Understanding Prebiotics: Food for Good Bacteria

Prebiotics are good – they’re supposed to keep your digestive system healthy. But what exactly does that mean? Here’s what you should know about prebiotics and what they can do to keep you healthy.

Differentiating Prebiotics with Probiotics

You’ve probably heard these two terms often and think that they’re interchangeable, but they’re not. To start off, you need to keep in mind that the human gut is home to trillions of tiny microbes – but these are actually the good guys.

As a thank you for letting them live in your body, the microbes provide several benefits such as drive possible pathogens that can lead to health problems, prevent leaky gut, keep your body weight within healthy levels, and generally protect against different kinds of metabolic diseases. These microbes are the probiotics.

To keep those probiotics alive, healthy, and doing their job – you need to give them prebiotics. Hence, they’re the “food” for the good bacteria.

They’re defined as a type of fiber that is digested specifically by the microbes – your body can’t digest them. Eat enough of them in your diet and the microbe activity will be heavily improved for a better gut. Fortunately, prebiotics have many food sources that you can easily add to your diet.

Great Prebiotic Food Sources

While research on gut health continues to change and develop what we know about it, the general consensus is that probiotics need a rainbow of plant-based food. This means that if you want to keep your gut healthy, you’ll need to add colorful plant-based food products to your diet.

Think of the colors of the rainbow and find fruits and vegetables with natural colors that fall within the ROYGBIV spectrum and you should be fine. The beauty here is that these foods are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Hence, even as you feed the friendly microbes, you are providing the rest of your body with sustenance.

Note though that even as you consume more prebiotics, it’s a good idea to introduce probiotics in your diet as well. Good sources include yogurt and anything fermented.

Signs You Need More Prebiotics in Your Diet 

A bad diet that’s scarce in prebiotics will immediately be obvious as it wreaks havoc to your digestive system. Here are the typical signs that you’re not getting enough prebiotics.

  1. Stomach problems. This can be anything from diarrhea, constipation, bloating, heartburn, and gas. These are all signs that your body finds it difficult to process the food, leaving you with a heavy feeling in your stomach..
  2. Sugar cravings. This can happen because you’ve relied primarily on processed food items high in sugar. This leaves the bacteria unhealthy which oddly enough – makes you want sugar more.
  3. Constant tiredness. As your gut starts to become unhealthy, the production of hormones become compromised. One of those is serotonin which is primarily linked to sleep. With the hormone production dropping, you’ll have more problems settling in at night and might wake up still feeling tired.
  4. Food problems. Some foods that you may have no problem eating in the past now seems to trigger an upset stomach.

When Can Prebiotics Be Bad For You? 

There are no side effects of prebiotics when taken by healthy adults. Emphasis on “healthy” because people who have pre-existing health problems may experience digestive issues when taking prebiotics. This is often why it’s better to get your prebiotics from food sources as it promotes balance.

Individuals with low prebiotics and suddenly decide to increase it may also experience gas, bloating, and constipation. However, these are temporary reactions as the body gets used to the new diet. 

Prebiotics and Probiotics Supplements 

You will read about supplements called synbiotics which contain both the bacteria you need and the food it requires to stay healthy. Working together, they can help you maintain a healthy gut even if your diet might be insufficient. They’re a tandem – so make sure your diet contains both each time.

Note though that supplements are not the best way to keep your digestive tract healthy. The best way is still to eat healthy food sources as a way to cover all bases. Since the gut bacteria balance varies from one person to the next, there is no one-size-fits-all supplement when it comes to pre and probiotics.

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