We have many health concerns in the modern age. We want to reduce our risk factors for serious and chronic disease, we want more energy, we want to experience far less symptoms in terms of gut health and other digestive system problems, and we want to lose weight at the same time. It’s a lot to take in!
The thing is, it all balances up. If you have a healthy weight and you manage to maintain it, via a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, your body runs in a far more effective way. You reduce your risk factors for disease and conditions via this same mechanism and as a result, you live a healthier and happier life overall.
There is no downside.
Gut health issues are certainly something which have been on many a radar over the last few years. More and more people claim to suffer from conditions such as IBS or inflammatory bowel disease, and our busy and stressful lives don’t help much either. Excess gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and stomach discomfort are not pleasant symptoms to deal with, but there are many ways you can try and reduce those issues. The best way is to address your gut health overall.
Have you heard of probiotics? Undoubtedly. Have you heard of prebiotics? Possibly not. The thing is, prebiotics are just as beneficial.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fiber compounds which make their way through the digestive system, passing from place to place, before being fermented naturally when they reach the small intestine.
Prebiotics help to provide an answer to gut health problems, but they also provide valuable food and fuel for prebiotics, another step in the gut health journey.
You can find prebiotic content in your diet, through a variety of different foods known to be high in prebiotic content, or you can take a supplement. We’ll talk about both options later on. What we need to address is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics.
What Are Probiotics, And Are they Different?
Probiotics are different to prebiotics, yes. Probiotics are not fiber compounds, they are strains of live bacteria which live in the gut and help to balance up a good versus bad picture. Probiotics are good bacteria, and they ensure the smooth running of the gut, as well as providing a boost to the immune system, and many other benefits along the way.
Prebiotics work in a different way, as we mentioned above, but they also provide food for the probiotics. Probiotics cannot work effectively without prebiotics; they need food in order to do their work, just like me and you do!
Many people choose to take a probiotic supplement on a daily basis, or they can get a good amount of benefit from their diet. If you choose to go down the supplement route, it’s a good idea to find one which contains both prebiotics and probiotics, for a complete picture.
What Are The Benefits of Prebiotics?
Many people use prebiotics for weight loss indirectly, and that is because of the way they help to break down fats and other nutrients in the gut. They also help to create an overall healthier picture, when working hand in hand with probiotics.
Put simply, prebiotics help to increase digestive health and wellbeing, they provide food for probiotics, in order to help bring more of the benefits of the live cultures, they may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, may increase bone strength and health, and they may also help you to lose weight. In addition, the immune system gets a major boost.
You could argue that the benefits of probiotics also pertain to prebiotics, because the prebiotics are indirectly aiding the probiotics. That sounds confusing, but trust us, it’s beneficial!
Put simply, for overall health and wellbeing, prebiotics are a vital part of the picture, and it is important to get a good amount of content every day, as well as probiotics too. Never think that these are both the same thing – they need each other in order to work well!
Can Prebiotics Help You Lose Weight?
This is a very grey area, but the idea behind it is that if you consume prebiotics and probiotics as part of a varied and healthy diet, with plenty of exercise thrown in for good measure, that means that you’re going to lose weight as a beneficial side effect.
Prebiotics for weight loss themselves aren’t a solid ‘thing’, but they do contribute and they do help. Probiotics also have the same reputed effects, and may also help to reduce belly fat overall. That is a great benefit for someone who has struggled to lose fat from this trouble area in the past.
We know that prebiotics provide the food for probiotics, but they are actually made up of something called short chain fatty acids. These in themselves have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to repair any gut issues and the lining of your stomach. That’s a plus point in itself.
The reason that prebiotics for weight loss are sometimes reported is because prebiotics may affect a process within the body called homeostasis.
Studies into homeostasis have shown that this process may affect either weight gain or weight loss, and when used in conjunction with a generally healthy and varied diet, weight loss is the more likely outcome. The fact that prebiotics are fibers is also a good pointer towards health, because fibers help you to feel fuller and prevent you from making unhealthy food choices out of cravings and hunger.
So, do prebiotics help you lose weight? Indirectly they could, yes.
How to Get More Prebiotics In Your Diet
There are many foods which are high in prebiotic content, but it all comes down to whether you like them or not, and how often you can incorporate them into your diet.
The main high prebiotic content foods are:
- Chicory root – Contains a huge amount of inulin, which is a powerful prebiotic. At least 47% of chicory root comes from this prebiotic.
