Prebiotic Fiber: Benefits and Use
What You Should Know About Prebiotic Fiber
Updated January 12, 2023
The gut is an incredibly complex environment where trillions of microorganisms extract nutrients from our food and produce metabolites that influence the function of every single organ in our body. Research shows that gut health is vital to all aspects of our health, even our mental and emotional health.
Known indicators of poor gut health not only include gastrointestinal problems like heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea. But what you may find surprising is that gut microbiome imbalance is at the center of allergies, diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, depression, and anxiety.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet and increasing fiber intake, specifically prebiotic fiber, has been shown to improve gut health and reduce the risk for numerous diseases.
What is prebiotic fiber?
"Think of prebiotic fiber as the food source for the good bacteria that naturally occur in the gut; simply put, you need prebiotic fiber to feed your probiotics," says Dr. Luc Maes, ND, founder of KAIBAE, a microbiome wellness company.
So, what is the difference between fiber and prebiotic fiber? Both can be found in various fruits and vegetables and benefit our health. But there is a distinct difference.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that naturally occurs in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. It passes through the gut undigested and is not broken down by bacteria and therefore has a low impact on the growth of beneficial bacteria. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, improves lipids and blood sugar levels, and keeps us feeling fuller longer.
On the other hand, prebiotic fibers are fermentable fibers naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Gut bacteria selectively utilize prebiotic fibers to produce compounds such as short-chain fatty acids, which benefit the immune, hormonal and nervous systems. 
Examples of prebiotic soluble, fermentable fibers
- Beta-glucans - oats, and barley
- Guar gum - guar beans
- Fructans - Inulin, oligo-fructose, fructooligosaccharides - onions, chicory root, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes
- Galacto-oligosaccharides - legumes and dairy
- Pectins - apples, berries, and Baobab fruit powder
- Resistant starch - legumes, unripe bananas
What are the benefits of prebiotic fiber?
Prebiotic fiber promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, alleviates digestive problems, and improves metabolic health. Beyond immediate gut issues, prebiotic fiber positively affects immune health, weight loss, allergies, bone health, and stress-related behaviors.
Does prebiotic fiber help with constipation?
Suppose you don’t have complete bowel movements (not feeling completely relieved). You may suffer from constipation if you experience pain or difficulty going or don’t have regular bowel movements.
Prebiotic fiber has been proven to help users achieve regular, strain- and pain-free bowel movements and to reduce signs of gas and bloat. And because constipation can be a side effect of dysbiosis, taking prebiotic fibers to help rebalance your gut microbiome can help alleviate this digestive health issue.
Does prebiotic fiber cause gas?
As your digestive system adjusts to increased prebiotics in your diet, you may experience gas as a possible nuisance side effect. You can help avoid or alleviate symptoms by slowly increasing your prebiotics intake. You can also reduce your initial information as needed until your symptoms resolve.
Healthy individuals may experience increased (but minor) gas and bloating, often resolved by gradually increasing their intake. If you have IBS, SIBO, or sensitivity to FODMAP foods, you should consult with your doctor before adding prebiotic fiber to your diet.
Does prebiotic fiber help you lose weight?
If you are trying to lose weight, prebiotic fiber might be the secret weapon you’ve failed to consider. It is known that adding more fiber to your diet makes you feel full faster. Studies indicate that overpopulation of harmful bacteria (like Firmicutes) in the gut contributes to obesity, suppressing satiety hormones and interfering with communications between the gut and the brain.
Prebiotic fiber increases the growth of beneficial microorganisms, including Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and certain anaerobic bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphila and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii that are especially important for a healthy weight and the prevention of insulin resistance.
Gut imbalances have been connected to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, affecting your appetite, energy levels, and efficiency.
This shows that prebiotic fiber supports a healthy gut microbiome and can help you lose weight by regulating your appetite, improving mood and mental health, and increasing energy and efficiency. 
Do prebiotics help depression and anxiety?
