The digestive system depends on healthy bacteria being able to do their job effectively. Prebiotics are soluble fiber that provides nourishment to that gut bacteria.
Prebiotic supplements are a simple way to ensure you maintain a health gut microbiome that will efficiently and effectively process and deliver vital nutrients to your body.
Below, our nutrition experts present their list of the most important prebiotics benefits.
19 Benefits Of Prebiotics
Without sufficient prebiotics to munch on probiotics will wither and your digestive tract will suffer. Below are the most important benefits of prebiotics.
1: Prebiotics restore healthy gut flora.
The digestive system is extremely complex and dependent on beneficial microbes. Those microbes do most of the food processing for your body, but they themselves need to run on something. That something is prebiotics. Sometimes the levels of prebiotics in the gut can fall below necessary levels, perhaps because a person has taken a lot of antibiotics. Whatever the cause, prebiotic supplements can restore healthy gut flora, which will provide a wealth of cascading benefits.
2: Prebiotics help your body absorb nutrients more efficiently.
A poor diet is not the only cause of poor nutrition. Poor nutrient absorption can play just as big a role. Poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of chronic disease (1). So maintaining a healthy gut flora is crucial. By taking prebiotics, you ensure the probiotics in your gut are properly nourished and thereby optimize nutrient absorption.
3: Prebiotics may help prevent colorectal cancer.
By ensuring better digestion and enhancing the microflora activity in the colon, prebiotics may have a role to play in fending off colorectal cancer (2). Of course, there are no guarantees, but prevention is all about minimizing risk. And a number of studies indicate that prebiotics can help minimize the risk of colorectal cancer.
4: Prebiotics are useful for those watching their weight.
It is well-known that fiber can make a person feel fuller for longer (3). By doing so, it helps minimize the temptation to snack between meals, or eat larger than necessary meals. As prebiotics are basically fibrous in nature, they can play an important role in helping those watching their weight stick to their program and achieve their goals.
5: Prebiotics can bolster your immune system.
There is a close relationship between the digestive system and the immune system. It is now known that the immune system begins interacting with nutrients right at the walls of the gut (4), not later, as was formerly believed. By taking prebiotics, you help ensure the digestive microbes in your gut make the most of the food you eat. And that, by doing so, your immune system is operating at full capacity.
6: Prebiotics may help prevent IBD.
Because they nurture and enhance digestive microflora, prebiotics play a role in creating a healthy mucosal barrier. This, in turn, can help fend off the development of inflammatory bowel disease (5) or IBD. But that’s not all. By nurturing a healthy mucosal barrier, prebiotics can also help prevent other conditions like ulcerative colitis (6), and irritable bowel syndrome (7).
7: Prebiotics relieve constipation.
Most prebiotics are fibrous in nature. As such, they can relieve constipation. This is not the only role prebiotics play in your system. It is not even necessarily the most important. But it is a valuable benefit, nonetheless.
8: Prebiotics can lower blood triglycerides.
Triglycerides are little known but potentially dangerous compounds that course through your blood. Triglycerides play a role in the digestive process by storing unused calories for later retrieval. But too many triglycerides in the blood can lead to heart disease (8). Because prebiotics are intimately involved in the digestive process, they have the ability to reduce the number of triglycerides in the blood and lower your risk of heart disease.
9: Prebiotics can help improve your mood.
It is no secret that good health tends to produce good feelings, and that poor health and depression are often closely linked (9). By restoring proper gut flora and improving nutrient absorption, a person’s overall health should markedly improve, leading to a more upbeat, positive outlook on life. It will not happen overnight. But with consistent use of prebiotics, it is not only possible, but likely.
10: Prebiotics can help alleviate stress.
Researchers are just beginning to understand all the ways the gut impacts the rest of the body. One thing that has recently come to light is the connection between gut health and stress hormones (10). In laboratory tests, animals with compromised gut microbiota showed a noticeably higher susceptibility to stress inducers than those with healthy guts.
11: Prebiotics may help lower cholesterol.
A side effect of prebiotic metabolization is their binding to phospholipids, which decreases levels of cholesterol in the blood. Prebiotic metabolization also produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are helpful in reducing blood pressure.
12: Prebiotics are a good idea if you are taking antibiotics.
Antibiotics proved to be a healthcare game-changer from the moment they were introduced. But they are not without their downside. Antibiotics work by attacking and destroying invasive bacteria, or by preventing those bacteria from reproducing. However, they have also been known to attack beneficial bacteria, like that found in the gut and digestive tract (11). This can lead to issues with nutrient absorption. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, you may also want to consider taking prebiotics.
13: Prebiotics are good for your heart.
Because prebiotics help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and because they remove excess triglycerides from the blood stream, they provide a range of benefits for the heart (12). Making sure you get the prebiotics you need to ensure proper digestion and nutrition could literally add years to your lifespan.
14: Prebiotics are largely free of side effects.
Although they provide a range of health benefits, prebiotics are not medicine. They simply help your digestive system live up to its potential, which, in turn, helps you live up to yours. Most people will not experience any adverse side effects from taking this kind of supplement. However, it is possible that those new to prebiotics may experience loose stools or flatulence until their body adjusts.
15: Prebiotics can lower inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural part of the autoimmune response. Yet excess or chronic inflammation is also the cause of a great deal of physical distress and plays a role in arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and other major health conditions. Prebiotics help reduce inflammation both in the gut and in the body at large (13). This does not mean it is a magic pill or cure for cancer. But it may prove useful in helping to prevent an array of health problems.
16: Prebiotics promote the growth of short-chain fatty acids.
As we mentioned briefly earlier, prebiotics are metabolized into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids play a key role in establishing a healthy microbiome in the gut and are directly involved in a host of metabolic processes.
17: Prebiotics are good for your bones.
Because prebiotics enable you to optimize nutrient absorption, your bones get the minerals they need to stay strong (14). Calcium, magnesium, and iron, along with collagen and other essential proteins, are delivered to the bones in sufficient quantities to stave off osteoporosis and perhaps reduce the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
18: Prebiotics can help stabilize blood glucose levels.
Because prebiotics bolster the number and effectiveness of probiotics, they play an indirect, but important, role in stabilizing blood glucose levels and perhaps fend off the development of arthritis (15). Research indicates that some types of prebiotics reduce how much glucose is made available for potential absorption by the body. Prebiotics are also thought to minimize blood sugar spikes after eating.
19: Prebiotics are safe for kids.
It is important that children get off on the right foot healthwise. Failure to do so can have numerous harmful long-term effects and may lead to the development of various chronic diseases (16). Prebiotics are considered perfectly safe for otherwise healthy kids. They help ensure proper nutrition, make sure enough calcium gets to those growing bones, and even help prevent constipation, a common problem for children.
The beneficial bacteria in your gut need nutrition of their own if they are to do their job. Prebiotics deliver that nutrition in an affordable, easy to use way. If you have reason to believe you are not getting the most from the food you eat, consider a prebiotic supplement.