wall between the lower gut and the rest of the body, resulting in weakened immunity to a range of dangerous health problems.
The good news is that multiple respected independent sources confirm people can influence the mix of good and bacteria in the gut by consuming certain nutrients which fertilize the good bacteria and kill off the bad, disease-causing microorganisms. Consuming nutrients high in the dietary fermentable fibers oligofructose and inulin soluble fiber — such as wheat, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, bananas and prebiotic-infused supplements — helps the gut’s bacterial mix stay favorable.
How Dietary Fiber Affects Gut Microbiota
Gut microbiota performs several important tasks once the bacterial mix has been favorably resolved by consuming beneficial dietary fibers. Following ingestion, the body breaks down the dietary fiber found in certain complex carbohydrates in the large intestine via fermentation; in fact, the large intestine contains more bacteria than any other place on or in the human body. Fermentation produces gasses and acids that help beneficial bacteria multiply while stifling the production of bad, disease-causing microorganisms. When these good bacteria multiply, they strengthen the walls of the lower gut. Because the lower gut produces a variety of hormones that help the body regulate optimum health conditions, it stands to reason that making adequate dietary fiber a part of your everyday diet is essential for better overall wellness.
The lower gut’s forgotten organ appears to regulate a wide range of potentially disease-causing bacteria. Recent research indicates that proper bacterial mix helps people fight obesity. A strong colon wall helps people absorb the minerals calcium and magnesium. Eating fermentable fiber reduces bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which fights hardened arteries and heart disease. There is now considerable evidence that a bad bacteria mix, called dysbiosis, is part of many, indeed most, chronic intestinal disorders. Prebiotics may well help reverse this bad mix of bacteria.
What We Now Know About Food Fiber
During my years in practice, I was a firm advocate of increasing food fiber in the diet. I was aware of the work of researchers in Africa who discovered that rural Africans who consumed a largely plant-based diet with lots of fiber had 2-3 large, soft bowel movements a day. In addition, they seldom had diseases of the colon that are so common in the Western world. A high fiber diet made sense to me and many of my patients were relieved of constipation and simply felt better on such a diet. Further, some epidemiologic studies (including heart disease and cancer) began to show health benefits when fiber was significantly increased in the diet. Still, it seemed that this was the end of the fiber story. Little did I know!
There are many types of fiber that have been discovered in plants, including various types of starches, lignins, cellulose, and others. These were of interest to plant chemists, but not to physicians. Then in the 1980s, it was discovered that fiber could broadly be separated into insoluble and soluble types. No fiber is digested by the small intestine. All of it arrives into the colon unchanged. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, is not fermented or broken down by colon bacteria, but does retain lots of water in the colon and so provides a larger, softer stool. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is broken down and fermented by colon bacteria. We really didn’t know too much more about these two types of fiber until the 1990s when better measuring methods were devised. In the last 15 years, the difference between these two fibers, insoluble and soluble, has become increasingly important, especially with the discovery of prebiotic soluble fibers.
The History of Fiber
At one time before farming occurred and animals were domesticated, our ancestors wandered around, eating berries, fruits, root vegetables and any plant that promised to have some nutrition. The diet contained 50-100 grams of fiber a day, all of it from plant material. Interestingly, one of the best-studied prebiotics fibers, inulin, has been found in over 36,000 plants, so these people were eating a lot of this beneficial fiber.
Then came villages with farming, growing grains, and raising livestock. Fiber intake gradually diminished. Furthermore, in Westernized countries, fiber was removed from the grains as it was felt to be useless. We were left with white bread without fiber and many of the minerals and vitamins. The food industries also began boxing and packaging food products in ways that required further changes to basic foods. Many substances were added to prolong shelf life and enhance the taste but they did not contribute to health as far as we knew. High fructose corn syrup was found to be as sweet as sugar and replaced it in many drinks and foods, as it was much cheaper. This corn derivative and other sweeteners were used in many products and have resulted in or are associated with the epidemic of obesity we now see in our society. Food fiber was sidelined as an important factor in the diet.
What is Prebiotic Fiber?
There are two basic types of food fiber – insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water and is not fermented by the gut’s bacteria, and soluble fiber, which does dissolve in water and is fermented by the colon’s microorganisms or bacteria. Almost all plant food, which is where fiber comes from, will have some of each but in different proportions. For instance, wheat is about 90% insoluble fiber. Oats are 50/50 and the psyllium plant is mostly soluble fiber. All of the above have been well-known for some time. In addition, it has been long known that in societies that consume large amounts of plant foods each day, such as in many rural African societies, that the general bowel health of the population is very good, and that the incidence of many disorders of the lower GI tract are almost non-existent. These include bowel irregularity, diverticulosis, colon cancer and polyps, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. We did not know exactly how or why this was occurring although it was obvious that the plant-based diet was important.