There might be something about that gut feeling….. gut bacteria produce many neurotransmitters that the brain uses to regulate learning, memory, and mood.
An imbalanced gut microbiome has less of the good bacteria that produce calming neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin. The daily intake of prebiotic fiber and probiotics strengthens the gut-brain axis and improves stress resilience.
Who should take prebiotics?
Prebiotics are safe for most people but may be used cautiously in individuals with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS), people suffering from Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or those on the FODMAP diet unless they have cleared this with their doctor. Healthy individuals should generally consider using a prebiotic daily to help achieve optimal gut health.
7 Signs You Need Prebiotics:
So far, you’ve learned that prebiotics is essential for supporting gut health by feeding beneficial gut bacteria. You’ve also seen how far-reaching gut health can be to your overall health and well-being. So noticing the obvious (and sometimes not-so-obvious) signs of poor gut health will help you decide if you should start trying prebiotics.
Here are the common signs and symptoms that indicate possible gut health concerns, and serve as your notice to start increasing prebiotic fiber in your diet:
- Gas & bloating
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent illness
- Mood disorders
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and dry skin
How to increase prebiotic fiber in the diet
Because prebiotic fiber occurs naturally in a good selection of foods, you could get plenty of prebiotics from a varied diet. However, research has already shown that less than 5% of people meet their daily fiber needs!
Include a selection of:
- Vegetables: asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, garlic, leeks, chicory root, jicama
- Fruits: apples, berries, tomatoes, avocado, bananas, baobab
- Grains: oats, brown rice, barley
- Legumes: lentils and beans
What about prebiotic fiber supplements?
It is undoubtedly true that having a wide and varied diet may provide you with the amount of prebiotic fiber you need for your diet. But studies have shown that more than 95% of Americans don’t consume enough fiber in their daily diets.
This is where prebiotic fiber supplements can help. Taking a prebiotic supplement such as baobab fruit powder is easy to ensure you’re meeting your daily fiber needs to help support good gut health.
How much prebiotic fiber to take per day?
The recommended fiber for women and men in their diets is 25 and 38 grams, respectively. While there is no recommended intake or daily allowance for prebiotics in healthy people, taking 8 grams of Baobab powder daily has been shown to benefit digestive health.
How long does it take for prebiotics to work?
Depending on the quality of the source of prebiotics and the amount of prebiotics you are taking, you can typically expect to see improvements in a couple of weeks. Some people have even seen improvements just a few days after starting prebiotics.
What about probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy. They are essential for gut function, converting food to crucial nutrients and transport into our body. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome starts with a carbohydrate-rich diet, fermented foods, and complex carbohydrates. Probiotics can be taken to target specific healthcare needs. Even though trillions of microorganisms reside in the gut, research shows that certain probiotic strains impact our mood, metabolic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory needs in particular ways.
Can you use prebiotics and probiotics together?
Taking prebiotics and probiotics together is referred to as synbiotics. Because prebiotics supports probiotic bacteria, it can be very effective to include both in your diet. KAIBAE gut/skin resilience combines soil-based probiotics and prebiotic baobab powder to accomplish this synbiotic benefit.
Baobab fruit powder, the prebiotic superfood
Baobab Fruit Powder is an ancient African Superfood rich in prebiotic fiber, polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It tastes sweet and tangy and can easily be added to smoothies, yogurt, granola, water, baked goods, and more. All ages enjoy baobab!
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.Gérard P. Gut microbiota & obesity. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016;73:147-162. doi:10.1007/s00018-015-2061-5
.Foltz M, Zahradnik AC, Van den Abbeele P, Ghyselinck J, Marzorati M. A Pectin-Rich, Baobab Fruit Pulp Powder Exerts Prebiotic Potential on the Human Gut Microbiome In Vitro. Microorganisms. 2021;9(9):1981. Published 2021 Sep 17. doi:10.3390/microorganisms9091981
*The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Use as directed