If you’ve been following my blog series about probiotics you probably have a good understanding of the reasons to supplement your diet with probiotics. But what about prebiotics? What’s all the fuss about them? And are they really necessary?
Like humans, probiotics need food to live. ‘Prebiotics’ is a fancy word to describe the food that beneficial microbes need to survive. While many probiotic supplements include prebiotics in the form of ‘FOS’ or inulin, in my opinion these added prebiotics aren’t necessary if you eat whole grains, fruits, legumes, or vegetables fairly regularly. More importantly, these ingredients may actually take up valuable space in a probiotic supplement that is better served by the probiotics themselves.
The addition of prebiotics to probiotic supplements is really more of a marketing strategy than a health necessity. While prebiotics encourage the growth of probiotics, the truth is that if you’re eating a diet high in fiber, along with fruit or fruit juices, vegetables, grains, and legumes, you’re probably getting all the prebiotics that beneficial bacteria need to thrive inside your gut anyway.
Prebiotics are essentially just natural carbohydrates in the form of sugars, starches, and fiber. Prebiotics are found in almost any plant-based foods—I say “almost” but I can’t think of one plant-based food that doesn’t contain prebiotics.
Most people should be getting the food for probiotics (prebiotics) from their daily diet. The easiest way to do so is to take your probiotic supplement with a little juice or add them to your morning smoothie. You’ll be helping the beneficial microbes to thrive by giving them the food they need for their survival.
There are other ways to give probiotics a boost in your body:
- Make sure you enjoy a high fiber diet on a regular basis, including: vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans, etc.);
- Supplement with a wide variety of probiotic strains (check out my blog “The ABCs of Probiotics” for more information on some of the best strains);
- Drink plenty of water every day—like you, probiotics need water to survive;
- Make an effort to reduce stress in your life since stress hormones can deplete probiotic stores;
- Avoid refined sugar and sugary foods since they tend to give the harmful microbes an advantage over the beneficial ones; and
- Make sure to get some physical activity every day. Walking, running, cycling, hiking, and many other activities are excellent choices. Exercise helps to ensure bowel regularity which helps to create a healthy environment for probiotics to thrive.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, ROHP is an international best-selling and 17-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose books include: 60 Seconds to Slim, Weekend Wonder Detox, The Ultimate pH Solution, and Healing Recipes. She is the publisher of the free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News. Subscribe to receive health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Learn more about her work on her website DrMichelleCook.com.