Then in the mid-1990’s, medical researchers and nutritionists began to discover something quite remarkable about some soluble fibers. They found that certain soluble fibers such as inulin, oligofructose and FOS (fructooligosaccharide) caused some remarkable changes in the bacterial mix of the colon. They had discovered prebiotics.
Prebiotic fiber comes from plants such as the Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, onions, whole grains, bananas, and garlic. These essential soluble fibers do more than help people who ingest them in adequate amounts stay regular; multiple studies demonstrate that prebiotic fiber can favorably change the bacterial mix in the lower gut. For most of the 20th century, medical schools taught doctors that the bacteria that live in the human body were harmless; we now know that some of these bacteria actually perform important health functions. These functions include strengthening the bowel wall, improving the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients such as calcium, producing the hormones that control appetite and anxiety, and more. The fact is that medical science is just at the beginning of a new world of exciting lower gut health discoveries.
Unfortunately, many people won’t or can’t eat enough of these prebiotic-rich foods to gain the health benefits bacteria offer. For these people – including vegetarians, vegans and those who are gluten-intolerant – an all-natural prebiotic supplement can offer a lifeline to better overall wellness. A prebiotic supplement such as Prebiotin provides an easy, low-calorie way to get all the fiber you need – without having to eat difficult-to-find and potentially unappetizing meals.
Fiber has made a comeback, however. By its very definition, fiber is not digested and broken down in the small intestine. Rather, it moves on down into the colon. In the 1970s and 80s, we learned that there were two major types of fiber – insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is not acted on or fermented in the colon. It provides no nutrition to the bacteria there. It does, however, hold lots of water and, in so doing, helps to get a softer, more regular bowel movement. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is used by colon bacteria as a food source.
Another major development has been an understanding of the dramatic and major role that bacteria within the colon play in maintaining good health. In short, we benefit enormously from the bacteria in our colon. The soluble fibers, called prebiotics, provide the most benefits. These are health fibers. While there are many “candidate” prebiotics fibers, just a few have been studied to the extent that researchers and physicians understand what they can do and feel confident in recommending foods and supplements that contain prebiotic fibers.
Insoluble Fibers and You
When trying to figure out how you can add more fiber to your diet, the research is coming so fast and furious that it’s hard to know what to do. The good news is that adding dietary fiber in the form of non-digestible carbohydrates is easier than ever before. Here’s what you need to know about resistant starch, inulin soluble fiber, oligofructose and why making small, manageable changes to your dietary lifestyle can reap more health benefits than you ever thought possible.
Soluble and Insoluble Fibers
Medical scientists and nutritionists categorize dietary fiber into two classifications. Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, dissolves easily in water. Plants such as beans, greens, and other complex carbohydrates contain soluble fiber; some foods, such as the potato, contain a mix of insoluble fiber (the peel) and soluble fiber (the flesh underneath). The human body breaks down these complex carbs into a gelatinous, viscous byproduct that the large intestine turns into gasses and acids that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the lower gut. These bacteria positively affect several essential bodily functions and overall health.
Insoluble fiber won’t dissolve in water but is just as important to overall health and well-being as soluble fiber. We can further classify insoluble fiber into two types: fermentable and non-fermentable. Non-fermentable insoluble fiber is known primarily as a bulking agent, and consuming adequate insoluble fiber keeps people regular. Fermentable insoluble fiber — such as resistant starch —produces the same healthy gasses and acids in the large intestine that soluble fiber does. One important difference between the two types of fibers is that soluble fiber tends to slow digestion while insoluble fiber speeds it up.
Entering the dietary fiber mix is resistant starch, considered a third type of fiber that provides the benefits of both insoluble and soluble fibers. The term “resistant” refers to this starch’s ability to resist digestion. Instead, it passes to the large intestine where it produces the same effects of soluble and insoluble fibers. Although the terms are complex, you probably eat resistant starch and other fibers in your diet every day — food such as seeds, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, and potatoes all contain resistant starch. People sometimes avoid eating starches because they fear weight gain; however, eating suitable amounts positively affects health in several ways.
