Anyone who takes an interest in gut health will come across three little words fairly often. These are prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics. They kind of sound similar but they all mean something quite different. Before we look at prebiotic fibre, let's fist define each of these terms:
- Probiotics: Usually dairy food or a dietary supplement that contains live ‘friendly” bacteria. This good bacterium is beneficial to human health. When we ingest food or supplements containing probiotics, we replace or add to the valuable good bacteria that are normally present in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract or GIT).
- Prebiotics: Every living thing needs to eat if it's to survive, including bacteria. Prebiotic is a non-digestible carbohydrate food which feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut. It basically helps them to grow and flourish.
- Synbiotics: This refers to nutritional supplements that combine both probiotics and prebiotics. There are also a few synbiotic foods like yogurt, kefir or honey to name just three. These are true synbiotic foods because they contain friendly bacteria for the gut and the food for them to survive on. Kefir in particular is perhaps the most popular synbiotics food as it's a more powerful version of yogurt .
Prebiotic Fiber Explained
Fiber is any dietary material (roughage) which contains substances like cellulose, lignin, and pectin. It is food that's resistant to the action of digestive enzymes. To put it another way, the body cannot break fiber down and digest it like other foods. Because of this, fiber passes into the colon to form waste. Fiber is an essential part of any healthy diet. Prebiotic fiber is also indigestible fiber, and although or body can't break it down, our gut flora can 
A few good natural food sources for prebiotic fibers include:
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Raw Asparagus
- Raw garlic
- Raw leeks
- Raw onions
When you eat these prebiotic fibers they ferment in the small and large intestines. As they go through this process they release nutrients for your healthy gut flora to feed on. These nutrients are important as they help to incite the growth of new microflora. They also enable any existing microflora to remain in good shape. Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis is a health recommendation, but it's not always practical for all people all of the time. For this reason, natural prebiotic fiber supplements offer an excellent alternative. Supplements are also easy to take without having to give much conscious thought to any of it. Supplements also ensure you get all the digestive health benefits your body needs without having to guess.
Prebiotic Fiber Supplements
Prebiotic fiber supplements claim to support general health, gut health and immunity. They set to work by nourishing the friendly bacteria in your gut, but that's not all they do. You also get an extra boost of healthy fiber at the same time, which is something too many of us lack in these days. A quality prebiotic dietary supplement should be all natural and gluten-free. It should also liquefy easily in beverages or food.
The range of health claims from taking prebiotic fiber supplements include:
- Assists weight management
- Corrects leaky gut
- Eradicates smelly flatus and gas
- Fixes colon dysbiosis (bad bacteria)
- Helps with appetite control
- Improves digestive health
- Improves immunity
- Increases calcium absorption
- Raises good colon bacteria
- Reinforces cardiovascular and heart health
- Stronger bone density
Careful what You Buy
The world of supplements can be a minefield to navigate at times, especially for the novice. One of the downsides of this industry is that supplements go largely unregulated. This is because they come under the umbrella of food, not drugs. Another downside is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) don't conclude if dietary supplements are effective before they go to market. It's a similar situation in many other countries too. Because of the lack of regulation, some unscrupulous companies market substandard products. In actual fact, many prebiotic supplements use low grade or synthetic prebiotics which means they offer nothing more than fiber. Because of this, it's important that you make sure your source is reliable and the product dependable.
What the Scientists Say
The science is not yet conclusive in this area, but it is ongoing and scientists take it all very seriously. There is one report that has been looking into prebiotics and potential health benefits for prebiotic fiber. Here’s an abstract from that:
Prebiotic fiber, a class of fiber that may act to beneficially alter the colonic microflora, has generated intense scientific, consumer, and regulatory debate since it was first defined in the mid-1990s .
Both probiotics and prebiotics are essential to good health. We need healthy, friendly, live microorganisms (probiotics) living inside our gastrointestinal tract. Without them there could be no digestion. When they become impaired the gut doesn't get a proper clean out. When that happens, our bodily functions fail and systems are unable to flow properly. When we do have healthy colonies of friendly bacteria they, like all living things, need nourishment. Prebiotic foods and fiber feed our good bacteria and helps them to remain active and strong.
None of this is rocket science, though many people are unaware on the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. This is why there are so many today suffering – unnecessarily – with digestive problems.
It's time to love your gut. Start by drinking plenty of water and make sure you remain hydrated at all time. Learn how certain foods and dietary supplements can help to repair and maintain a healthy gut. These are all small changes that can make a huge difference in the way you look, feel and function on a daily basis.