A healthy gut provides a great foundation for a healthy body. Studies show that our microbiome (an ecosystem of bacteria many of which live in our gut) affects our wellbeing in a multitude of ways. It’s been linked to everything from immune health, inflammation, heart disease, bone health, even to an increased resistance to cancer. A great way to ensure gut health is by consuming prebiotics. Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics pass through the stomach without being broken down by digestive acids or enzymes as they are mostly made of fiber. Their function can be likened to fertilizing a garden, they help stimulate the growth of probiotic species a.k.a good bacteria. Prebiotics can be found in certain vegetables, grains and of course be taken as supplements. Find out in which ways prebiotic supplements can benefit your diet.
1. Maintaining/Losing Weight
Prebiotics are your friends when it comes to shedding pounds or maintaining your current weight. Prebiotics help create an environment in your gut that allows good bacteria to thrive because prebiotics serve as food for probiotics. These bacteria help with digestion and a healthy gut flora. Prebiotics are linked to weight loss and weight maintenance as they increase hormones that tell you that you’re full. Additionally, studies show that prebiotics can help burn 20 to 30 percent more fat when consumed in your diet.
2. Improved Mineral Absorption
Minerals are an essential part of the human diet responsible for forming many enzymes, proteins and vitamins in our body. When you consume prebiotics, good bacteria ferment prebiotic fibers into short-chain fatty acids which create a more acidic environment in your colon. This is better for minerals as they are absorbed more optimally in a lower pH environment. In one study prebiotic intake increased bioavailability of iron by 56 percent.
3. Improved Mood
You may not realize this but your overall mood is tied to your gut health. That’s because the nutrients you absorb eventually help submit neurotransmitter functions that create hormones such as serotonin, a hormone crucial to controlling your mood and feeling of mental wellbeing. In a study, prebiotics also helped lower cortisol levels a hormone which increases stress. The better your body can metabolize nutrients the more likely you are to achieve hormonal balance avoiding issues like anxiety and depression.
4. Manage IBS
When you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome your colon does not contract normally which can lead to irregular bowel patterns. Prebiotic fiber can help with this condition as the beneficial bacteria produced in your gut can help strengthen bowel walls and improve regularity of mineral absorption.
5. Boosted Immune Function
Our gut bacteria are strongly correlated to our overall immunity and prebiotics help grow and strengthen the good bacteria that protect us from illness. One way is through improving mineral and nutrient absorption which can prevent colds, flus, yeast infections and digestive disorders. Since prebiotics also lower gut PH they help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and potential pathogens.
6. Bowel Movements
We mentioned fatty acids before and how prebiotics help with their production in relation to mineral absorption. Short-chain fatty acids also help maintain electrolytes (calcium, water, magnesium and sodium) in the body which are helpful in producing bowel movements.
7. Lactose Intolerance
Have trouble digesting dairy? You’re not alone, approximately 75 percent of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance. Prebiotics may be helpful in managing your ability to consume dairy. A 2017 study gave lactose intolerant individuals prebiotics in their diet on a daily basis increasing the amounts of the time period. After a month they stopped taking prebiotics and incorporated dairy into their diet for 30 days. Sixty-nine percent reported that their symptoms (pain, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, or flatulence) were improved.