What Is Prebiotic Fiber And Why Is It Beneficial To Health?

What Is Prebiotic Fiber And Why Is It Beneficial To Health?

Millions of bacteria in our intestines break down the food we eat into metabolites that affect every system in our bodies. For example, we now know that our mental and emotional wellness is directly tied to the state of our digestive systems.

That’s why, consuming a diet rich in prebiotics has been linked to an increase in both the number and diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn has been linked to improved digestive health. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. You've undoubtedly also heard how crucial fiber is. Both fiber and prebiotics are essential health-promoting dietary components. It is essential to comprehend their distinctions in order to make informed selections regarding your digestive health. Let's dive right in!

What Is Prebiotic Fibre?

Prebiotics are defined as "a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms and gives a health advantage."  They provide fuel for the microbes in our intestines. Prebiotics are a type of food that is unable to be digested by the human body but is instead fermented by good bacteria in the digestive tract. Good microbes produce "short chain fatty acids." Short-chain fatty acids nourish gut barrier cells, boost the immune system, and more.

Prebiotic fiber is essential to keep your probiotics healthy. Prebiotic foods include organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and processed meals like white flour and sugar.

Differentiate Between Fiber And Prebiotic Fiber

So, why is there a need to differentiate between fiber and prebiotic fiber? Both are important to human health and are found in various fruits and vegetables are, however, a key difference.

Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Because gut bacteria do not metabolize, it has a negligible impact on developing good bacteria as it passes through the digestive tract. High fiber diets provide many health benefits, including promoting regular bowel movements, lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels, and extending feelings of fullness.

On the other hand, prebiotic fibers are fermentable fibers like those found in fruits and vegetables and even some synthetic fibers. Beneficial effects on the immune, hormonal, and nervous systems result from the selective consumption of prebiotic fibers by gut bacteria, which produces compounds such as short-chain fatty acids.

Several soluble, fermentable dietary fibers have been shown to have prebiotic effects.

  • Oats and barley are good sources of beta-glucans.
  • Beans from the guar tree are the source of guar gum.
  • Inulin, oligo-fructose, and fructooligosaccharides can be found in onions, chicory root, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichoke.
  • Legumes and dairy contain galactooligosaccharides.
  • Pectins can be found in foods, including apples, berries, and the powdered fruit of the Baobab tree.
  • Beans and unripe bananas are examples of foods with resistant starch.

What Benefits Does Prebiotic Fiber Have?

Prebiotic fiber promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. The health benefits include:

  • Aids In Resolving Gastrointestinal Problems 

Prebiotic fiber has been shown to alleviate digestive discomfort by promoting regular bowel movements without adding pressure or pain relievers. Moreover, prebiotic fibers can help relieve constipation by rebalancing the gut microbiota, a symptom of dysbiosis. Constipation is when a person does not have regular bowel movements, has pain or difficulty passing stool, or does not feel relieved after passing stool.

Gas is a common problem as your digestive system adjusts to a prebiotic-rich diet. Moderate gas and bloating may be experienced at first by healthy people, but this is usually reduced as consumption increases. However, you should consult your doctor before incorporating prebiotic fiber into your diet if you have IBS, SIBO, or sensitivity to FODMAP foods.

  • Aid In Weight Reduction

Prebiotic fiber may be the secret weapon you have neglected if you strive to lose weight. Incorporating more fiber into your diet is a tried and true method of speedily reaching satiety. Obesity is facilitated by decreased satiety hormones and disruptions in gut-brain communication, both of which have been linked to an overabundance of harmful bacteria (such as Firmicutes) in the gut.

The growth of beneficial microbes, including Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and some anaerobic bacteria like Akkermansia muciniphilia and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is stimulated by prebiotic fiber, which is crucial for regulating weight and avoiding insulin resistance.

Depression and anxiety, connected to intestinal abnormalities, can cause weight loss, fatigue, and a loss of interest in daily activities.

Prebiotic fiber has been shown to aid in weight loss by controlling hunger, improving mood and mental health, and increasing energy and productivity. 

  • Help With Mood Disorders

The brain uses neurochemicals produced by gut bacteria to control learning, memory, and emotional states. Reduced levels of the beneficial bacteria that produce the tranquilizing neurotransmitters GABA and Serotonin are associated with an imbalanced microbiome. When taken regularly, prebiotic fiber and probiotics help the body better deal with stress and fortify the connection between the digestive and nervous systems (the "gut-brain axis").

When it comes to prebiotic fibers, who should take them?

Prebiotics are generally well tolerated, although those on the FODMAP diet or who have gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) should exercise caution until their condition improves. However, consuming a prebiotic daily has been shown to improve gut health, so even healthy people should give it some thought.

Signs That Prebiotics Are Necessary:

As you know, prebiotics are essential for gut health since they feed good bacteria there. You have realized the significance of a healthy digestive system to your general health and well-being. To know if you need to start taking prebiotics, it's essential to recognize the obvious (and sometimes not-so-obvious) signs of poor gut health.

Here are some of the most typical indications that you may have problems with your gut health and should up your use of prebiotic fiber:

  • Abnormal bowel movements, such as diarrhea
  • Acne, eczema, and other skin conditions
  • Allergies/asthma
  • Conditions affecting one's mental state
  • Cramping
  • Illnesses that come on quickly and often
  • Indigestion
  • Gas and bloating

Methods for Increasing Prebiotic Fiber in the Diet

Prebiotics may be obtained in sufficient quantities by eating a wide range of foods, as prebiotic fiber occurs naturally in many of them. However, studies show that fewer than 5% of people get the recommended amount of fiber in their diets every day.

Think about including the following:

  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils
  • Grains include oats, brown rice, and barley.
  • Fruits include edible food, such as apples, berries, tomatoes, avocados, bananas, and the baobab tree.
  • Vegetables are asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, garlic, leeks, chicory root, and jicama.

Prebiotic Fiber Supplements 

Supplemental prebiotic fiber can help with this. If you're having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, a prebiotic supplement like baobab fruit powder will help. Yes, the prebiotic fiber essential for good health can be obtained through a varied diet. Nonetheless, studies show that over 95% of the global population does not get enough fiber daily.

What is the recommended daily intake of prebiotic fiber?

The recommended daily allowances of fiber for women and men are 25 and 38 grams, respectively. However, research has shown that taking 8 grams of prebiotic source powder daily can improve digestive health, although there is no recommended consumption or daily allowance for prebiotics in healthy adults.

How long does it take for prebiotic fiber to become effective?

Your body's microbiome should begin to change after two weeks, give or take, depending on the quality of the prebiotic source and the amount you ingest. A few days after consuming prebiotics, some individuals have observed improvements.

The Takeaway

Prebiotic fiber promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, aids in resolving gastrointestinal problems, and boosts metabolic function. In addition to improving gut health, prebiotic fiber positively affects immune health, weight loss, food intolerances, bone health, and stress-related behavior.

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