Prebiotics are dietary fibers that are good for the beneficial bacteria residing inside the body. You might think of bacteria as a bad thing but not all bacteria cause disease; some are quite helpful to the human body.1
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria and yeast present in the body. One can take probiotic supplements. Prebiotics are helpful dietary fibers to these bacteria.
Insoluble fiber is present in wheat, rye, and barley. Insoluble fiber is not digested in the stomach and small intestines because stomach acid and enzymes cannot digest it. The bacteria residing in the colon are also unable to digest and ferment the insoluble fiber. As the fiber is not soluble in water, it helps draw water into the large intestine and promotes softer stool.2
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and bacteria in the colon is able to ferment it. Soluble fibers are the fuel or diet of beneficial bacteria present in the colon.
The Colon is a Remarkable Factory
A colon is a remarkable place for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Our body and the colon bacteria are mutually dependent on each other. We provide the moist, warm, anaerobic condition and nutrition to the colon bacteria, which in turn provides several health benefits3.
- Beneficial bacteria produce an acidic substance essential for colon cells' health.
- Decreases the number of pathogenic bacteria in the body and maintains good health
- Increases the absorption of magnesium and calcium
- Helps strengthen the bones and bone density
- Maintains and boosts the immune systems
- Maintains blood sugar
- Prevents colon polyps and cancer
- Eliminates stinky flatus
- Appetite, aging, and weight loss are equally benefited
- Two fibers are well researched and found to be beneficial to the human body. They are inulin and Oligofructose (FOS).4
These fibers are present in many foods like chicory root, wild yams and other root vegetables, wheat, garlic, onions, bananas, artichokes, jicama, leeks, and agave.
Galacto-fructose (GOS) is another soluble fiber found as a prebiotic. It is present in breast milk. GOS is transferred to the newborn baby through milk, which is useful in developing colon bacteria in infants. GOS is commercially available in milk and lactose.
Prebiotics and Colon Disease
With technological advancements, our consumption of natural fruits and vegetables have declined. Convenient canned foods are now preferred by many people. High fructose corn syrup intake has also increased because of its frequent use in cold drinks and packaged foods. There is extensive evidence that shows high fructose corn syrup causes numerous health problems.5 Some of these are listed below:
- Diabetes and obesity
- Colon polyps and cancer
- Colon diverticulosis
- Irritable bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Adding prebiotics to our diet nourishes the good bacteria present in the colon. There are dozens of benefits associated with these bacteria, including better digestion, healthy immune system, strengthening bones, blood sugar regulation, destroying disease-causing bacteria, and preventing colon cancer. The daily diet should include an adequate amount of soluble fiber containing prebiotics. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are the primary sources of prebiotics, so make sure you include plenty of these in your daily diet.
- Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3). doi:10.3390/FOODS8030092
- Dhingra D, Michael M, Rajput H, Patil RT. Dietary fibre in foods: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2012;49(3):255. doi:10.1007/S13197-011-0365-5
- Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2013;6(1):39. doi:10.1177/1756283X12459294
- Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL. Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018;2(3). doi:10.1093/CDN/NZY005
- Cerdó T, García-Santos JA, Bermúdez MG, Campoy C. The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity. Nutrients. 2019;11(3). doi:10.3390/NU11030635