(NaturalNews) Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in your digestive tract and essentially influence every aspect of health, from neurotransmitter production to immunity to digestion. But these beneficial little microflora must eat in order to survive and thrive. What is their food of choice? Prebiotics!
What Are Prebiotics?
Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, explains: "Prebiotics are derived from insoluble fiber and fructooligosaccharides or FOS (carbohydrate molecules made up of a relatively small number of simple sugars)."
These prebiotics are the ideal nourishment for beneficial bacteria living in the digestive tract. By feeding them well, you give friendly microorganisms the chance to establish a viable population that can not only perform important tasks in the digestive system, but also keep pathogenic bacteria like yeast under control.
The benefits of prebiotics are far-reaching. While directly affecting gut flora balance and digestive health, prebiotics have also been shown to have beneficial affects on:
- Heart health - Triglyceride levels - Cholesterol levels - Immunity to common illnesses - Osteoporosis - Diabetes
One particular advantage of prebiotics is that they do not need special care. Probiotics, on the other hand, have to be carefully handled to ensure the organisms stay alive through packaging, shipment and storage. This does not always happen, and it's difficult to tell if a probiotic supplement or food contains live cultures or not. Prebiotics, however, are carbohydrates that do not need any special care to remain effective.
Foods that Contain Prebiotics
There are many foods that contain one or more of the various prebiotics. Here is a partial list:
There may be particular advantages to eating probiotics and prebiotics together so the two can work synergistically. Yogurt with bananas or onions and live sauerkraut are excellent options for pairing these two beneficial substances in an appealing way.
Prebiotics for Infants
Breastmilk is also a good source of prebiotics, which is yet another reason why breastfeeding is such a healthy choice for infants. Establishing a healthy colony of gut flora as early as possible is essential for healthy growth and development. Studies also indicate that formula-fed infants benefit from prebiotic supplementation.
The most popular prebiotics supplements usually contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a form of inulin typically derived from chicory. These supplements may be beneficial to those looking to increase their intake of prebiotics. However, they lack the synergy of choosing whole foods that naturally contain prebiotics. A prebiotics supplement cannot replace a wholesome, balanced diet.
Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more: www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2009/10/welco...