The human digestive system has evolved over millions of years and is very complex. It can be considered that our body is a road used daily by heavy vehicles. And from time to time, frequent repairs are required for its smooth functioning. Similarly, your whole digestive tract starting right from your mouth and covering the stomach, down to the small and large intestines is the gut through which our food travels. Over time the gastrointestinal tract gets clogged up because of this the gut gets overloaded with toxins which then start to damage the wall lining and the toxins then get absorbed into the bloodstream.
Sometimes, there may be an infectious overgrowth of small intestinal bacteria that harm your normal absorption process and interfere with your immune and digestive health. These various issues become the reason for various health problems. Right from the very intake of food, and absorption of nutrients, to the excretion of waste material, the 30 feet (approximately) gut is probably the most vital system in the human body.
Gut flora, also known as intestinal flora, is the microorganisms (mostly bacteria and fungi) that live in the digestive tracts. Bacteria and the other organisms that live inside the intestines pose no threat to our internal or external health. That’s because these bacteria are good bacteria, healthy and helpful bacteria that have numerous health benefits. These helpful bacteria help us to properly digest our food, absorb nutrients, protect our immune health from foreign particles and viruses, help normal bowel movements, ease digestion, etc. Our bodies are home to overall 100 trillion good bacteria, which is about ten times more than the number of human cells. Not only are these bacteria good for us but are essential for our very survival.
What are prebiotics and their role in our health?
Prebiotics are basically indigestible compounds in food that induce the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, otherwise referred to as probiotics.
Now, prebiotics comes in two forms:
- Soluble and
And your body needs both to establish a healthy gut flora. There are so many foods including bread that have lots of fiber in them but sometimes that is only the soluble fiber. The insoluble fiber is removed during processing, so when they process the grain, they are removing insoluble fiber but the original form of the grain i.e., the whole intact grain has insoluble fiber in addition to other micronutrients. However, there are some loaves of bread you can still find that are whole intact grain bread. You can get insoluble fiber from other foods as well, but those should be unprocessed foods. Some of those include – seeds, nuts, vegetables, legumes, etc. Stay put because there are many types of prebiotic foods that have been discussed in detail below.
How is Prebiotics important to the gut?
A bad gut negatively affects your entire immune health, digestive system health, mental health, muscle, bone, and skin, and nail health, but the good news is that it is actually easy to fix. Such problems arise when your gut lacks probiotics aka the good gut bacteria. The solution is to repopulate your gut with good bacteria. Almost like starting a garden where you start by reintroducing a little seed (good bacteria) that comes in the form of probiotics, but in order for them to thrive, you should create a nice environment for them just like your garden needs a nice climate and soil. For example – processed food will destroy the soil and unprocessed natural food will act like a fertilizer. Prebiotics act as the main source of sunlight, air, fertilizer, and water for those seeds as they thrive in your gut. Visit this site to learn about the value and significance of prebiotics and probiotics!
Prebiotic benefits are important if you want to live longer and most importantly in a healthy way. For this, you need to keep your gut healthy and therefore you need to include prebiotics in your everyday diet. It is not only to keep your bowels healthy and happy but also for the indirect benefits to every other part of your body including your cardiovascular and brain health.
Prebiotics can affect the overall function of your body as it is linked to your immune system, hormones, digestive health, cognition, and many more. For example, if your immune system does not work properly, you are likely to fall sick more frequently as it supports healthy metabolism and maintains overall good health. Your friendly gut bacteria need food to survive and when they’re fed properly, it nourishes the gut barrier and promotes good health.
Prebiotic Benefits for Overall Health:
It helps the immune system by keeping the beneficial bacteria healthy enough to help fight off diseases. The immune system protects the body from outside invaders like germs such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and toxins. A healthy immune system activates, attacks, and kills foreign invading germs that cause harm to your body. Most of the cells creating antibodies for fighting any diseases or sicknesses are developed in the intestines and other organs of the gut.
