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Prebiotics: What Your Probiotics Eat

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Natural Times, June/July/August 2017

Jason Mitchell, N.D., Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor

A prebiotic is a very important type of fiber. Fiber can be broken down into two different types: insoluble and soluble. Prebiotics are soluble fibers that can be fermented and broken down by the good bacteria in your digestive system and are vital to their survival. This special fiber is what nourishes and enables good bacteria to thrive and contribute to a balanced and healthy gut environment.

In recent years, fiber has been getting a lot of attention for its many benefits when an adequate amount is consumed. Specifically, soluble fiber has been studied for its contribution in supporting healthy cholesterol, supporting healthy blood sugar levels and weight management, in addition to supporting gut health.

When prebiotics are consumed alone or combined with probiotic (good bacteria) foods or supplements, they can help to maintain and restore digestive health. Many researchers believe that much disease starts in the gut. If this environment is not properly supported, then you may not be able to digest your foods adequately resulting in a compromised immune response leaving you vulnerable to many health challenges. The key here is to consume adequate amounts of prebiotic soluble fiber.

How can I get prebiotic fiber into my diet?

The first and probably the most important way to get prebiotic fiber into your diet is through what you eat. The following are great sources that you can easily incorporate into your daily eating plan:

  • Berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries
  • Other Fruit: apples, bananas
  • Seeds & Nuts: flax, sunflower, almonds, cashews
  • Vegetables: artichokes, sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens like cabbage or kale
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Whole Grains: oats, quinoa, amaranth (stay away from wheat!)
  • Even honey can provide a small amount of prebiotic fiber

These are several great sources, but there are numerous other options to consider and can be easily identified with just a little point and clicking online.

You can also incorporate prebiotic fiber into your diet through the use of supplements. These choices can include:

  • Acacia fiber—very rich source of prebiotic fiber
  • Other fiber supplements—but make sure that it includes “soluble fiber”
  • Probiotic supplement—look for one that includes prebiotic fiber

When buying a probiotic supplement, you should always make sure that it includes a prebiotic fiber like inulin or acacia. When considering a probiotic, it is NOT important to focus on how many billions of bacteria you consume, rather it is more important to consider how many of the bacteria will survive. The perfect probiotic will have roughly 12 strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria, approximately 10 to 20 billion colony forming units (cfu), combined with prebiotic fiber (inulin and or acacia) and a proven delivery system.

Prebiotics are the health food for you and the bacteria that help to support your health and well being. Bon appétit!

 

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