Prebiotic Fiber: Benefits and Use
What You Should Know About Prebiotic Fiber
Gut health plays a key role in the overall health of our body. Known indicators of poor gut health not only include gastrointestinal problems like heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea. But what you may find surprising is that poor gut health may cause allergies, diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and more.
Prebiotic fiber helps improve and support good gut health. Taking an appropriate amount of daily prebiotic fiber will help you balance your gut bacteria, reverse symptoms of poor gut health, and reduce your risk for numerous diseases.
Read on to learn more about prebiotic fiber, including its benefits, signs you need more of it in your diet, and how you can get more prebiotic fiber into your diet.
What is prebiotic fiber made of?
Prebiotic fiber is a carbohydrate that comes from the indigestible part of the plants. It can be obtained from raw food material or from manufactured products. Examples of prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and inulin.
According to the International Scientific Association for Prebiotics and Probiotics (ISAPP), prebiotics provide beneficially physiological effects through improving gut health by supporting beneficial gut bacteria. Essentially, prebiotic fiber serves as a food source for the good bacteria in our gut.
30 foods that have prebiotic fiber
Prebiotic fiber occurs naturally in a variety of food sources. Examples of the types of foods that are great sources of prebiotic fiber include the following:
- Fruits: baobab, bananas, berries, apples, grapefruit, watermelon, white peaches, nectarine
- Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, konjac root (also known as “elephant yam”), burdock root, yacon root, jicama root, mushrooms, cabbage, seaweed
- Grains & Grain Products: oats, barley, wheat bran, wheat pasta
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Herbs: garlic, leeks
- Flowering plants: dandelion greens, chicory root
- Seeds: cocoa beans, flaxseeds
What about prebiotic fiber supplements?
It is certainly 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 90% of Americans don’t consume enough fiber from their daily diets.
This is where prebiotic fiber supplements can help. Taking a prebiotic supplement such as baobab fruit powder is an easy way to make sure you’re meeting your daily fiber needs to help support good gut health.
What is the difference between a prebiotic and probiotic?
Although often confused, prebiotics and probiotics are two very different types of products. Prebiotics are insoluble or indigestible, plant-derived carbohydrate polymers that are a source of food for beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotics, on the other hand, are live, helpful bacteria found in foods such as yogurt, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.
In other words, prebiotics serve as a food source for probiotics.
Which is better: A probiotic or a prebiotic?
When trying to compare prebiotics with probiotics it is important to understand that one is not necessarily better than the other. This is because each serves a different purpose, and they work together to help support gut health.
Studies have shown that prebiotics help to improve how quickly the body can absorb and process important minerals and nutrients, and may help improve digestion and metabolism.
Probiotics are designed to add more beneficial bacteria to your gut. So if you’ve taken antibiotics (which can kill off the good gut bacteria) for example, taking probiotics can help rebalance your gut microbiota with good gut bacteria.
Can you use prebiotics and probiotics together?
Taking prebiotics and probiotics together is referred to as synbiotic. Because prebiotics support probiotic bacteria, it can be very effective to include both in your diet.
What are the benefits of prebiotic fiber?
There are many benefits to using prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and using them can help alleviate digestive problems and improve metabolic health. Beyond immediate gut issues, prebiotics have positive effects on immune health and disease prevention, weight loss, allergies, bone health, and stress-related behaviors.
Read on for more information on how prebiotic fiber helps to improve your overall health and counteract symptoms of poor gut health.
How does prebiotic fiber help?
In general, the implications of fiber in diets are far-reaching. Low fiber intake has been linked to increased risk for various diseases, such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Prebiotics are specifically important for supporting good gut health. Because prebiotics support good bacteria, they can help keep the number of bad bacteria down and ward off microorganisms in the intestinal tract.
Prebiotics help to reduce inflammation in your body and strengthen the immune system, as well as reduce allergies. Research has also shown that prebiotics may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, likely because it helps improve calcium absorption (which is important for bone health).
Does prebiotic fiber help you lose weight?
The use of prebiotic fiber has been shown to help with the absorption of intestinal fat. In addition, studies indicate that dysbiosis, a state of gut imbalance caused by the overpopulation of bad bacteria (like Firmicutes), can contribute to obesity. Prebiotics have been proven to support good gut health to prevent dysbiosis.
So how does this work? Well, we know that gut microbiota helps regulate our appetite and blood sugar. Dysbiosis interferes with signals that tell your brain you’re full and makes it difficult to maintain blood sugar levels.
Dysbiosis can also have indirect effects on your weight. Because it leads to an overactive immune system, the resulting inflammation may make it difficult to be active. Gut imbalance has als been connected to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which can affect your appetite, energy levels, and efficiency.
