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Prebiotics: what they are

Prebiotics: what they are

Prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics, they are a well-defined category of substances and foods but by no means well known by those who are not in the sector. The best known, perhaps therefore the ones we may have heard of, are oligosaccharides such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, also nicknamed FOS. There are also substances that are considered prebiotics only by part of the scientific and medical community, such as galacto-oligo-saccharides (TOS), gluco-oligo-saccharides (GOS) and soy-oligo-saccharides (SOS). Without getting involved in these diatribes between experts, let's see what are prebiotics and what can they do for us.

Natural prebiotics

They are called prebiotics organic substances which have the ability to selectively stimulate the growth of one or a limited number of beneficial bacteria present in the colon. Or their activities. It has been since the early 90s that these have been known and studied substances, identified and considered particularly interesting for the intestinal bacterial flora. They serve in general to stimulate growth.

The judgment on prebiotics is not arbitrary, they must respond to precise characteristics. For example, they are not digestible, so they must pass the first part of the digestive tract unscathed, and also make a positive and stimulating contribution to the microbial flora by favoring bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Obviously, prebiotics must have positive luminal or systemic effects for our health.

Prebiotics: what they are for

One of the main functions of these substances is that of decrease fecal pH acidifying the intestinal contents, in addition, fermenting, they do decrease the "enemy" flora and its toxic metabolites which can cause inflammation of the mucosa.

Prebiotics they also help cell proliferation, thus improving the absorption of nutrients at the expense of toxic ones. When our diet is integrated with this type of substances, it increases bioavailability of minerals and the absorption of water and, in particular, of Calcium and Magnesium becomes easier. One important one should not be forgotten hypocholesterolemic action which, however, partly depends on the type of diet we have: prebiotics alone do not work miracles.

Prebiotics and probiotics

They get confused easily, in how they sound and also how they work. However, they are different, they can also be taken together, for similar reasons, but it is good to understand when one and when the other. That's why I advise you to delve into the nature and properties of probiotic foods.

Prebiotics on the market

On the market there are those we have already named as best known: FOS and inulin. The recommended doses can vary from 2 to 10 grams per day, if you overdo it you can have mild gastrointestinal disorders such as flatulence, bloating and diarrhea. Not serious but definitely avoidable and unpleasant.

It is recommended to take it to those who eat little fruit and vegetables, or to those who have just finished a treatment based on antibiotics. Also those who often suffer from gastrointestinal disorders you may need prebiotics but before taking them it is best that you talk to your doctor to see if they can be really useful or make the situation worse.

On the market we find the Topinambur powder: 200 grams for 10 euros, online and we will have at home a prebiotic fiber suitable for strengthen the intestinal flora and stimulate the immune system. This substance also helps against fatigue and limits mood swings, it is often used in yogurt, or in smoothies, a winter alternative is also to add it as a natural sweetener for cookies and sweets.

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Video: Prebiotics. Food for your Microbiome (October 2021).