This week I’d thought we’d dovetail off of the prebiotic and probiotic topic and dig a little deeper into the prebiotic foods and discuss how we can benefit from them, and when we made need to avoid them.
So as a quick recap, prebiotic foods are those that feed and fuel probiotics and other beneficial microorganisms in our body. Probiotics provide a health benefit to the host (us!) and maintain or restore or healthy bacterial balance to our digestive tract, and we’ll talk more about them next week!
What exactly are prebiotics and where do they come from?
What can be called a prebiotic has been put under the microscope a few times due to varying differences of opinions. Currently what is accepted as prebiotics include a select few fatty acids, oligosaccharides from certain carbohydrates, as well as some distinct phytochemicals. Follow the link for a picture of what this looks like
The most familiar prebiotics are those made up of different types of dietary fibres found in some carbohydrates, such as inulin in garlic, pectin in citrus fruits, fructooligosaccharides in artichoke, resistant starch in green bananas, or beta-glucans in oats.
These foods feed the probiotics and help the gut to create nutrients through a fermentation process (like the short-chain fatty acids butyrate, acetate, propionate). These nutrients go on to feed the gut lining and can also be absorbed through the lining to provide energy and nourishment to other parts of our body.
Good raw food carbohydrate sources of prebiotics include:
Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, or green bananas.
What Else Do Prebiotics Do For You?
Besides feeding probiotics, prebiotics offer other health benefits, including improving calcium absorption, modifying the glycemic index, and enhancing colonic bacterial fermentation thereby reducing gut transit time.
How much Do we Need in a Day?
Although, there is no recommended daily intake set for prebiotics, about 4 – 8 grams per day seems to work well for most people when their main goal is general well being. Those suffering with certain digestive disorders may benefit from up to 15 grams per day, while others may need to limit or avoid prebiotics.
What Does That Look Like in a Serving of Food?
Below is the amount of food to achieve 6 g serving of fructans
Raw Chicory Root
9.3 g (0.33 oz)
Raw Jerusalem Artichoke
19 g (0.67 oz)
Raw Dandelion Greens
24.7 g (0.87 oz)
34.3 g (1.21 oz)
51.3 g (1.81 oz)
69.8 g (2.46 oz)
120 g (4.2 oz)
120 g (4.2 oz)
Raw Wheat Bran
120 g (4.2 oz)
Whole Wheat Flour, Cooked
125 g (4.4 oz)
600 g (1.3 lb)
Who Should Avoid Prebiotics?
Certain conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can benefit from temporarily avoiding certain prebiotic foods for a period of time (2-6 weeks and beyond). This is because most prebiotics work through a fermentation process in the gut which can be extremely irritating and painful for those with a compromise gut lining. When you specifically avoid these foods it is called a low FODMAP diet. To clarify, a low FODMAP diet eliminates foods that contain the following features:
Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule
Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single sugar molecule
Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however, they don’t lead to intoxication!)
However, this does not mean those with SIBO, IBS and some other digestive issues need to eliminate ALL prebiotic foods.
So how can you obtain prebiotic foods, but avoid those that will cause distress for those experiencing issues like SIBO or IBS? Consider including the following Low FODMAP prebiotic sources:
Green bananas, rhubarb, kiwi, fennel bulb, canned or properly prepared lentils.
Supplementing With Prebiotics
Like probiotics, you can also supplement with prebiotics. However not all are made equal, and what will work best for you depends on your goals. For example, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed inulin was effective for reducing inflammation. So if you’re struggling with inflammation, choosing a prebiotic that contains inulin may be of benefit.
This is Getting Quite Complicated!
If you’re still feeling unsure about how to prebiotics in your diet, or are experiencing digestive issues like abdominal pain, indigestion, gas, or cramping, reach out to a holistic nutritionist like myself who can help you through this process by creating a personalized meal plan or meal planning guide.
When it comes to nutrition, everyone has individualized needs. Furthermore, digestive issues can be very complex and may take some patience when working through them. However, working with a holistic nutritionist will help ensure you feel confident and supported while enabling you optimize your health & well-being!
*As always, speak to your primary health care provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
Moshfegh AJ, Friday JE, Goldman JP, Ahuja JK (July 1999). Presence of inulin and oligofructose in the diets of Americans. Journal of Nutrition. 129 (7 Suppl): 1407S–1411S. Retrieved on: November 5, 2018.
Ruscio, M. (2018). Healthy gut, healthy you. Las Vegas, NV: The Ruscio Institute.
Scott, K. (n.d.) Prebiotics. Retrieved from: https://isappscience.org/prebiotics/ November 5, 2018.
Varney J. (2016). Prebiotics and probiotics: what are they and should I be including them on a low FODMAP diet? Monash Low FODMAP Blog. Retrieved from: http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/prebiotics-and-probiotics-what-are-they.html