Prebiotics should be an integral part of a healthy diet. They have a specific role that they play in the gut, which ensures better digestion and provides a boost to your immune system. There are some noteworthy health benefits of prebiotics which provide for a healthier and happier self. So, what are the benefits of prebiotics? Should you be including as many prebiotic sources into your diet? Should you consider supplementation? We’ll discuss the various health benefits of prebiotics and go on to answer some of your underlying questions.
Prebiotics resist the hydrolytic activity in the upper gut, which enables them to reach the colon in an intact form. It is in the colon they are subjected to selected fermentation by beneficial microflora which enables a change in the composition of the colonic microbiota. These prebiotics helps and promotes the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, which brings with them a host of health benefits including improved digestion and boosted immune health.
Before we understand a little deeper about the various health benefits of prebiotics, we should answer the question of what prebiotics are.
What Are Prebiotics?
When you feed the right food, you ensure a healthy gut. If you’re aware of gut health and health in general is an important aspect of your life, you may have heard of probiotics and their amazing health benefits. (Read this article for the health benefits of probiotics.)
However, did you know that prebiotics are considered just as important as probiotics for your health? In fact, probiotics would not be able to even do their job without prebiotics.
Prebiotics are tiny non-digestible fibre compounds are known as oligosaccharides and they ferment in the body. This fermentation process brings with it a host of good effects including the reduced risk of disease, better immune function and even aids weight loss.
Prebiotics provide these health benefits by feeding and stimulating the growth and activity of a limited number of bacteria which are considered good bacteria in your colon. It is the work of these good bacteria that promote health. They act as a barrier against bad bacteria in your gut that causes harm to the self.
Prebiotics are found in diverse food groups and is also found in a wide range of supplements. You can find inulin, a type of prebiotic, in foods such as leeks, asparagus, onions, wheat, garlic, chicory, oats, soybeans and Jerusalem artichokes.
For a better understanding of the sources of prebiotics, we recommend that you read our article on the sources of prebiotics. Click here.
You can find prebiotics in many foods. Some are easy to include in your diet, while others are harder to source. Here is our list of our favourite prebiotic sources.
- Maple sugar
- Chinese chives
- Burdock root
- Yacon root
- Jerusalem artichokes
Health Benefits of Prebiotics
Prebiotics perform an integral role in your gut and stimulates the growth of good bacteria which brings with it a host of health benefits. Here is a list of noteworthy health benefits of including prebiotics in your diet.
1. Helps to Better Manage Stress
Gut health is linked with your stress hormones and thus impacts the body’s stress levels. Research has proved that gut health impacts the body’s ability to create and release stress hormones.
This enables you to better manage your stress levels. Including prebiotics in your diet and ensuring that you have a good source of prebiotics, you can make positive cortisol changes during stressful situations.
Stress can have a dampening effect on the quality of life and brings with it a host of health complications including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Hence, if you are able to manage your stress better by including prebiotic sources, you should.
2. Enables Better Management of Weight
Eating fibre, in general, is considered a good way to maintain weight. It enables you to stay full for a longer period of time and helps you stay on top of your weight loss ambitions.
If you are looking to lose weight, including prebiotic sources in your diet will enable you to get a good dose of fibre, which will essentially help you lose weight. Obvious to state, simply eating prebiotics won’t help you lose weight. You have to combine it with good eating habits and a healthy amount of exercise.
However, prebiotics are considered one of the better options to include in a healthy diet which will help you with your weight loss ambitions. In fact, prebiotics are directly linked to the prevention of obesity.
Prebiotics provide a balanced amount of energy which prevents you from seeking to snack throughout the day. This is one of the ways through which prebiotics helps you with your weight loss ambition.
3. Helps Prevent Hair Loss
Gut health is linked to various other factors in your body. This includes the health of your hair. An unhealthy gut has been linked to making us more sensitive to hair loss.
Prebiotics helps us reduce inflammation in our body and enables us to better balance our hormone levels. The fact that our hormone levels are better-managed means that you are less likely to lose hair.