So, if the gut is healthy, it becomes easier for your immune system to fight those invading viruses or microorganisms. Foods can directly stimulate the immune system which can directly increase the population of beneficial microbes or probiotics, especially lactic acid – in the gut.
As explained earlier, if your gut is healthy the immune system will fight off these infections very easily. When there is any type of infection in your body, it clearly means that there are more bad bacteria than good ones in your system. Therefore, including prebiotics in your diet helps increase probiotics and eliminate bad bacteria, thereby retaining the balance of your gut.
- Bone health:
Prebiotics improve calcium absorption and are effective in assisting the body to absorb a better range of vitamins and nutrients. The presence of healthy gut bacteria enhances bone mineral density directly. Consuming prebiotic foods can help you in experiencing this benefit.
Therefore, foods containing natural prebiotics, prebiotic inulin, and oligofructose are super helpful, as these potent compounds help promote bone health by enhancing both magnesium and calcium absorption. Therefore, prebiotics help strengthens the bone from the inside out.
- Digestive health:
Prebiotic foods should be an important part of your diet as they are the best way to keep your gut healthy. Prebiotics help ease diarrhea, improve colitis and leaky gut, and heal Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) issues. If your gut is not healthy or is imbalanced, it can impair your gastrointestinal tract’s ability to absorb nutrients. In the process, your digestive health will also become unhealthy due to arising complications and diseases like – constipation, IBS, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Leaky Gut Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, etc.
We all know that our body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, which in turn is needed to perform important tasks, such as synthesizing and distributing hormones. But at the same time, your body needs to keep it in check because high levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. This risk develops due to fatty deposits in your blood vessels. However, if your diet properly feeds your gut with beneficial gut bacteria with enough prebiotics, then there is an extremely low chance of such happening.
Prebiotic foods like apples, yogurt, bananas, etc., will definitely help you lower your cholesterol. These kinds of foods also reduce blood pressure and blood triglycerides, which are types of blood fat that may otherwise cause heart diseases.
Hormones tell different parts of our bodies what to do and when to do it. A healthy gut microbiome supports hormone balance. These little microbes living in our gut can actually control certain hormones such as thyroid and estrogen levels! If the gut is unhealthy, then the other excess hormones could be reabsorbed through the intestinal walls, right back into the body. But if your gut is healthy, it will remove the excess hormones as it should, allowing the body to function properly. This improves reproductive health, helps increase the likelihood of conception, and reduces vaginal infections.
Finding the right prebiotic fiber and including them in your diet helps optimize your gut microbiome health, which then leads to hormone balance and overall wellness. Poor gut health increases the risk of PCOS, estrogen-related diseases, breast cancer, etc. And if we suffer from unhealthy gut microbiota, then we will often experience feelings of anxiety, depression, hypothyroidism, brain fog, etc., due to the disruptions in the brain-gut axis.
- Weight loss:
Some of the best prebiotic foods help you to lose belly fat and weight by reducing the number of calories you absorb throughout the day. They also positively affect your appetite and fat storage by releasing appetite-reducing hormones – a glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) and peptides YY(PYY). These hormones help you burn fat and calories at the same time. Certain foods like oats, and barley, which are rich in prebiotics help reduce hunger and give you a feeling of fullness that lasts throughout the day. They also contain certain fiber that slows down digestion, thereby reducing belly fat and helping in battling obesity.
Prebiotics improve brain function. The gut-brain axis refers to the communication network that connects your gut and the brain. Through our nervous system, the gut is connected to our brain which contains 500 million neurons. In short, gut bacteria control your mood and cognitive abilities. So, it’s necessary to feed the gut with good bacteria through foods containing prebiotics, probiotics, Vitamin B6, B12, magnesium, etc., which will support mental health and better cognition. If the gut is healthy the brain will automatically perform tasks better and more easily.
When should you take prebiotics and how?