These resistant starch foods help people stay fuller longer because they are not as easily digested. That means people who eat resistant starches (even unknowingly) are more likely to consume fewer calories over the course of one day. Also, resistant starch helps people burn fat while avoiding fat storage, according to several studies; it also boosts metabolism. Natural resistant starch foods also help diabetics manage their condition by decreasing glycemic response and increasing insulin sensitivity. It increases the growth of healthy bacteria in the lower gut, just like its fermentable soluble and insoluble fiber cousins. Still, more research suggests that resistant starch contributes to digestive, brain, kidney and eye health.
How Much Fiber Do I Need?
The last 15 years have seen an incredible amount of research demonstrating the importance of fiber to overall health. Fiber-rich foods aren’t hard to find, either — green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fruit, beans, and supplements all provide excellent sources of prebiotics. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t eat nearly enough fiber-rich foods, according to WebMD. On average, adults consume about 15 grams of dietary fiber every day — sound like a lot? It isn’t, considering women and men should consume between 25 and 38 grams per day, respectively. And people who have an aversion or allergy to certain foods, such as wheat, have an even more difficult time ingesting their daily requirement.
To put these numbers into perspective, consider how much fiber is contained in the average serving size of common foods such as bananas, cereal, and almonds. Eat a whole-grain bran cereal for breakfast and consume only 5 grams of fiber. Add a banana to your bowl and reap another 3 grams. Ready for a mid-morning snack of 24 almonds? You just added 3.3 grams of fiber, according to WebMD. The point is, eating enough fiber can’t be left to chance — making it a habit requires consciously eating fiber at every meal because getting to a minimum of 25 grams takes a lot of careful planning.
The Easy Alternative
There is another alternative to planning each meal with military-like consistency. Prebiotic supplements that contain fermentable insoluble fibers such as inulin and oligofructose contain enough plant fiber to make securing your daily intake much easier. Another added benefit? All-natural prebiotic supplements such as Prebiotin are low in calories, don’t impart an offensive taste or texture on foods and provide all the same benefits that whole food prebiotics do — without the planning, math and potential weight gain.
Regardless of how you choose to add non-digestible carbohydrates to your diet, get in the habit of reading every label before you make a purchase — because now more than ever before, you are what you eat.
The Health Benefits of Fructooligosaccharides
Consuming high fiber foods and supplements provides your body with a diverse range of health benefits, but not every high fiber food or supplement is created equal. To get the best possible benefit from a high fiber diet, you must eat both complex and simple soluble fibers that fertilize the healthy bacteria that live in the entire length of the colon. At Prebiotin, our fructooligosaccharide supplement — Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin (OEI) — gives the beneficial bacteria in your body the nutrition it needs to flourish. Unlike most fructooligosaccharide supplements, Prebiotin prebiotics is 100% natural and the only true full-spectrum solution available today.
What Are FOS, or Fructooligosaccharides?
Fructooligosaccharide, also known as FOS, is a simple carbohydrate and soluble fiber that occurs naturally in many healthy foods. It fertilizes beneficial bacteria in the right side of the colon. Inulin is a complex soluble fiber that reaches the distal or left descending portion of the colon. Inulin and FOS together fertilize Bifido and Lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria that live throughout the colon.
Eating foods or supplements that contain both fibers can provide for improved health throughout the lower gut, as well as greater overall wellness. Unlike Prebiotin, other prebiotic supplements contain only the fibers that fertilize one side of the colon — not both. Our all-natural formula is the only supplement proven to give your body the nutrients it needs to nourish all of the bacteria in your gut, not just part of it.
Beneficial gut bacteria improve your health in several diverse ways. You’ll notice improved regularity, and if you suffer from a lower GI condition such as leaky gut syndrome, you may notice a reduction in uncomfortable symptoms. Beneficial gut bacteria also make it easier for your body to absorb plenty of calcium. Unfortunately, your body only absorbs about 30 percent of what you consume. Prebiotin’s oligofructose-enriched inulin is clinically proven to increase the bioavailability of calcium already in your diet, making you less susceptible to osteoporosis.
Where to Find Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin
Inulin is present in high concentrations in chicory root, agave, and even dandelions. It is present to a lesser extent in bananas, wheat, onions, asparagus, rye, and barley. Indeed, it has been found in over 36,000 plants around the world. Oligofructose, also present in these foods, is a similar fiber. Very surprisingly, Americans get only about 2 grams/day of these fibers, 70% from wheat and 20% from onions. Europeans eat three times this amount. Somehow our food industries and our eating habits have simply bypassed this remarkable fiber. These soluble prebiotic fibers have by far the most science behind them. Much of the research in the scientific literature, in fact, has been done with a combination of inulin and oligofructose.