Including prebiotics in your diet will not help you grow back a full head of hair. However, what it will do is balance your hormone levels to ensure that you don’t lose more hair. It is a prevention technique for hair loss.
4. Betters Immune Function
Both prebiotics and probiotics are responsible for immune health and help boost immune function in your body. This means you are less susceptible to diseases and you have a reduced chance of catching allergies.
It does this by enabling the better absorption of nutrients in the gut. These essential nutrients which are now absorbed into your body provide more energy and resources to keep your immune system functioning at optimum levels.
Immune health is very important and the stronger of an immune system you have, the healthier you are generally considered. If you find yourself as one of those people who tend to catch the seasonal flu every year, try increasing the amount of prebiotics in your diet. This may help you not catch the seasonal flu next year.
5. Reduces Inflammation
Prebiotics as mentioned enables the better absorption of essential nutrients in the gut. Further to the fact that it boosts immune health, it also works to keep inflammation at bay.
Inflammation is linked to many diseases and reducing inflammation helps reduce the risk of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer and other diseases.
When you have reduced inflammation in your body, you will benefit by having better blood sugar levels and better cholesterol levels. It works to improve your energy and improve your mood.
Prebiotics work at reducing inflammation. This is probably one of the most important health benefits of prebiotics, for it prevents the havoc caused by a host of diseases.
6. Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
As you know, prebiotics help reduce inflammation. This is linked to the next health benefit of prebiotics, which is reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you eat a diet rich in prebiotics, you have a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The daily recommended amount of prebiotics is between 4 to 6 grams. Ensuring that you get the recommended daily amount ensures that you reduce glycation which is will in essence reduce free radicals in your body. Free radicals in your body can lead to a host of health complications including cardiovascular disease.
Further to this, prebiotics are also known to have a hypo-cholesterolemic effect which enables your body to fight off the risks of cardiovascular disease. If you come from a family in which cardiovascular disease is common, including the recommended amount of prebiotics could help you bravely reduce the risk of developing the complication.
7. Better Manage Hormone Levels
When your gut is happy, you are happy. Many health studies conducted over the years have linked gut health to mood regulation. Studies have even gone ahead to declare the gut as the second brain. If you have ever skipped lunch, you would know this statement to be true.
Both prebiotics and probiotics help in the better absorption of essential nutrients in the gut. These nutrients are very important for hormonal health and help build hormone chemicals.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, it could be linked to an imbalanced gut. Hence, if you are at all worried about your mental health and would like a brighter outlook on life, including prebiotics in your diet could help.
8. Better Absorption of Nutrients
When you have an unbalanced gut, regardless of what you eat, you may find yourself gaining weight. This is because your gut is unable to effectively absorb the nutrients from the food that you eat.
Prebiotics help probiotics recolonise in the gut. When you are able to better absorb nutrients in the gut, it enables the turning off the body’s autoimmune responses which enables the better conversion of the food that you eat into readily available energy. This prevents the build-up of fat, which is why a healthy gut means you are less likely to gain unhealthy weight.
Prebiotics enable the better absorption of essential nutrients such as magnesium and calcium which are important for bone health. Magnesium and calcium are cited herewith as an example. Prebiotics helps in the better absorption of almost all nutrients in your gut.
9. Better Manage Blood Pressure
Though eating prebiotics doesn’t directly help you lower blood pressure levels, it enables the better management of blood pressure. This is because eating prebiotics enables the better balancing of the body’s mineral and electrolyte levels.
Better balancing the levels of the body’s mineral and electrolyte levels enables better management of blood pressure.
Something that you have to keep in mind with regards to prebiotics and blood pressure is, plant-based prebiotic sources have been proven to be effective in lowering blood pressure, while animal-based prebiotics have not. Hence if you are looking to reap this specific health benefit, we recommend that you stick to plant-based prebiotics.