For effective results, prebiotics should be taken daily. However, there is no particular time imposed. Generally, people consume prebiotics through prebiotic-rich foods or pills, either during the early morning hours or before bedtime. Some people prefer to consume prebiotic supplements with a glass of water, instead of having to deal with the hassles of preparing highly nutritious diet plans and meal recipes, visit here to learn about the 10 Best Supplements infused with Prebiotic and Probiotic. However, it is important to be consistent to get the results and all its benefits.
The more consistently you take the prebiotics, the better your gut health becomes. It is recommended to follow a particular time that fits the best for you as it is not necessary to take them on an empty stomach. You can also take your prebiotic supplements in combination with some probiotic ones. It is also important to wait for at least 2 hours before and after any medications because when consumed, they could decrease the absorption of other supplements or medicines.
Note: The combination of prebiotics and antibiotics is good for your body as antibiotics work by killing the bacteria in your body, both good and evil ones. So, a prebiotic will definitely help to add those good bacteria to your gut but at the same time, it is important to wait at least up to three hours before and after taking an antibiotic, so that it can work properly.
Who should not use prebiotics and who should?
- Pregnant people, lactating mothers, minors, and elderly people with any sort of serious ailments should take permission from their doctors or medical professionals before deciding on any type of supplement or diet change. Always see how your body reacts to the supplements, you can always half the dosage to find out if any kind of digestive or other problems occurs.
- People who are prone to bloating, and cramping, or are undergoing heavy treatments for any long-term illnesses, etc., should avoid taking prebiotic supplements without any consultation.
But, Prebiotic foods can and should be taken by everyone who wants to optimize their gut health. People with a fairly healthy gut can also take prebiotics to prevent diseases and give extra care and support to gut health for long-term health benefits.
Best Prebiotic Foods that have incredible healing properties!
If your diet is rich in prebiotic foods, you will not need any other supplements to keep your gut healthy and intact. These are also suitable for people who are vegans. Here are some foods listed below that are rich in prebiotic properties: –
#1. Chicory root:
Chicory root fiber is composed of 68% of inulin which is a useful dietary fiber, known as fructooligosaccharide or fructan.
- It acts as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
- It promotes healthy digestion and aids in bowel movement.
- The inulin content in this prebiotic fiber helps relieve constipation thus improving bowel movement.
- It also helps in blood sugar control and it is easy to add to your diet and may support weight loss as well.
- It has medicinal and nutritional properties. The roots have tons of nutrients including protein, soluble dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, and much more.
- Chicory root provides numerous health benefits, such as its antifungal and immune-stimulating properties.
- It also helps in preventing liver damage or organ failure.
#2. Dandelion root:
Dandelion greens have been used in traditional medicines for centuries.
- People use it as a natural remedy to improve blood sugar management, and skin, liver, and heart health. It is also found in herbal teas.
- Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins C, A, and K, as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
- The roots of dandelions are extremely rich in carbohydrate inulin i.e., one of the prebiotic fibers which feed the probiotics in the gut and maintains a healthy gut.
- It also contains antioxidants, boosts immune health, improves skin, helps to fight inflammation, and may also reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- Studies have shown that it also supports healthy bones, prevents constipation, and has cancer-preventing effects.
#3. Jerusalem artichokes:
Belonging to the sunflower family, Jerusalem artichokes taste sweet and almost nutty. It is an excellent source of vitamins and valuable minerals.
- It improves gut health by regulating our bowel movements.
- And the inulin fiber in these artichokes acts as a prebiotic which stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria, thereby helping in the decrease of the bad bacteria in your gut.
- It improves metabolism, strengthens immunity, reduces inflammation, lowers blood sugar levels in your body, helps people deal with type 2 diabetes, and reduces chances of cancer.
- Jerusalem artichokes also contain a good amount of potassium which is known for regulating blood pressure, whereas the fiber in it helps to lower high cholesterol and triglycerides.
This fiber-rich ancient grain has a chewy texture and slightly nutty taste.
- It is packed with rich nutrients such as vitamin B1, copper, magnesium, niacin, chromium, and phosphorus. All these help to lose weight, reduce hunger, and promote feelings of fullness.
- It also contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that slows down digestion, thereby reducing your growing appetite.