- Dandelion greens – Again, there is plenty of inulin in dandelion greens, and this food is known to help reduce constipation and boost the overall performance of the immune system.
- Jerusalem artichoke – You might hear this called the ‘Earth apple’, but they are one and the same thing. Inulin is found in high amounts in this food, and 76% of it comes from inulin itself. Many studies have shown that Jerusalem artichoke can help to colonise good bacteria within the colon.
- Garlic – Super easy to incorporate Into your day, and a large amount of of prebiotics found within it.
- Onions – Contains contain both FOS and inulin, as key parts of their prebiotic content.
- Leeks – Again, inulin is found in abundance in leeks, however slightly less than its counterparts, at just 16%. If you get enough of a serving however, you’ll still benefit very well indeed. Leeks also contain flavonoids, which help your body handle oxidative stress far better.
- Asparagus – Very common found and very high in prebiotics, you will get around 2-3g of insulin from one standard serving of asparagus.
- Bananas – This common fruit has been found to reduce bloating, give you more energy and also increase the amount of healthy bacteria found within the gut. There are small amounts of inulin prebiotics found in bananas, but they have a lot of resistant starch within them, which are high in prebiotics themselves.
- Barley – This is high in another prebiotic, called beta-glucan, which helps to boost the amount of healthy bacteria found within the gut. In addition, thyroid function is increased by consuming barley.
- Oats – You will find a lotto beta-glucan fiber in oats, and because they help you feel full, they can help control appetite, therefore helping with weight loss.
- Apples – Snacking on apples is a good thing, as they contain a lot of pectin, which is a fiber. This is beneficial for gut health and also many other health issues.
- Kanjac root/elephant yam – You will hear this called by both names, but it is a good food for prebiotic content. It contains glucomannan fiber, to about 40%, and it has also been shown to help with weight loss and cholesterol reduction.
- Burdock root – You’ll find burdock root used a lot in Japanese cooking in particular and this has a high prebiotic content, with both FOS and insulin. Burdock root is good for regulating bowel movements and also boosting immune system function.
These are some of the main prebiotic foods which will bring you health benefits. Whilst some them are more common than others, if you stick to the foods you can find, and use them regularly, with a variety of other healthy ingredients, you’ll get a major health benefit. Of course, adding high prebiotic foods in too will give you even more goodness.
How to Find The Best Prebiotic Supplement
If you’re trying to look for prebiotics for weight loss it’s important to do your research. The health supplement world is not regulated, and that means that any company can put a product on the market and tell you it’s wonderful. There are no rules and no regulations to what they can say, provided it isn’t a lie. There is also no standard dose of prebiotics that we are told to take, and that means that servings and dosages vary wildly from product to product.
The only way to find out how to take a specific prebiotic supplement is to read the label and follow the instructions. Before you do that however, you must speak to your doctor, in order to get the green light to take them. There isn’t a huge amount of evidence to suggest that there are major side effects to taking prebiotics, but there isn’t a lot to suggest there isn’t either. For that reason, it’s vital that you check things out with your doctor, especially if you have any specific health conditions or you’re taking any medications on a regular basis.
After that, it comes down to research. You might like to take a prebiotic for weight loss alongside a probiotic, especially if yo’ure finding it hard to incorporate these foods into your regular diet. The best way to do that is to find a supplement which has a joint prebiotic and probiotic amount. There are many on the market, but you should certainly check reviews to find out what other users have experienced.
Above everything else, it is important to understand the prebiotics for weight loss are not going to work on their own. You will need to live a healthy and active lifestyle, but the prebiotic content may certainly help your efforts. Not everyone finds it easy to eat the types of foods which are high in prebiotic and probiotic content, or it could be that they find it hard to get enough. Nobody actually has a set number on how much prebiotic and probiotic content you should be getting every day, and for that reason, most people opt for supplements.
Prebiotics can help to create a favourable environment for weight loss, i.e. by reducing gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms, and also helping the various metabolic processes which aid in weight loss. However, that doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want, provided you take a prebiotic supplement!
The single best way to lose weight is by eating a varied and healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough exercise every day. If you can do that, ensure the smooth running of your gut with prebiotic and probiotic supplements (or through the dietary route) then you will be able to give yourself the best chance to lose weight naturally and sustainably.
Remember to shop around for the best supplement for you, and always read reviews to get the most up to date and accurate information on the subject. It’s important to also check things out with your doctor, and get the green light before you opt to take any type of supplement.
Last Updated on