Prebiotics are non-digestible, fermentable fibers that fuel the bacteria in our GI system. They can mainly be found in plants like onions, garlic, chicory root, asparagus, leeks, oats and barley. These are usually fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Another type of prebiotic is a galactooligosaccharide (GOS). These prebiotics can be found in some root vegetables, legume such as green peas, chickpeas and lentils as well as some dairy products. While both these fibers sound the same, they have different benefits.
Both have been shown to assist in feeding the bacteria in the GI system. Both travel through the intestines intact and undigested where they are fermented in the colon. They both positively affect the host by increasing the growth of good bacteria. FOS has been shown in some studies to help stimulate a bowel movement, reducing the impact of constipation(1). GOS works by feeding mainly the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the gut. These healthy bacteria help provide resistance against harmful pathogens which could colonize in our GI system causing intestinal infection(2).
Prebiotics are the fuel that our microbiome need to assist in maintaining a strong and resilient bacterial army. They can work synergistically with probiotics to further enhance the balance of our GI system. Learning about the functions and role of prebiotics both in our bodies and in our foods is an important piece of our “health puzzle”.
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