Prebiotics: What They Are (And Why You Need Them)
When it comes to good gut (and immune) health, probiotics get all the press, as beneficial live microorganisms are able to survive exposure to stomach acid and bile and support a healthy balance of bacteria within the intestines. But we wouldn’t need nearly as many probiotics if we consumed the right PREbiotics.
You see, PREbiotics act as FOOD for your good gut bacteria and help them grow naturally, on their own, so you won’t need to consume as many probiotics (can I get a high five to natural root cause healing at it’s finest?!)
Let’s discuss this further.
Our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad; typically this ratio should be 80-90% good gut bacteria and 10-15% “bad” bacteria (a little bit of bad bacteria challenges the immune system and keeps it on its toes).
Bio-individuality comes into play here as everyone is unique and this ratio will be different. However, stress (who doesn’t have it?!), the Standard American Diet (SAD) which includes foods such as high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified foods, overuse of NSAIDS (over the counter anti-inflammatories) and antibiotics throw off this delicate balance between good and bad bacteria and often flip the ratio in the wrong direction.
Add in exposure to environmental toxins and bugs like parasites and protozoa through food and water, chronic, prolonged stress and a weakened immune system and now we’re even more susceptible to having this ratio off.
For some, this can mean a total flip-flop of 80% bad bugs and only 10-15% good bacteria.
This topic gets significantly more critical, as we continue to dive into more and more research (like we did in our recent 2019 Gut Report) and learn that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome helps reduce the risk of multiple conditions like autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, food allergies and digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.
Thus today, we discuss starting at the root—as holistically as possible—by providing amazing healthy food sources for your already existing good gut bacteria so they can continue to grow and flourish and keep you safe and healthy.
Prebiotics act as the fertilizer within our intestines. They’re indigestible carbohydrates which feed our (already existing) gut bacteria.
They are superstars at supporting human health through feeding good bacteria in the colon; supporting the growth of probiotic species in the lower intestinal tract, and have even been shown in research to heal the cells within the colon. Prebiotics have the potential to modify our gut bacteria—this is huge!
The Power of Prebiotics
PREbiotics are found naturally in foods containing a plant fiber known as inulin. And inulin improves food’s nutritional value.
Some examples of foods high in inulin include:
Teeccino chicory coffee is a natural alternative to coffee that is made of raw chicory, which is 65% fiber! I have literally turned hundreds of private clients and thousands of online subscribers on to Teeccino and they love the taste, so it’s not a sacrifice to have it instead of coffee or to mix your coffee half and half with Teeccino when brewing to give it an inulin infusion.
Acacia gum is another prebiotic. It’s a plant-derived stabilizer (hardened sap from the acacia tree) typically used in health food products such as syrups, hard candies, dairy products, and other baking ingredients and serves to hold everything together. Acacia gum is excellent for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and supporting constipation or IBS symptoms.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a form of prebiotics, are naturally found in onions, chicory, garlic, bananas, and artichokes. FOS are a great source of fiber and can support those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Remember, while they stimulate the growth of probiotics, PREbiotics do not contain any live organisms. For example, FOS especially help foster the growth of bifidobacteria within our gut and bifidobacteria are the good bacteria that colonize and stay and help us heal and seal leaky gut, leading to better immunity, fewer food sensitivities, cleaner blood, and better brain function.
The Science Behind Prebiotics
Even beyond just acting as a fertilizer and modifying digestive health; there is some fascinating research behind prebiotics (the unsung heroes of digestive support!).
This includes support for metabolic activity. Prebiotics support the digestion of lipids (fats), increase the absorption of calcium (to calm the nerves, and support sleep and bone health), and support the immune system. The FOS variety of prebiotics have been shown to help us increase the absorption of magnesium, which is one of the top three mineral deficiencies due to diet and stress.
When we consume prebiotics, they feed our gut bacteria and allow our body to make short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are a subgroup of fatty acids that are produced in small amounts when dietary fiber is fermented within the colon.
Prebiotics serve as the primary energy source for the cells lining the colon. They also support gene expression, gut tissue development and help reduce oxidative stress.
Examples of SCFAs include butyrate, propionate, and acetate. Butyrate is well known and our favorite; butyrate has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Ghee or clarified butter, while not a prebiotic, is naturally very high in butyrate so use it often to cook with or to butter your gluten-free toast or—our favorite way to consume ghee—in our nightly golden milk.
Probiotics support our immune system by increasing the secretion of IgA (powerful antibodies that fight off sickness) and lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight infection) within our tissues.
As you can see, prebiotics and probiotics are a match made in heaven to support your long-term gut and immune health as well as whole body health.
When Should We Skip Prebiotics?
Because bacteria ferment these fibers as food, this supports good bacteria colonies when we already have a relatively healthy ecosystem. However, if we have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, then feeding your body these foods can cause bloating, gas & constipation.
The reason for this is that if you have an abundance of harmful bacteria in your small intestine – which is where it doesn’t belong – you need to get that under control before you can use these foods as your medicine because you don’t want to feed the WRONG gut bacteria that are already in the WRONG place. You must chase that bacteria down and put it in its proper place first.
Want To Learn Even More About Prebiotics And Gut Health?
To understand this information further and go much deeper into how to heal the gut in a long-lasting way, watch our free 5 Steps To Gut Healing webinar. It will explain each and every step you need to go through to heal your gut in the most holistic, gentle, yet powerful way.