The term “prebiotics” may sound like pharmaceutical jargon for medication, but the truth is that most prebiotics are nothing more than all-natural, indigestible fiber. Although your body cannot use prebiotics, the bacteria living in your gut – the healthy bacteria that break down the food you eat – feed on them. Prebiotics are very important to your health, and they’re easier to get than you might think. So, what is a prebiotic? Read on to find out.
Prebiotic vs. Probiotic vs. Antibiotic
First things first, it helps to understand the differences between prebiotics, probiotics, and antibiotics. Remember that your body needs healthy bacteria to break down the food you eat into bits that it can digest. Without these bacteria, you would experience a host of symptoms ranging from gas and bloating to pain and even diarrhea.
- Prebiotic – A prebiotic is indigestible fiber that the healthy bacteria in your intestines feed upon to grow and thrive. Essentially, a prebiotic is a sort of fertilizer for the bacteria that already exist.
- Probiotic – A probiotic is any food or supplement that introduces new healthy bacteria into your intestines. Yogurts are excellent examples.
- Antibiotic – Finally, an antibiotic is any compound that kills off bacteria, healthy or otherwise. When you take an antibiotic for an infection, it often cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria. That’s why so many doctors now recommend taking probiotics alongside antibiotics; it helps protect your digestive health.
Why You Need Prebiotics?
In answering the question, “What is a prebiotic?”, it’s also important to understand why your body needs them. The bacteria living in your intestines do not and cannot feed on the food traveling through your digestive system. Rather, they feed on certain types of fibers that your body itself cannot digest. If you aren’t getting enough of these fibers in your diet, then the bacteria in your gut will start to die off. This makes your digestion sluggish, and it may even cause diarrhea, namely because the food in your intestines isn’t being properly broken down. You need prebiotics to feed the healthy bacteria so they can work at maximum efficiency.
Best Sources of Natural Prebiotics
Now that you’re aware of what prebiotics are and why you need them, you can look at some of the best sources. They include, but are not limited to:
- Chicory – Raw chicory root is in the same plant family as dandelions. It has a taste like coffee and is packed with inulin, which is one of the most gut-friendly fibers out there. It contains nearly 65% fiber by weight.
- Dandelion Greens – These make an excellent addition to salads as they give a peppery bite. They contain just under 25% fiber by weight.
- Yacon Root – Yacon root is a sweet tuber that grows in the Andes, and it’s also packed with prebiotic fiber. It contains a little more fiber than chicory by weight. There are also many other yacon root health benefits.
What is a prebiotic? It’s really nothing more than fiber that your body can’t digest. However, the bacteria in your intestines certainly can, and they thrive on it to help keep things moving smoothly. Prebiotics should be a part of your daily diet, and if they aren’t, try looking for some of the foods listed above.