The mixture of these two fibers is called oligofructose-enriched inulin. It seems to provide a synergy whereby the mixture of the two has been found to be more effective in producing beneficial results than either one by itself. It is also a full-spectrum lower gut health solution because it acts in all areas of the colon, not just one localized site. The laboratory, animal and human studies reported in the medical literature are impressive and it is only just beginning. The benefits of these prebiotic fibers include better digestive health, improved immunity to disease, better appetite control, reduced anxiety, improved mineral absorption, stronger bones and more.
Food Sources of Inulin
There are two ways to consume inulin. It naturally occurs in a variety of plant-based foods, including:
- Jerusalem artichoke
- chicory root
- wild yam
Unfortunately, Americans, in general, don’t eat nearly enough of these foods to reap the benefits of inulin. Keep in mind that eating two pieces of whole grain bread and having a banana for breakfast isn’t nearly enough – the recommended daily fiber allowance is upward of 25 grams per day, whereas these foods may contain 2 or 3 grams each. There are dietary considerations as well, especially for those who are gluten-intolerant or who avoid certain foods because they are trying to lose weight.
Oligofructose-enriched inulin, however, is easy to eat in suitable quantities every day. It’s safe for those who are vegan because it is plant-based. It is naturally gluten-free. It has no calories and has a slightly sweet taste, so adding it to foods and beverages won’t alter the flavor. Unlike probiotics, this prebiotic fiber won’t go bad or break down in the stomach, thereby losing its effects.
The Health Benefits of Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin
They derive from plant fiber and occur naturally in a diverse variety of foods such as whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root. As a supplement, they are both available as a pure white powder, which has a slight natural, sweet taste and dissolves readily in any fluid. However, inulin and oligofructose are different in the way they act and where they act.
What to Know About Oligofructose
Oligofructose (FOS) is a short, small molecule. When it enters the colon in the right lower side of the abdomen down by the appendix, it is immediately fermented in the large intestine and used up by the bacteria that reside in this part of the colon, where it helps healthy bacteria multiply. There is no problem with this situation, except that there is little left to get across to the rest of the colon on the left side. That makes oligofructose on its own not nearly as effective as when it is combined with another prebiotic fiber, such as inulin.
What to Know About Inulin
Inulin, on the other hand, is a larger, more complex molecule. Because it takes the colon’s bacteria much longer to ferment inulin, there is more available to the bacteria that reside in the rest of the colon, mostly on the left side. Like oligofructose, inulin is somewhat effective on its own but really needs another quick-fermenting fiber to provide the optimal beneficial health effects. Unfortunately, foods with these prebiotics are rather low in the oligofructose component, so an ideal formula would be one where the basic inulin would be enriched with oligofructose.
Inulin and oligofructose are the two most natural and beneficial prebiotics we know.
When Oligofructose and Inulin Work Together
The past 15 years, and particularly the past two years, have seen an incredible amount of independent research support the theory that prebiotic fiber is as essential for overall health as it is for healthy lower gut microbiota development. Working together, inulin and FOS nourish the bacteria in the entire length of the colon.
As some experts long suspected, a healthy bacterial mix in the gut positively affects a diverse variety of health conditions from obesity to hardened arteries to bone strength to lower gut problems.
What the scientific community is now realizing is a healthy balance of gut bacteria can play a direct role in your mental health as well. Neuroscientists studying stress hormones in mice with regards to anxiety and depression found these levels were directly affected by changes in the bacterial balance of the gut. In particular, they found that mice exhibiting autism features had substantially higher levels of a certain bacterial metabolite. After injecting this same metabolite into unaffected mice, these mice began to exhibit the same symptoms.
In another study, participants took either a placebo or prebiotic every day for three weeks. The results of the study showed that individuals who took the prebiotic experienced less anxiety than people who took the placebo. They also found that individuals who consumed the prebiotics had lower cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are known to be a factor in anxiety, stress, and depression.
How bacteria in the gut can affect our mental health is not clearly known yet. The hypothesis widely accepted is that leaky gut causes chemicals to seep into the body, and these chemicals can cause an immune system response, which sets off the brain’s reaction.
While we don’t know exactly why bad gut bacteria can cause mental health issues, we do know for certain that prebiotic fibers inulin and oligofructose help this bacterial mix tremendously. The current issue is getting enough of these beneficial fibers into the diet every day without gaining weight and without eating allergens — which is where Prebiotin can help.
