PREBIOTICS- Food Support for Gut Bacteria
BY: DR. TORY JACKSON
Keeping a healthy level of bacteria in the gut is a news-worthy topic these days. When our flora is well-balanced we are benefitted by improved immune function and resistance to respiratory infection, greater bowel regularity, improved brain function, positive cholesterol balance, allergy reduction and even weight loss support.
But there is another substance to which our ‘microbiome’ depends; PREBIOTICS. Simply, this is food for our intestinal bacteria. These products are available on their own or as an additional ingredient in your probiotic supplement.
Inulin, FOS (fructo-oligo-saccharides) and related molecules such as GOS, IMO and XOS are types long-chain carbohydrates, or soluble fibers. Although their components are building blocks of smaller sugar units, these fibers are not broken down by enzymes, so there are no changes to blood sugar or insulin levels and therefore safe for diabetics.
Instead, prebiotics are fermented by gut bacteria and are transformed into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s); butyrate, acetate, propionate and lactate. SCFA’s nourish mostly beneficial bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. When you increase the numbers of beneficial flora, the harmful bacteria is kept in check and health benefits flourish (excuse the pun).
Not all prebiotics are equal. While FOS is shorter and digested quicker than inulin, FOS can also provide food for the not-so-beneficial flora (which tends to be more gas producing). Inulin is found in foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, Jeruselum artichokes and chicory, and in smaller amounts in other fruits and vegetables.
Inulin and XOS tend to support beneficial bacteria only, so the production of intestinal gas is less common. If there is already too much gas being produced choose a probiotic supplement that doesn’t contain a pre-biotic, at least until there is a healthier ratio of good bacteria to harmful bacteria.
Important dosing recommendations (similar to all fibers): Take 2 hours before or after taking other medications or natural health products. Take with at least 1 glass of water.