All together, this shows that prebiotics can help you lose weight by regulating your appetite, improving mood and mental health, and increasing energy and efficiency.
Does prebiotic fiber help with constipation?
If you aren’t having full bowel movements (not feeling like you are completely relieved), experience pain or difficulty going, or don’t have regular bowel movements, you may be suffering from constipation.
Prebiotics have been proven to help users achieve regular, strain- and pain-free bowel movements, and to reduce signs of gas and bloating. 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.
Who should take prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a safe product, but it may be best avoided in individuals with certain types of conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS), people suffering from Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or those with intolerance to FODMAPS unless they have cleared this with their doctors. Otherwise healthy individuals should consider using a prebiotic daily to help achieve optimal gut health.
7 signs you need prebiotics
So far, you’ve learned that prebiotics are important 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
- Allergies/asthma or other skin conditions
- Frequent illness
- Mood disorders
Bonus tip: If you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics, it’s time to consider taking some prebiotics. Antibiotics can be hard on our bodies, killing both good and bad gut bacteria. Taking prebiotics to support and help your good bacteria re-establish their foothold in your gut will be an important next step.
Do prebiotics have side effects?
Prebiotics cause water to be pulled into the intestines, and they are fermented in the colon, resulting in the release of excess gas. As a result, some people may experience some minor side effects when first taking prebiotics. Read on to learn about potential side effects with taking prebiotics, and ideas on how to avoid them.
Can prebiotic fiber cause constipation or diarrhea?
Prebiotic fiber has actually been shown to relieve constipation, including in cases of chronic constipation, helping people achieve regular bowel movements. While the use of too much prebiotics can lead to gas or bloating, the use of prebiotic fiber has not been shown to cause diarrhea unless used in very large doses.
Does prebiotic fiber cause gas?
As your digestive system adjusts to an increase in prebiotics in your diet, you may experience gas as a possible nuisance side effect. You can help avoid or alleviate symptoms by instead slowly increasing your intake of prebiotics. You can also reduce your initial intake as needed until your symptoms resolve.
Remember, if you have IBS, SIBO, or sensitivity to FODMAPS, you should consult with your doctor before adding prebiotic fiber into your diet. Otherwise healthy individuals may experience increased (but minor) gas and bloating for at least for 2 weeks.
How to use prebiotic fiber
Because prebiotic fiber occurs naturally in a good selection of foods (like the ones we mentioned previously), you could potentially get plenty of prebiotics from having a varied diet. However, research has already shown that less than 5% of people are meeting their daily fiber needs.
If you aren’t sure if you’re getting enough fiber in your diet, or are experiencing the signs or symptoms of poor gut health, taking a prebiotic fiber supplement can help you improve and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Can you take prebiotic fiber every day?
To establish and maintain a healthy gut, it is recommended that you take prebiotic fiber daily. We’ve discussed how important prebiotic fiber is to supporting beneficial gut bacteria. And because gut health is connected to so many areas of our overall health and wellness, it is important to ensure you are getting enough prebiotic fiber every day.
Best time of day to take prebiotic fiber
The best way to take prebiotic fiber is once daily with a meal. But as long as you consistently take prebiotic fiber at a time you will remember it, you will still receive the benefits of including it in your dietary regimen.
How much prebiotic fiber to take per day
The general recommended amount of fiber for women and men to have in their diets are 25 and 38 grams, respectively. While there is no recommended intake or daily allowance for prebiotics in healthy people, taking at least 3 mg a day has been shown to have a beneficial impact on digestive health.
How can you tell if prebiotics are working?
We mentioned that the signs and symptoms of poor gut health included digestive issues, mood disorders, and allergic conditions. When you begin taking prebiotics, you can tell if they are working when you start to feel these issues go away. This includes experiencing improvements in digestion, bowel movements, appetite (i.e., less cravings), mood, allergies, and energy levels.
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 about 2 to 3 weeks. Some people have even reported seeing improvements in just a few days (3 to 4 days) after starting prebiotics.
Where to buy prebiotic fiber
When buying prebiotic fiber, you want to make sure to choose a high quality product from a reputable company. For one, you can check for labeling that indicates the product has been created with high quality, safe ingredients and processes. At KAIBAE, the labels you will see on our products are the USDA Organic, Non-GMO verified, Vegan, Cruelty-free and B Corporation logos.
Beyond that, KAIBAE and our products are the result of more than 50 years of combined expertise of a naturopathic doctor and a botanist-humanitarian driven by the desire to make the world a better place. When you purchase a KAIBAE product, know that you're doing more than just supporting your own health; you're helping to support both the livelihoods of our community partners, and our environment.
Learn more about KAIBAE prebiotic products today.