We have heard plenty about probiotics and how important these beneficial bacteria are for your health, but compelling studies show that prebiotics are equally important. Beneficial bacteria found in probiotics such as yogurt and prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) can keep the digestive system functioning normally. While probiotics are beneficial to your immune system, prebiotics help feed probiotics (the beneficial bacteria).
Probiotic micro-organisms thrive only with the proper environment and food sources. That’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are non-digestible, oligosaccharides (complex sugars) in our food that become food sources for probiotics.
So what do prebiotics do? Well, here are just a few ways that they keep us healthy.
Intestinal Health: Constipated much? Prebiotics increase bulk in your stools and shorten the transit time in the intestines. They may also help those with Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases because they reduce inflammation and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria).
Cholesterol Support: Research suggests that prebiotics enhance the cholesterol lowering actions of probiotics by helping break down cholesterol in the GI tract. And since some prebiotics are forms of fiber, they have the same effect as soluble fiber on lowering cholesterol.
Immune Health: Studies suggest that prebiotics may improve resistance against infection by providing food for probiotics, which makes the immune system function more efficiently.
Bone Health: Inulin, a type of prebiotic, appears to enhance the uptake of calcium, probably by increasing water in the bowel and boosting the volume of fluid in which calcium can dissolve, and by acidifying the colon, thereby raising the concentration of calcium.
If you are currently taking a probiotic, read the label to see if it contains prebiotics. Most common prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin. You can also get these prebiotics naturally in foods like asparagus, bananas, leeks, garlic and onions.
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