- All of its benefits help in reducing belly fat.
- It is also known for reducing gallstones, and risks of any heart disease, and helps prevent colon cancer.
Barley is very easy to add to your diet due to its versatility in recipes and easy access to it globally.
It is one of the healthiest whole grains on earth, packed with important vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and many more. They are gluten-free whole grains that are also incredibly nutritious.
- This grain also contains the soluble fiber, called beta-glucan which reduces LDL (bad cholesterol), high blood sugar, and insulin response.
- Oats help to relieve constipation, lose weight, and improve insulin sensitivity.
- More benefits of long-term usage are that it decreases the risk of childhood asthma and can enhance athletic performance.
- It maintains overall digestive health, helps you to sleep better, and has major skin healing properties that help you gain glowing and clear skin.
It is one of the most popular ingredients when it comes to cuisines all over the world. Not only does it have an exquisite taste, but it also has many medicinal properties. It has very few calories in it and is considered to be an excellent source of essential nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, manganese, vitamin B6, selenium, and many other nutrient-dense properties. These are known to boost the function of the immune system which in turn protects the body and gut from foreign viruses, pathogens, disease-causing germs, illnesses such as the common cold, etc. Garlic also helps:
- Detoxify heavy metals in your gut,
- Improve your gut microbiome,
- Promote physical performances and athletic performances,
- Reduce cholesterol levels, and
- Prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
It has a very strong taste, adds a unique flavor to every dish, and is incredibly easy to add to your diet. The easiest way to utilize garlic is by making yourself a nice hot cup of detoxifying garlic lemon tea. Enjoy!
Leeks are related to onion, garlic, and chives. It has a sweet onion-y flavor.
- Leeks are a rich source of vitamin K1, vitamin C, and vitamin A, which aids in improving immune function, reproductive health, vision, collagen production, and cell communication, and it also helps deal with PMS.
- Leeks contain kaempferol which fights cancer, kills cancer cells and reduces inflammation.
- It also promotes brain function, and healthy digestion, and fights infection.
They are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals.
- Onions are loaded with antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds.
- It improves the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which strengthens gut health, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, and enhances digestion.
Asparagus is loaded with nutrients and is a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, chromium, and amino acid. It is also free of fat, and cholesterol and is very low in sodium.
- It helps our brain to fight cognitive disorders,
- Aids people with hypertension,
- And helps the body to get rid of excess salts and toxins.
- It improves the health of the heart, bones, nerves, kidneys, blood flow, etc.
Apples contain chemicals called flavonoids and a fiber known as pectin that breaks down in your gut. It is better to have apples with skin on them as it contains lots of fiber that feeds your gut microbiota.
- It helps your body fight asthma and free radicals,
- Protects your brain,
- Prevents cancer,
- Is good for your heart health, and supports weight loss.
One medium apple serves about 104 calories, 28 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber, 5% of the DV potassium, 10% of the DV vitamin C, 4% of the DV vitamin K, and 6%of the DV copper.
#11. Konjac roots:
- Konjac roots improve digestion, eye health, and improve metabolic health.
- The roots of Konjac are used to formulate low-calorie food due to the presence of high glucomannan content. It helps to curb appetite by absorbing water and making you full.
- Green bananas contain insoluble fiber which helps to regulate normal bowel movement.
- It also contains resistant starch which is known to lower blood sugar.
- It helps in preventing inflammation and lowers cholesterol.
- Other than that, it also benefits skin and hair health as well.
#13. Jicama root:
Jicama roots are potato-like root vegetables that are nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants.
- It helps increase healthy gut bacteria as it reduces the chances of cancer,
- Boosts heart health, and digestion, and also helps in weight loss.
#14. Wheat bran:
Half a cup of wheat bran, approximately 28 grams offers about 13 grams of dietary fiber. It is also very helpful in weight loss and even reduces risks of developing colon and breast cancer.
