Prebiotics are used in the gut to increase populations of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins. Prebiotics can be found in carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables. They are resistant to heat, oxygen, stomach acids and enzymes. When ingested, they reach the lower gut intact and can help to nourish the good bacteria once there.
While all prebiotics are fibres, not all fibres are prebiotics. Not all forms of dietary fibre present in the majority of plant based foods and grains are selectively fermented by the bacteria in the gut. But they can still be of benefit to health as they help maintain regular bowel movements.
Prebiotics are also available in the form of food supplements such as ‘fructo-oligosacharides’ (FOS), Inulin, Polyphenols and Resistant Starches. Research indicates that FOS and Inulin are one of the most beneficial types of prebiotics for feeding our gut bacteria. Both Inulin and FOS are effective prebiotics that stimulate the growth of intestinal Bifidobacteria, without leading to a rise in serum glucose or stimulating insulin secretion. Polyphenols are naturally-occurring compounds found in in plants including fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and wine and have prebiotic properties.
A warning on prebiotics
It is recommended to work with a qualified health practitioner before modifying your diet especially if you have gastro-intestinal health conditions. Adding prebiotic foods into your diet could cause an increase in your digestive symptoms and a qualified health practitioner can address these issues.