Although we are learning more and more about gut health, there is a lot that still remains a mystery. We know for sure that having a lot of bacteria is a good thing and that having lots of different bacteria is also important. We call this “abundance” and “diversity”, respectively.
What are prebiotics?
You might have heard about prebiotics and be wondering how they are different form probiotics. In a nut shell, prebiotics are a particular type of dietary fibre that stimulates the growth or activity of healthy gut bacteria, and in doing so must be fermentable and confer a health benefit. So while all prebiotics are fibres, for a fibre to be a prebiotic it must confer a health benefit. Probiotics on the other hand are live microorganisms that confer a health benefit. So probiotics are the live bacteria and the prebiotic feeds it. Much like the rose is the live plant and the fertiliser feeds it making your garden healthy and strong.
What are the benefits of prebiotics?
Research in this area is booming at the moment. Several studies have shown benefits of prebiotics including:
- Prebiotics improve regularity and digestive function by keeping the gut contracting and relaxing rhythmically and improving stool form
- Prebiotics feed & nourish your gut microbiota keeping them healthy and preventing the growth of less beneficial pathogens setting up home in your gut
- Prebiotics are fermented in the large intestine which increases short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA are shown to:
- Support gut barrier function and integrity
- Support and nourish the cells that line the gut wall
- Support immune function and decreased systemic inflammation
- Support beneficial cholesterol levels and maintain cardiovascular health
- Support glucose metabolism and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
- Support satiety and reduced fat storage
It’s no wonder that prebiotics are becoming more and more a staple for good gut health. The really cool thing is that we’ve known for a long time that plants are good for health, this new research is just giving us in the reason why they are so good for us.
What foods contain prebiotics?
|Vegetables||Jerusalem artichokes, chicory/inulin, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage|
|Legumes||Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans|
|Fruit||Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate. Dried fruit (e.g. dates, figs), banana|
|Breads/Cereals/Snacks||Barley, rye bread, rye crackers, pasta, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, wheat bread, oats|
|Nuts & Seeds||Cashews, pistachio nuts|
|Other||Human breast milk|
But what if I have IBS?
If you have IBS and look through this list, it’s likely that you will have a little freak out. The majority of these foods are high FODMAP and have been known to be involved in triggering abdominal symptoms like gas and bloating. This is because the prebiotics in them are fermented rapidly and cause a sudden increase in gas in the intestines, potentially resulting in uncomfortable (or painful) and embarrassing symptoms.
It is, however, the reduction in prebiotics that is one of the concerns with a long term low FODMAP diet. Research has shown that as little as a few weeks low FODMAP does reduce the diversity and abundance of a person’s gut microbiome. I’m sure you can understand that the because of health benefits of prebiotics, we don’t want a person to be on a strict low FODMAP diet long term and always recommend to reintroduce FODMAPs to identify which ones you do not need to limit and what your threshold is for the ones that bother you. After all a little, is better than none in this case.
Whether you’re on a low FODMAP diet or not, Kfibre is here to help. Kfibre is a prebiotic which means that it is fermented in the intestine and does increase those SCFA that have so many health benefits. The difference is that Kfibre is fermented “uniformly”. This means the production of gas is not rapid or sudden when compared to high FODMAP foods and other fibre supplements. Kfibre is also Monash low FODMAP certified, so it can be used at all stages of the low FODMAP diet to keep your gut (and your body) healthy as well as keeping your digestion comfortable.
By Joanna Baker (APD | RN)