Here’s the skinny: Everybody has bacteria in their gut to help digest food. It is important to maintain these friendly bacteria because not only do they provide the body with Vitamin K and Biotin, but they also protect our digestive system from harmful bacteria that can cause infections. Healthy bacterial by-products are essential to the body in many ways from making your skin and hair beautiful to providing energy and building muscles.
So what do we call these friendly bacteria, anyway? They are called probiotics.
And how do we provide a good environment for healthy bacteria to grow? The answer is in prebiotics.
Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics or the healthy bacteria. But not all carbohydrates are prebiotics – they have to be able to withstand stomach acidity and enzymes in the small intestine as they make their journey to the large intestine where the healthy bacteria live.
Where do I get the prebiotics from? The two common prebiotics are: Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS). They can be naturally found in asparagus, artichoke, garlic, chicory roots, onions, banana, garlic, and leek. Many food items such as yogurt, breads, breakfast cereals and supplement bars are fortified with prebiotics.
Fun Fact: Wheat is ranked number one for prebiotic food in the American diet. Onions are ranked number two.
How much do I need? According to clinical studies and research, we should eat 4-8 grams of prebiotics a day to help our healthy intestinal bacteria grow.
What about prebiotic supplements? Do I need them? I believe that taking prebiotic supplements are not necessary because prebiotics can be found naturally occuring in foods such as whole grains and vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, jicama, onions, leeks, garlic, spinach, dandelion greens and tomatoes. Fortified products such as yogurt and breakfast cereal are also good sources of prebiotics.
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad – over consumption of prebiotics can have side effects like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.