10. Reduced Risk of Cancer
Prebiotics enable the lowering of the number of free radicals in your body. Free radicals are known to cause cancer. Hence including prebiotics in your diet will help you fight off the risk of cancer.
Prebiotics even help you reduce the number of cancer cells in your body. This is specifically linked to colon cancer, which is associated with increased toxins in your body. When these toxins are not quickly and effectively removed, it can lead to cancer. Prebiotics help flush the body of toxins by enabling better colon health; simple.
Studies have proven that people who ate a diet rich in prebiotics noticed a decrease in tumours and cancer cells.
11. Enables a Healthy Gut
Working alongside probiotics, prebiotics enables the better regulation of gut health. Prebiotics are fibrous foods that help maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system. They do this by enabling the good bacteria in your gut to fight way the bad bacteria.
Good bacteria actually use the prebiotic fibres to survive and grow. The more prebiotics you eat, the more good bacteria you would have in your gut. Good bacteria help produce short-chain fatty acids which are used to improve the lining of the gut.
This enables the overall improvement of digestion and brings with it a reduced risk of leaky gut syndrome, Candida virus, IBS and other intestinal disorders.
12. Better Metabolism
Gut health is linked to your metabolism. Are you one of those people who eat very little but still gain weight? This could be due to a weak metabolism. Your metabolism is linked to your gut. The more effectively nutrients are absorbed in your gut, the better metabolism you would have.
An imbalanced gut has been linked to a slower metabolism, which in essence causes weight gain. If you are looking to lose weight, we mentioned that adding prebiotics to your diet could help you with your ambitions.
Not only do prebiotics enable weight loss, but it also enables the better management of weight by ensuring that you have a stronger metabolism. The stronger of a metabolism you have, the less likely you are to gain weight and are more likely to burn fat naturally.
Should I Take a Prebiotic Supplement?
Prebiotic food includes vegetables and high-fibre foods. If you include a whole lot of vegetable and high fibre food in your diet, you may be able to source the required amount of prebiotics naturally and would not need a supplement. However, if you don’t include prebiotic sources in your diet, you would benefit from taking a prebiotic supplement to ensure you get the daily recommended amount.
Taking a prebiotic supplement can be recommended for anyone who wants to improve the health of your gut and reap the various health benefits of a healthy gut. Even if you feel like your gut is healthy and that you are doing fine, adding a prebiotic supplement could provide an extra layer of support for your health.
Prebiotic supplements can be an effective means to ensure that you are getting the recommended amount on a daily basis. It is great for people who are on the go, those who don’t pay too much attention to what they eat.
When you first start taking prebiotics, some people may experience gas, bloating or diarrhoea. This is because of the changes in the gut microbiota which results in the bacteria producing more gas and bloating. That being the case, these side effects usually clear away within a few days or weeks of taking the prebiotic supplements.
It should be noted that prebiotic supplements are not appropriate for everyone. In fact, it could worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome because rapid fermentation could cause gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. Hence, if you have a sensitive gut, you may want to source your prebiotics naturally and steer clear of prebiotic supplements.
What Are The Benefits of Prebiotics?
Prebiotics helps your immune system, keeps your gut healthy, prevents inflammation which prevents cancer and other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and better regulates your hormone levels and your mood. There are a host of health benefits of including prebiotics and you should include as many prebiotic sources in your diet as possible. Otherwise, you may want to consider taking a prebiotic supplement to reap the various health benefits.
All in all, prebiotics as mentioned is an integral part of your health and is as important to your health as probiotics. We hope reading this word to word has helped you understand the importance of prebiotics and has helped you make the decision of whether you should include prebiotics in your diet.
Prebiotics are not hard to source. So long as you have a good amount of fibre in your diet, you should be getting a certain amount of prebiotics. However, if you want to be extra careful and ensure that you get the recommended daily amount of prebiotics, you can use the list of prebiotic sources that we linked to; we even included our favourite prebiotic sources further up this article.
Prebiotics can be a great way to ensure you have a heatly gut. When you have a healthy gut, you are a healthier and happier self; simple.