We have to draw a distinction between probiotics and prebiotics. Both of them are essential for our health, but while probiotics are beneficial substances for a good health of the bacterial strains, prebiotics are the nutrients that the bacterial strains need, stimulating their activity in the long term.
This means that if we do not take healthy prebiotics to feed the bacterial strains, the probiotics will not produce any effect on our organism.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced intestinal flora is only possible when we add food with enough fiber to our daily diet and nutrition. This type of food will provide the organism with the substances that the probiotics need to function.
A lack of prebiotics can damage our body
We can provide our body with prebiotics through the diet by consuming certain types of food that are rich in fiber. In most of the cases, these foods are a type of carbohydrate that the intestine cannot digest. For example, inulin is a prebiotic.
The following foods are excellent sources of prebiotics: Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip, chicory, common artichoke, onion, garlic, tomato, banana and dandelion roots, which is why we should add them to our daily diet and nutrition.
How does a prebiotic deficiency affect the organism?
The intestinal flora can deteriorate if we do not include this type of healthy foods in our diet.
The intestinal strain becomes increasingly weak and it ends up being attacked by pathogenic bacteria that, in the long term, will trigger different types of symptoms, such as digestive problems, flatulence, constipation or problems in the stool that can lead to more serious diseases.
Benefits of prebiotic foods
Prebiotic foods are rich in dietary fiber and they provide the necessary nutrients to feed the intestinal bacteria. If we follow a diet with food that is rich in dietary fiber, the effects will be the fermentation of the prebiotics which will provide positive properties. But if you follow an unhealthy diet, based solely on foods that are rich in proteins, it will result in the fermentation of the proteins.
This type of fermentation is harmful, because it produces unsafe metabolites, like hydrogen sulfide, acids or gas that have negative effects on the organism. In addition, they stimulate the onset of ammonia, amines, phenols and indoles proteins which irritate the intestinal cells. This can cause mutations or negative effects on our immune system.
In contrast, the fermentation of bifidogenic prebiotics (prebiotics that feed the bifidobacteria) are especially beneficial since they stimulate the functioning of the intestines, which prevents the formation of harmful metabolites.
Short chain fatty acids and lactic acids have many benefits for the proper functioning of the intestinal flora and intestinal cells.
Both are very healthy, because they lower the acidity of the pH in the colon, which destroys the environment for the proliferation of the pathogenic intestinal bacteria. In addition, short chain fatty acids also have other benefits because they are a source of energy for the intestinal cells and they stimulate the fermentation of prebiotics in a healthy way.
How do prebiotics work?
Prebiotics work at three different levels: first, they prevent the onset of harmful metabolic substances produced by the fermentation of proteins; secondly, they increase the number and activity of beneficial intestinal bacteria and, lastly, they reduce the number and activity of the harmful bacteria for the intestine.
Thanks to these properties, the health of the organism is further enhanced while stimulating the functioning of the immune system.
How can we supply the necessary dose of prebiotics to the organism?
One solution consists of consuming prebiotics as high quality dietary supplements so that we can increase the number of beneficial intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacteria and the lactic acid bacteria, which will stimulate the functioning of the intestinal flora, making it stronger and more active.
Beneficial bacterial strains are very important in order to increase the absorption of nutrients, to favor a good digestion and to stimulate the immune system. With this, the balance of the intestinal flora is automatically restored.
What foods contain prebiotics?
A healthy diet and nutrition is the most important way to supply the organism with prebiotics. Therefore, we should eat foods that contain prebiotics to follow a healthy diet. A good source of prebiotics will not be broken down in the stomach or absorbed in the digestive tract. Moreover, it has to be fermented in the digestive tract thanks to the activity of the intestinal bacteria, which will stimulate the growth and functioning of the beneficial intestinal bacteria.
Prebiotic fibers with benefits for the organism are mainly found in the following foods:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Common artichokes
- Dandelion root
These foods have extraordinary benefits for our health, which is why we should include them in our diet.
We must consume the foods as fresh as we can if we want to make the most of its effects on our organism. For this reason, it is good to avoid storing food for long periods of time, because its content in nutrients and the quality of its prebiotics will drop over time.
How can we consume prebiotics and get their benefits if we cannot eat those foods?
We can obtain them through a dietary supplement, by means of a prebiotic inulin that can be isolated from chicory.
With the help of inulin, it is easy to consume prebiotic fiber, get all its benefits on a daily basis and maintain a correct intestinal health.
How do prebiotics work in the intestine?
Taking prebiotic dietary supplements can cause swelling occasionally. However, this only happens at the beginning, until the beneficial intestinal bacteria use these nutrients and produce the healthy effect in our organism.
How should we consume prebiotics?
Due to safety reasons, you should start taking a low amount of fiber and increase the dose gradually. The intestinal gas will eventually disappear by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not live microorganisms; they are substances that are used by microorganisms or beneficial intestinal bacteria to preserve the health of the intestinal strains. They become an ideal food that is available for the beneficial microorganisms.
Inulin, for example, is a prebiotic. Other types of carbohydrates, that are also prebiotics, are naturally present in the following foods: chicory, salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, as well as the rest of foods and vegetables that we have listed previously.