Gut health is one of the most common issues for many people. Excess gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach aches, these are all problems which are not only upsetting and distressing, but they can be embarrassing too.
We all know that we should eat a healthy and varied diet, get plenty of exercise, and drink enough water, but what if that doesn’t work completely? For some people it doesn’t. This is where supplements might come into play.
Have you heard of probiotics? You probably have; these are live bacteria which live in the gut and other select places around the body and they work to balance up the good versus bad bacteria within the body. The fact that most of the body’s immune system is situated in the gut also means that when you balance out the good versus bad, you’re getting a boost to your overall immunity too.
Working hand in hand with probiotics is another concern – prebiotics.
These two get confused very easily, but they’re actually distinctly different. What prebiotics do is support the good work of probiotics mainly, but they have their own benefits too.
Why is gut health so vital?
- Why is gut health so vital?
- What are prebiotics?
- What Are The Benefits of Prebiotics? – 5 Lesser Known Facts
- Are Prebiotics Better Than Probiotics?
The reason we have to place so much importance onto gut health is because of how vital it is to a healthy and happy life. Think about how you feel when you have a stomach upset. Do you want to eat? No. Do you want to do any exercise? No. Are you happy? No. Gut health makes us feel good or bad, it’s that simple. By ensuring that your digestive system overall is working well, you increase the way you feel in general, whilst also increasing your mood.
Probiotics are a vital part of the jigsaw, but prebiotics are certainly not without their own importance. This article is going to focus on prebiotics, but always keep in your mind that the two work hand in hand. That means that the benefits of probiotics actually indirectly pertain to prebiotics too!
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are not live bacteria like probiotics, they are instead fiber compounds which are non-digestible. These types of compounds easily pass through the GI tract but they are not digested. You might wonder how this can possibly be a good thing but bear with it. The fact that these prebiotics are not digestible means that they maintain their goodness, and they are then used to feed the probiotics. This strengthens these live bacteria and allows the benefits of that particular side of things to be even more so.
As you can see, they work hand in hand.
As the prebiotics pass through into the small intestine they are then fermented. This is different from being digested. The main type of prebiotic is oligosaccharides, but there are many others too, including inulin and polysaccharides.
So, prebiotics help probiotics by providing fuel, but they also have their own benefits too. Let’s explore that now.
What Are The Benefits of Prebiotics? – 5 Lesser Known Facts
Prebiotics are lesser know, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t huge beneficial for the entire body, giving you a better picture of health and wellness.
Improved Digestion And Overall Gut Health
The fermentation process helps to colonise the microflora in the gut. When this is all balanced and working well, digestion is optimised. We don’t have as much bloating, excess gas, and you don’t have the stomach issues that may otherwise come your way. Whilst probiotics have a huge role to play in this, prebiotics also work hand in hand.
By having more prebiotics within the gut, yo’ure also encouraging the colonisation of some of the common and strong prebiotics, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Of course, this is because prebiotics provide the fuel (e.g. the food) for probiotics in general.
A Boost to The Immune System
Most of the immune system is found in the gut, as we have already mentioned. By increasing the health of your gut and the way it runs on a daily basis, you’re actually boosting your overall immune health too. Studies have shown that increased prebiotic levels can help to increase biomarkers which give you an idea of how well the immune system is doing.
A Decrease in Inflammation
When inflammation levels are high within the body, all manner of undesirable symptoms might occur. Inflammation may also contribute towards heart disease, and it’s best to do everything you can to reduce the development of that huge issue. Many studies have shown that a healthier gut can do a lot to help reduce inflammation, which may therefore reduce the chances of developing a chronic type of disease.
May Help to Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease
Prebiotics foods can help to reduce something called glycation. Glycation is a process which leads to an increase in free radicals around the body. As a result, that increases inflammation and reduces the body’s resistance to insulin. None of these things are good, but they also lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease. By increasing the amount of prebiotic content in your diet, you’re lowering the glycation activity within your body and therefore reducing your risk of heart disease without even realising it.
May Help You to Lose Weight
Of course, eating prebiotic foods alone aren’t going to help you shed the pounds, but when used as part of a healthy diet, they could have a very beneficial effect. A recent study showed that prebiotic foods can help to increase a process within the body called homeostasis. This is linked to weight gain and weight loss. In addition, eating foods which are high in fiber content (which most prebiotic foods are) can help to support weight loss, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, with plenty of exercise.
These are five facts which aren’t that well know about prebiotics, and when they stand side by side, they are fantastic benefits to add to your health register. There are others, including increased bone health, but these are the five which have the best evidence to back them up.
Of course, probiotics themselves have many benefits, and when taken together, you’re getting a double whammy of health effects which add up to a very beneficial picture.
Are Prebiotics Better Than Probiotics?
The answer is no. They are both beneficial and should both be included as part of a healthy diet. One is not more useful than the other, and they work hand in hand, side by side in order to create a better gut health environment. Indirectly, this also helps with your immune system.
You can choose to take only prebiotics, e.g. through diet or via a supplement, but if you add probiotics, you’re going to get double the benefits. Similarly, you can opt for just probiotics, but these might be less effective if they have no fuel to keep them going, e.g. prebiotics.
Prebiotic content can be found in many different regular foods, e.g. onions, garlic, leeks and apples, and these are easy to incorporate into your day. The other types of foods which prebiotics are known to be included in are a little more obscure, and that is why many people opt for supplements instead. It can be hard to get enough in your dietary intake alone. The same can be said for probiotics and the reason why people opt for supplements in this regard too.
When you buy a probiotic supplement, you’ll often see products which also contain a prebiotic. These are a good option. By opting for this type of product, you’re getting a good amount of both and therefore a better result in the end. What you should always do is read reviews and double check on the product before buying it.
The supplement world isn’t regulated and that makes choosing the right supplement quite tricky. Most people tend to stick to the one they find suits them best once they find it, simply because the process of actually unearthing that information can be difficult!
Prebiotics are a vital part of a healthy diet and can do a huge amount to increase gut health and create a far healthier picture overall. By ensuring that you get enough prebiotic content in your diet, you will do a lot to ensure the support of the prebiotics (live bacteria) living in your gut. If you opt for a prebiotic supplement in addition, or you opt to increase your probiotic content via diet, you’ll have a complete picture.
Be sure to shop around for supplements and make sure that you find the one which suits you best. This includes budget and how to take it, as this varies from product to produce. Always read reviews and take advice seriously. In addition, always speak to your doctor before you start taking any type of supplement, especially if you have any current conditions or you’re on any type of medication. This will ensure that you get the green light to take the supplement, without any worries occurring.
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