Seaweed contains iodine which supports your thyroid gland. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. Some common types of seaweeds are nori, sea lettuce, kelp, arame, dulse, etc. It is also a rich source of prebiotic fiber that helps increase the growth of good gut bacteria.
Rich prebiotic foods include organic cocoa which is also immensely good for healthy gut bacteria.
- The polyphenols inside cocoa improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, thus protecting you from various kinds of diseases.
- It is also rich in theobromine which reduces inflammation. However, do not consume too much cocoa, as the sugar content might tip off your normal blood sugar balance.
Other prebiotic foods include burdock root, yacon root, flaxseeds, mushrooms, chickpeas, lentils, etc. It is easy incorporating prebiotic foods to support healthy digestion and various health benefits. But, make sure to not consume too much of anything and create your own personalized diet meal plans that include a healthy dose of prebiotics and probiotics to get optimal health.
What happens if you do not use Prebiotics or stop using them?
For good gut health, you have to take continuous dosages or meals with prebiotics. If you stop taking prebiotics and probiotics, the benefits start to wear off within 1-2 weeks. As soon as you stop taking them, the state of your gut microbiome is likely to return to what it was before. However, prebiotics is still safe to discontinue if your gut health has healed. But when taking supplements or prescribed medications, it is recommended to complete the dosage otherwise the body can increase vulnerability to infection and illnesses.
Even if you are off supplements, try to consume a probiotic and prebiotic dish regularly to keep up your gut health intact and in check. They provide relieving anti-inflammatory nutrients and digestive health-improving qualities. As a consequence, they improve your overall physical, mental, and immune health by miles.
Conclusion: Prebiotics and some well-being tips for your gut!
Prebiotic foods can optimize your gut health by improving the live healthy bacteria, reducing the growth of harmful bacteria, improving digestion, detoxifying the gut, healing the intestinal walls and preventing leaky gut syndrome, improving the immune system, improving absorption of nutrients, promoting easy digestion, promoting weight loss, and improving your mental health through the gut-brain axis.
Here are some easy tips for you that can add to your gut well-being:
- Exercise regularly. Try to give your physical health at least 10 to 20 minutes of routine workouts to energize and equip yourself with a high metabolism and long-lasting strength. Studies show that regular exercise and yoga also helps your gut heal. Learn about some Healthy Gut Moves, that are proven to establish good gut bacteria.
- Live a clean lifestyle. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs never bode well when it comes to health. They get in the way of healing your health and take up years of your life. They also increase the number of harmful bacteria in your gut and make your body vulnerable thereby contracting diseases and viruses.
- Establish a satisfying sleep routine for more than 7-8 hours every night. Stress can lead to insomnia and vice-versa. Long rests and timely sleep give your internal health enough strength to heal and defend itself against foreign invading bacteria and diseases.
- Do not stress. Have you noticed that whenever you are anxious or heavily stressed, you feel a pit forming in your stomach? The looming feeling of nausea and distressed digestive health? Well, that’s the gut’s sign of an unhealthy amount of stress that causes harm to your gut health. This negatively affects the mechanisms of other aspects of your physical and mental health as well.
So, in short, we can say the many benefits of prebiotic foods are unmeasurable and extremely vital. Take dietary advice from your medical professionals and create easy meal plans that require minimal preparations! There are so many options to choose from when it comes to prebiotic and probiotic supplements or diets as well. Listed here are a few ways in which you can Improve your Gut Health Naturally.
Tim Koping (Medical M.Sc Physiology, Founder of Original Eating, and a Professor at a Leading Health Institute in the US): I am a medical M.Sc physiology graduate and the founder of Original Eating, an online resource that provides information and advice about healthy eating. I have a strong interest in health and nutrition, and I am passionate about helping people to eat well and live healthily. I have over 15 years of experience working in the health and nutrition industry, and I am dedicated to providing accurate, reliable information that can help people to make healthy choices for themselves. My work with Original Eating has been featured in publications such as Men’s Health and more, and I am frequently consulted by journalists for expert commentary on dietary issues. However, in my spare time, I also enjoy reading, hiking, and playing the guitar.