After talking about some of the benefits of probiotics last week I promised to discuss prebiotics. Where probiotics are bacteria that are alive and health promoting, PREbiotics are the non digestible fibers that feed these beneficial flora. Fermentation of these prebiotics result in the production of short chain fatty acids that are thought to have metabolic affects and also ensure that flora present in the gut have adequate ‘food’ to thrive on. Studies have shown that prebiotic fibers like inulin (1) can lead to reductions in body fat mass, improve insulin resistance, help manage diabetes, and have a role in weight loss.
A prebiotic is a substrate that is selectively utilised by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit” (2) According to the ISAAP (International Scientific Association of Probiotics & Prebiotics)
The idea is, that beneficial bacteria stimulated to grow are health promoting and can displace bacteria which are not. Diversity in the gut is linked to better overall health including less chance of having serious illnesses. Microbial Diversity is a measure of both the different types and amount of beneficial microbes in someone’s gut.
“Many studies have linked low gut microbial diversity to diseases in adulthood …(3) Conditions associated with low gut microbiota diversity range from gastrointestinal pathologies such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer to metabolic disorders including obesity, type 2 diabetes, as well as neurological conditions such as autism” (4)
And while low microbial diversity is often associated with poor health, high microbial diversity is associated with good health. A varied diet rich in plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts is associated with increased microbial diversity leading to robust resilience from outside stressors (5).
Therefore, what you eat today will affect your microbiome tomorrow!
This loss in diversity is similar to whats happening with our environmental ecosystems which are being affected by the encroachment of man and the growth in size of the population which is depleting biodiversity. The therapeutic approach should be to restore the bacterial diversity of the host (2) by eating pre and probiotic foods, reducing overuse of antibiotics and eliminating toxicity (like reducing overcrowding, pollution and supporting the growth of species close to collapse/extinction in our natural world, thereby supporting biodiversity both in and out of our gut!)
It can be particularly beneficial to give them to children and I am sure you will find things on the list below that your child will love. They may already be eating them and now you can rest assured that they are health promoting and can lead to more microbial diversity in their gut and hopefully better health overall ! If you are struggling to get your child to eat these foods then please contact us.
With the modern popularity of the keto and paleo diets which lack grains these prebiotics are essential and should be included into the daily diet.
Remember prebiotics are by nature resistant to human digestion so reach the large intestine intact, can undergo fermentation by gut microbes and selectively encourage the growth of health promoting bacteria. And not all dietary fibres are prebiotics but should also be eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Prebiotics which support diversity include:
- Partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG)
- GOS & FOS (Galacto and Fructo – oligosaccharides)
Prebiotic like compounds include:
Resistant starch, pectin, arabinoxylans, wholegrains, polyphenols and dietary fibres
Foods rich in prebiotic fibres include:
Other prebiotic foods are:
Red kidney beans
Dried fruit (e.g. dates, figs)
For a complete list of all the prebiotic and prebiotic fibre foods please email us and we will send you the PDF “Microbiome Enhancing Foods”
Fin Mackenzie – Naturopath & Herbalist
BHSc(CompMed), ADNat, DNut, DRM, MATMS
Call us 02 9979 9888
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