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Why Are Prebiotics Important For A Healthy Gut?

To add more prebiotics to your diet, load up on cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli and cauliflower. Pregnancy. Probiotics ... Probiotics Synology.

Why Are Prebiotics Important For A Healthy Gut?

To add more prebiotics to your diet, load up on cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli and cauliflower. Pregnancy. Probiotics ... Probiotics Synology. If your head is spinning in the gut wellbeing, then we don't blame you. Let's begin with the prebiotics. When you're trying to improve your intestinal microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that reside in your GI tract — it's pretty important to consider fiber-rich prebiotics.

Registered dietitians here describe what prebiotics are, why they are important to the health of the gut, and how you can place more of them on your plate.

What are Prebiotics, Exactly?

"Prebiotics are a form of carbohydrate mostly found in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that provide a good source of resistant starch that is not digestible by the body," says Rebecca Ditkoff, RDN, a registered dietitian based in New York City who specializes in digestive health. "Alternatively, they are moving through the gut and serving as food for the probiotics, and helping them grow."

How special are they to probiotics? Probiotics are the naturally occurring bacteria and/or yeast in your GI tract and are also found in many fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are micro-organisms that can exist in foods; they themselves are not foods. In comparison, prebiotics is real foods.
A further difference to remember: "It is important to note that while all prebiotics is fiber, not all fiber is prebiotic," says Ditkoff.

Looking for more Food for Prebiotics?

Fill your plate with these:

  • Chicory root
  • Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes)
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli
  • Alliums like garlic, onion, leeks, and shallots
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Fennel
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Pistachios
  • Almonds with skins
  • Green or unripe bananas
  • Apples
Inulin found in garlic and onions, resistant starch found in unripe bananas, pectin found in apples, and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) found in asparagus are examples of common prebiotics.

Often, prebiotic carbs can be isolated and added to foods. For example, inulin is increasingly being added to packaged foods such as protein bars, and yogurts. This also enhances the taste and mouth-feel as well as improving the fiber content of the food. Inulin can have a sweet taste and smooth texture, ensuring producers can reduce the sugar and fat content of their products by adding inulin to the mixture. The fiber-rich component will also help to improve filling in foods, eventually leading to weight loss.

Why Do Prebiotics Matter So Much?

"Prebiotics are food for the healthy bacteria in the stomach," says Kristy Del Coro, RDN, a registered dietitian based in New Jersey and co-founder of the Conference on Culinary Nutrition. "They promote the development of probiotics for the body itself."

This is important because it has been shown that these healthy bacteria, probiotics, promote immune function, help treat eczema, bring down inflammation, and control our digestion and drug absorption by the Cleveland Clinic.

"Prebiotics facilitate the production of molecules in the body called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs),' adds Del Coro. "By helping to modulate the immune system, SCFAs play a major role in the protection of the gut and body, and can also directly affect genes and cell proliferation."

SCFAs in particular can deactivate certain genes involved in the replication of DNA and the proliferation of colon cancer cells by way of a study in the journal Anticancer Research in September 2019.

Per Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, SCFAs often provide energy to the intestinal cells, promote muscle function, and may even decrease the risk of bowel disorders.

Moreover, by definition, prebiotic foods are healthy because they are plant foods that give fiber along with other primary vitamins and minerals. For example, oats provide magnesium, thiamine, and zinc per USDA, while according to the USDA bananas are a good source of potassium.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Prebiotics?

"Some prebiotics, particularly inulin, can cause GI problems in those sensitive to FODMAPs," Ditkoff says. FODMAPs are a group of fermentable carbohydrates that in some susceptible people can cause digestive problems. Since prebiotic foods are high in fermentable fiber, following a low-FODMAP diet, they may not be a good choice for anyone.

"They can cause short-term GI symptoms like gas and bloat for those who just start integrating these foods into their diets," says Del Coro. "Start [munching them] in small amounts and slowly increase the amount over time. Also, make sure to raise your fluid intake to reduce any discomfort." Loading into the fiber without proper hydration will increase the risk of constipation.

Will, You Need to Take a Prebiotic Supplement?

Not necessarily, as having prebiotics from whole foods is fairly doable, Ditkoff says.

Like for other supplements, prebiotic pills do not follow the same cycle of FDA monitoring and approval like narcotics do. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that they are healthy before being sold and the claims on the label are valid, but there is no assurance that they will be successful. If you are struggling with GI problems, speak to a health care provider about your choices instead of blindly purchasing a supplement.
"I suggest that you contact your primary care physician or a registered dietitian who is acquainted with prebiotics and probiotics to explore your choices," says Ditkoff.

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Why Are Prebiotics Important For A Healthy Gut?
To add more prebiotics to your diet, load up on cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli and cauliflower. Pregnancy. Probiotics ... Probiotics Synology.
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