Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food components that feed and foster the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. In other words, prebiotics act as a nutrition source for the “good” bacteria that live in your digestive system that work to enhance your intestinal health and thus whole-body health.
Food for gut health
Prebiotics resist digestion as they travel through the gastrointestinal tract. A prime example of a prebiotic is Inulin. Like all fibers, inulin is not broken down by the small intestine and never gets
absorbed into the body. Instead, it travels to the large intestine (colon) intact. This is where the magic happens: the friendly bacteria in your gut will feast on the fiber (fermentation) to produce health-promoting compounds. These compounds (short-chain fatty acids including acetate, butyrate and propionate) work to keep your gut healthy.
Know the Difference
It’s easy to confuse probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that promote digestive health, whereas prebiotics are the “food” that feed the probiotic bacteria.
3 health benefits
- Prebiotics sustain the beneficial bacteria that help us absorb nutrients and improve digestion.
- Prebiotics foster the population of beneficial bacteria so they can overpower harmful bacteria in the gut attempting to colonize and release toxins that disrupt normal digestion.
- Short-chain fatty acids nourish the cells lining the colon. This strengthens the integrity of the intestinal barrier and prevents large particles (e.g. partially-digested food) from “leaking out” of the gut, which can lead to inflammation in the body.
Preliminary research suggests short-chain fatty acids may reduce the risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease. They may also play a role in appetite regulation and energy balance.
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