Inulin and Fructooligosaccharide Side Effects
As you add extra fiber to your diet, you may notice some side effects. While not necessarily harmful or common, some potential side effects include bloating and gas. To reduce the chances of experiencing these side effects, add Prebiotin to your diet slowly. This helps your lower gut adjust more comfortably. As your body gets used to digesting more fiber, these symptoms will fade.
The side effects may also include noticeable improvements in certain health matters. Consuming more fiber is proven to improve regularity and reduce the symptoms associated with certain lower GI diseases such as leaky gut. The research on prebiotic fiber is moving fast. The latest independent studies show that people who ate more prebiotic fiber found it easier to lose weight, fight depression, lower cholesterol, improve bone strength and more.
Where to Buy Inulin and Oligofructose
It seems pretty clear that consuming FOS and inulin together provides clear health benefits. Prebiotin’s patented inulin and fructooligosaccharides blend is the only formula on the market that gives your entire colon the fiber it needs to nourish the healthy bacteria already living there. Our formula is the most independently tested prebiotic on the market.
It is also proven to grow the healthy bacteria your body needs. You could certainly purchase natural fructooligosaccharide food sources, but you may not want to eat the amount necessary to reap the benefits you seek. Our inulin and fructooligosaccharide source can help you comfortably make up the fiber deficit in your diet.
The Prebiotin formula has significant amounts of both oligofructose and of inulin. The health benefits of inulin and oligofructose include positive bacterial action throughout the colon. It is why we call this product a full-spectrum prebiotic formula. It is why medical researchers have overwhelmingly chosen this formula for their research. Products with just oligofructose or just inulin only give your colon half of what it really needs.
Prebiotin® Is the Only FOS-Enriched Inulin on the Market Today
Our patented prebiotic fiber supplement gives your lower gut the nutrition it needs to feed the healthy bacteria that already live in your body. There’s no other product that provides the full spectrum solution that Prebiotin does.
Nourish your digestive health with Prebiotin prebiotic products, the most medically researched prebiotic formulas!
Research About Prebiotin®
Prebiotin has always been committed to backing its products by third-party medical research:
“Jackson GI Medical is dedicated to the responsible development and marketing of medically credible nutritional supplements in an all-too-often irresponsible marketplace. We back our product with third-party medical research and emphasize no-nonsense, no-hype educational materials on our site. A nutritionally-aware customer is our favorite customer, so please contact us if you have any suggestions.” – Founder, Frank W. Jackson, M.D.
Prebiotin® is currently involved in several clinical studies using their product. Two are funded by the NIH, and results will be reported on our website when allowed, per NIH release guidelines. Click here to see a current list of our research and clinical studies using Prebiotin.
Information about the National Institutes of Health
NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
Thanks in large part to NIH-funded medical research, Americans today are living longer and healthier. Life expectancy in the United States has jumped from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years as reported in 2009, and disability in people over age 65 has dropped dramatically in the past 3 decades. In recent years, nationwide rates of new diagnoses and deaths from all cancers combined have fallen significantly.
NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than $30 billion in taxpayer dollars to achieve its mission to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. In pursuing this mission, NIH improves health by promoting treatment and prevention, contributes to society by driving economic growth and productivity, and expands the biomedical knowledge base by funding cutting-edge research and cultivating the biomedical workforce of today and tomorrow.
NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers (often referred to as ICs), 24 of which can make grant awards.
Our ICs award more than 80% of the NIH budget each year to support investigators at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research organizations around the world. About 10% of the NIH’s budget supports scientists in our own laboratories here at NIH, most of which are on our campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
Each IC has a separate appropriation from Congress, and the director of each IC decides which grants it will fund, taking into consideration input from their staff, the results of the scientific peer review of the grant application, public health need, scientific opportunity, and the need to balance its scientific portfolio. NIH only funds research that has been judged highly meritorious in the peer review process.
As most researchers know, budget constraints at the NIH have resulted in very low funding rates for grant proposals. In many grant review panels of the NIH, only the top 10% of grant proposals are funded. For a study to qualify for NIH grant funding, it has to go through a very thorough and arduous review process. In some ways, therefore, NIH funding can also be seen as a “badge of excellence”.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines a dietary ingredient as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, amino acid, or dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake; or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of the preceding substances.
FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering “conventional” foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):
- Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from marketing products that are adulterated or misbranded. That means that these firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.
Prebiotin founder and visionary, Dr. Frank Jackson, preemptively submitted research to the FDA although it was not required under their guidelines of oversight. He did this to be proactive in a world of unregulated supplements.