If we know about probiotics, these micro-organisms which colonize our intestinal flora, we hear a little less about prebiotics. And yet, they are just as essential to our good health and well-being. Who are they ? What are their benefits? In nutrition, what are the food sources? How much to consume? Explanations and decryptions with Raphaël Gruman, dietician-nutritionist.
This is a category of food that we don’t hear much about. However, prebiotics are closely related to probiotics, these living microorganisms (yeast and bacteria) in our intestinal microbiota, and naturally present in certain foods. And for good reason: one cannot go without the other!
What are the differences between probiotics and prebiotics?
Ideally, prebiotics and probiotics act in combination, because their roles are complementary.
Probiotics are good bacteria present in our intestinal flora, our vaginal flora and our oral flora. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave the following definition:probiotics are live microorganisms which, when ingested in sufficient quantities, exert positive effects on health, beyond traditional nutritional effects.. Their presence is beneficial on several levels for our health. “In particular, they improve our immunity, they ensure good digestive comfort, they help prevent and fight against intestinal transit disorders, they allow better assimilation of nutrients, they are beneficial against overweight and obesity, they play a role against type 2 diabetes, they prevent vaginal yeast infections…”, Raphaël Gruman list. There are many different strains of probiotics, present in fermented foods such as dairy products, certain vegetables (cabbage for example), sourdough bread, etc.
Prebiotics, for their part, are fibrous compounds present in our food. They act in the shadows, providing a boost to probiotics.
Concretely, what are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are special fibers. “These are mainly fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides, fermentable sugars, that is to say which ferment in the intestineexplains Raphaël Gruman. The best known is inulin.. When they reach the intestine, they encounter the bacteria already there. These break down and digest these dietary fibers, thus releasing compounds (including propionate and butyrate) which the probiotics then feed on. This contribution is essential for these good bacteria to ensure their growth, development and allow them to be even more effective. A duo that helps maintain our health and well-being.
What are the beneficial effects of prebiotics?
These compounds have several effects on our health:
Prebiotics promote the development of probiotics
As we have seen, the provision of prebiotics makes it possible to nourish and promote the development of probiotics, maintaining the abundance and diversity of these good bacteria present in our microbiota. In excess, probiotics, among the best known Bifidobacterium where the Lactobacillus, thus exert their benefits on our health more effectively. If these good bacteria are essential for our good immunity, they also help improve our digestion as well as prevent and treat digestive disorders caused by an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota, called dysbiosis. Finally, prebiotics are beneficial for bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Prebiotics regulate transit
If you are prone to intestinal transit disorders, prebiotics will become your allies. A study showed that their consumption helped to combat constipation, in particular by increasing the volume of stools, and to treat episodes of diarrhea, by regulating and normalizing intestinal transit.1. Prebiotics are particularly an asset during a trip abroad to avoid the famous tourista!
Prebiotics promote nutrient absorption
Are you feeling a little tired? Prebiotics can help you regain more energy! A study showed that these fibers had the property of improving the assimilation of vitamins and minerals by the body, in particular calcium, potassium and magnesium.2. These three minerals are essential for good bones and help prevent and treat episodes of fatigue, stress and sleep disorders. Enough to quickly get back in shape and healthy!
Prebiotics fight against high cholesterol
These food substances have the effect of trapping dietary cholesterol particles, particularly LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and eliminating them through natural pathways before they damage the heart system. “Thus, prebiotics help to preserve good cardiovascular health by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and blood triglycerides, responsible in particular for stroke and heart attacks.recognizes the dietician.
Prebiotics prevent type 2 diabetes
Consumption of foods that are sources of fiber with prebiotic effects has the advantage of delaying the absorption of dietary carbohydrates, by slowing down digestion. This has the effect of reducing the entire glycemic load of the meal, allowing less insulin production. In the long term, it is a major asset for preventing the development of type 2 diabetes and, when it is declared, for effectively controlling it. This is what a recent study published in 2017 reveals3. How do prebiotics work? “Bad bacteria tend to increase within the intestinal flora during the progression towards diabetes to the detriment of the good ones. This excess would play a role in the development of insulin resistance and would be an aggravating factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Acting on the intestinal microbiota could be an effective strategy to slow down the disease.assure notre expert.
Prebiotics contribute to weight loss
Nothing like prebiotics when you have a good taste of your fork! These food compounds are fibers with particularly satiating properties. Consumed during a meal, they have the effect of quickly curbing the appetite, which helps regulate food intake. In addition, these fibers have the other effect of slowing down digestion: this action has the benefit of providing a lasting feeling of satiety, avoiding cravings for fatty and sugary foods during the day.
Prebiotics improve sleep
These are the conclusions of a study carried out on rats and published by researchers at the University of Colorado4. According to scientists, their consumption plays a role on brain functions and thus increases sleep time. After a stressful event, prebiotics may even have the effect of prolonging non-paradoxical sleep (light and deep sleep) and paradoxical sleep (dream sleep) as well as the quality of rest. However, these results must be confirmed in humans before we can recommend prebiotic supplementation to combat sleep disorders.
What are the food sources of prebiotics?
Since prebiotics are dietary fibers, they are found in all plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. But their content can vary depending on the plants. Among the richest are: garlic, banana, chicory, salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, onion, artichoke, leek, apples, oats, barley, wheat and ‘asparagus. Eating a varied and balanced diet allows us to naturally cover our prebiotic needs.
Don’t like these foods? Prebiotics are also available in the form of dietary supplements. These products are marketed in the form of capsules to be taken daily. You will find them in pharmacies and drugstores. Ask the pharmacist for advice.
How much prebiotics to take each day?
The recommended daily intake of prebiotics is 25 g per day for adults.
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Are there any contraindications to the consumption of prebiotics?
These substances being dietary fibers, they are mostly well tolerated by the body. However, some people with sensitive intestines or who are not used to consuming it may experience digestive discomfort such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc. This is due to the fermentation of fibers in the colon. “Most of these symptoms disappear after a few days, provided you temporarily stop taking prebiotics, whether food or your supplement product.recommends Raphaël Gruman. But to avoid these inconveniences, it is recommended to start with small doses of prebiotics, and to increase them very gradually. In this way, the colon gets used gently“.