WHAT ARE PRE-BIOTICS?
We already know that there are trillions of microorganisms inside or digestive tract. Together they are known as Gut microbiota. What we eat, i.e., the type of food we eat can change the composition of these microorganisms. It can either increase the number of beneficial microorganisms inside our digestive tract or reduce their number, allowing the growth of bad/harmful microorganisms.
Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates. They resist digestion and or absorption within our digestive tract. They act as a source of food for the good/beneficial microorganisms (Good bacteria). These beneficial microbes break down prebiotics to use them as a source of food and energy for their growth. It increases the number of beneficial bacteria inside our digestive tract, which has multiple benefits on our overall health.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PRE-BIOTICS:
- IT HELPS IN THE PREVENTION OF INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (E.G., CROHN’S DISEASES).
Prebiotic consumption improves the number of bacteria inside our digestive tract. These Beneficial gut bacteria strengthen the epithelial defence mechanism inside the digestive tract. Beneficial bacteria break down the prebiotics to produce compounds like Short-chain fatty acids. It helps preserve the barrier function of the mucous layer covering the inner lining of the gut. It also helps in reducing the levels of inflammation. As a result, it reduces the risk of inflammatory injuries to the intestines’ inside wall, thus reducing the risk of Inflammatory bowel diseases.
- IT HELPS IN THE PREVENTION OF COLORECTAL CANCER.
Prebiotic consumption stimulates the growth of beneficial microflora inside our digestive tract. These bacteria ferment prebiotics and use them as a source of energy. The Products of fermentation formed are short-chain fatty acid which has a protective effect. It reduces the production of toxic compounds and also the risk of growth of cancer cells in the large intestines (Colon)
- IMPROVES IMMUNITY
Prebiotics acts as a source of food and energy for the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract. It helps increase the number of beneficial microbes and reduce the number of harmful bacteria, thus reducing the risk of infection.
Beneficial bacteria ferment prebiotics and produce certain beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids. These compounds act as strong chemical signals, which helps reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and elsewhere in the body.
It also strengthens the functioning of the cells of the immune system. Thus it helps in boosting our immunity and at the same time keeps it under control to make sure that it will not attack/harm (Autoimmune diseases) our own body.
- IT HELPS IN REDUCING AND MAINTAIN BLOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS (Reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.).
Prebiotics are neither digested nor absorbed. Instead, it forms bulk within the intestinal tract. As a result, it increases the viscosity of the digestive tract, which reduces the absorption of cholesterol from food into the blood. It also enhances its elimination through the faeces.
Though our body does not digest the prebiotics, they are fermented by the beneficial bacteria inside our gut to use them as a source of food and energy for their growth. In addition, during fermentation, short-chain fatty acids are produced, which helps in reducing the synthesis of harmful fats and excess cholesterol in the liver, thus helps in lowering the blood cholesterol levels.
- REDUCED RISK OF SUFFERING FROM HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.
Regular consumption of prebiotics in a diet reduces the risk of high blood pressure or keeps the blood pressure under control. It helps through different mechanisms such as:
- It reduces blood cholesterol (Bad/LDL cholesterol) levels (High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for high blood pressure).
- It increases the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract
- It improves the body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin.
- It reduces the risk of weight gain and obesity
- THE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH IS IMPROVED (Reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke).
Consumption of prebiotics in a diet regularly is beneficial in reducing blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of high blood pressure. It indirectly reduces the risk of other serious cardiovascular diseases (Risk of Heart attack/Stroke)
- IT HELPS IN IMPROVING MEMORY, CONCENTRATION AND LEARNING
- IT HELPS IN IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH (prevents suffering from depression, anxiety, )
Our digestive system and our Brain are well connected through a rich network of neurons (Nerve cells). Changes in the composition of bacteria inside the digestive tract and the type of chemicals produced by them can affect our Brain’s function.
Prebiotic consumption helps in increasing the number of beneficial bacteria inside the digestive tract. These beneficial bacteria increase the secretion of particular chemicals/hormone such as Serotonin, which has a positive effect on the Brain and help in reducing the risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, etc.
- IT REDUCES THE RISK AND SEVERITY OF ALLERGIC DISEASES AFFECTING THE SKIN.
A high number of pathogenic or diseases causing harmful microbes inside the digestive tract increases inflammation in the body, resulting in the development of allergic and inflammatory diseases of the skin.
Prebiotic consumption increases the number of beneficial bacteria and reduces the number of pathogenic bacteria inside the digestive tract. When these helpful bacteria ferment the prebiotics, certain chemicals like short-chain fatty acids are produced, which help in reducing the level of inflammation and reduces the risk of allergic and inflammatory diseases of the skin.
- THE HEALTH OF THE BONES AND MUSCLES IS IMPROVED.
Prebiotic consumption increases the number of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract. Increased number of healthy microbiotas in the digestive tract increases the absorption of calcium and magnesium from the intestinal tract into the body. Sufficient calcium and magnesium in the body improve the strength and health of our bones and muscles and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, muscle weaknesses, etc.
- HELPS IN THE SYNTHESIS OF THE IMPORTANT VITAMINS (E.G., VITAMIN B COMPLEX):
Prebiotics increases the number of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract. Some of these beneficial microflora helps in the synthesis of water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin k and Vitamin B-complex.
- IT HELPS IN RELIEVING CONSTIPATION.
The person suffering from chronic constipation has an altered gut microflora (I.e. More pathogenic bacteria than beneficial ones in the digestive tract). Prebiotic consumption stimulates the growth of the beneficial bacteria and restores the balance within the intestinal tract. These beneficial bacteria ferment the prebiotics to produce a particular fermentation product which helps in increasing the motility of the digestive tract. Prebiotics remain undigested inside the gut; thus it provides bulk to the stools and helps in improving the passage of stools and relieving constipation.
- PREVENTS WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY
Prebiotics remain undigested in the stomach and small intestines, filling our digestive tract and reducing other food intakes; thus, fewer calories are consumed.
They also reduce the absorption of fats in the digestive tract from the food we eat.
Prebiotics are fermented by the beneficial microbiota from the intestinal tract which, uses it as a source of energy for their growth. During this fermentation short-chain, fatty acids are produced, which acts as a strong chemical messenger. It increases the release of satiety causing hormone and reduces the appetite
The overall effect is lesser weight gain and reduced risk of obesity.
- THE RISK OF TYPE-2 DIABETES MELLITUS IS REDUCED.
Prebiotic consumption increases the number of beneficial gut bacteria in the digestive tract. These organisms ferment the prebiotics to use them as a source of energy for their nutrition and growth. During fermentation, short-chain fatty acids are produced, which acts as a strong chemical messenger. It improves insulin sensitivity in reducing blood sugar levels and sugar uptake into muscles, liver, and other body tissues. Thus it reduces the risk of Diabetes mellitus.
EXAMPLES OF PRE-BIOTIC FOOD:
- Green vegetables
- Legumes (peas and beans)