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What are Prebiotics?
There has been growing demand for prebiotics certainly because of their role in digestion. However if questions arise about what prebiotics    are, then many raise their eyebrows and reply, “What’s that?”
Prebiotics are a special form of diet fibre that nourishes the good bacteria in the stomach. Simply speaking, Prebiotics are the food for the beneficial bacteria. The increasing awareness about the diet and health relationship has triggered a spark in everyone’s mind to go for food products that support digestive health, beyond providing nutrition. The health benefits related to prebiotics have come into light recently, but the importance of microorganisms in human life was proven by the famous French scientist Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. This thesis was again brought into action by works of Elie Metchnikoff which led her to win the Nobel Prize in 1908.
Prebiotics are a specific type of food that are consumed in various forms. They may be present in foods as a component or can be incorporated into foods that yield health benefits. Many of the food ingredients which we consume are generally digestible while prebiotics are a healthy non digestible ingredient. They are heat resistant and therefore not damaged while cooking or in the baking process, allowing them to be incorporated into everyday foods. Consumption of Prebiotics encourages the growth of bio-cultures when they reach intestines.
The Prebiotic Effect
While we delve deeper in the study of prebiotics, it is understood that these non-digestible food ingredients effectively stimulate the growth of bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the colon. Studies prove that these bacteria have the potential to improve host health. The good effects, which the prebiotics have on the intestine and the digestive system, are known as the Prebiotic Effect. This happens whenever there is an increase in activity of the healthy bacteria within the intestine. The stimulating growth of Lactobacilli results in the increasing resistance to invade pathogens. By combating these unwanted bacteria, prebiotics provide a number of health benefits.


Is Prebiotics Safe to consume?
It is common nowadays that food containing prebiotics are consumed by a lot of people. Recently, several prebiotic containing foods have been introduced into the market. The knowledge about the number of doses of prebiotics in food is crucial, as prebiotics are to be regulated by a Standard Governing Body when they are sold as supplements. After a number of clinical trials, the right amount of prebiotics to be present in food will be known.
A certain number of approvals are needed in order for a food ingredient to be classified as a prebiotic. Mentioned below are the must need demonstrations.
1a.     Prebiotics should neither be broken down in the stomach while digestion nor absorbed in the GI tract.
b.      It has to be made sure that Prebiotics are fermented by the Gastro Intestinal microflora.
c.       One of the most important demonstrations is that they should selectively stimulate the growth of right or health beneficial bacteria.
Sources of Prebiotics:
Naturally, Prebiotics are found in most of the foods. They are also isolated from Plants roots or synthesized from sucrose. The dietary fibre is the most common type of prebiotic. It is called Inulin and is commonly found in plants that contain fructan. In addition, many of those plants are eaten as vegetables and some other excellent sources of inulin are garlic, onion etc. However, prebiotics are added to everyday foods such as cereals, breads, biscuits and yoghurts because of the rise of the need for functional foods. The other common foods in which prebiotics are naturally found will be discussed in the later part of this article.
Where are Prebiotics Found?
There are different types of Prebiotics; however Inulin and Galacto-Oligosaccardes are the two most important ones.
Inulin is naturally found in:-

  •   Vegetables such as artichokes, garlic, leeks, asparagus, tomatoes and bananas.2
  • Grains like Barley, Rye and Whole grains.
  •   Plant roots viz., Chicory roots, Dandelion roots, Elecampane roots.

Galacto-Oligosaccardes (GOS) is found in the following products:-

  •   Yoghurt, Buttermilk, Kefir and other fermented dairy products.
  •   It is also found naturally in Breast milk.

Prebiotics can also be added to Breads, cereals, sauces, soups, dairy products like yoghurts, sports drinks and snack bars etc.
Prebiotics are also found on their own, as a prebiotic supplement themselves.
They can also be present in a probiotic supplement.Used as Nutritional supplements or meal replacement.
Typically known as inulin, they are found in fibre, herbal or vitamin supplements. 
Importance of Prebiotics in Everyday foods
It is advised by doctors that every person should meet their daily dietary requirements and insist that a person is healthy, only if he/she meets the dietary requirements and eats up to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables.  However the real scenario is not like this. It is certain that the majority of the people do not meet the dietary requirements by consuming fruits, vegetables and all other essentials. There has been a rise in the consumption of Functional foods and it is the number one choice for people. By adding prebiotics to these foods, people’s desire to eat tasty as well as healthy food is fulfilled. Hence the prebiotics in-take helps individuals achieve dietary requirements every day, without even making significant changes to their food preferences.
Probiotics and Prebiotics- The Tag Team
Probiotics are basically considered as the health miracle and are defined as live bacteria or a yeast organism, which provides health benefits when taken. Probiotics help in maintaining the right ratio of bacteria in the digestive system of a human being. The digestive system possesses both good as well as bad bacteria and maintaining the right balance among them is consequently important.
Along with prebiotics, probiotic bacteria form a rocking pair, which is known by the name “Synbiotics”. The alliance works out well and moreover it works out way more efficiently, promoting some scintillating health benefits in case of diarrhoea, constipation and cold etc.
The Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics
Now that we are well aware about the goods of prebiotics and probiotics, let us shift our focus towards their differentiation. It is now clear that both have a positive impact on the digestive system. By digging deeper and studying the roles of both the magnificent ingredients, we could get clear information regarding both.
First of all, it is important that we first understand a few facts about the familiarity with the GI (Gastro-Intestinal) tract and the body. We are well aware that human beings are host to many kinds of microorganisms, be it on the skin, in the mouth, in the GI tract or anywhere in the body, there is presence of bacteria. Certainly, maintaining the health of the host is very important and the human gastro-intestinal environment plays a major role in the health of the host. It is important in maintaining a healthy and effective intestinal tract. The human G-I tract along with the microflora helps the intestine to efficiently allow nutrients, and block out the harmful toxins or pathogens (commonly referred as foreign bacteria or viruses). Those ingredients which are not digested properly in the upper part of the digestive system are broken down by the gut microflora. This breakdown of vitamins, carbohydrates or fermented fibres is so important that they inhibit the growth of foreign bacteria and also support a healthy intestinal barrier.
 Actions of Prebiotics:
3The basic characteristic of the prebiotic is to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. This potentially enhances the good effects of prebiotic bacteria. Prebiotics are said to have another good effect in the intestines. It is the effective absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Investigations on this have been made, and recent studies specify that prebiotics such as non-digestible Oligosaccharides, enhances the absorption of calcium. However, the absorption depends on the specific fermentation profile and the amount consumed. Studies also reveal some important information, which suggests  the immune system may experience some favours from prebiotics, as they provide our body the resistance against infections. Researches are still going on to find the relationship of prebiotics with disease risk reduction.
4The decrease in the affects from lipids is also a result of inulin and oligofructose. For persons with hyper-lipids, the in-take of prebiotics results in reduction of cholesterol. Prebiotics also help to fight the growth of lesions, like adenomas and carcinomas in the gut, and as a result they reduce the colorectal diseases involving risks.
Action of Probiotics:
It may seem bizarre to realise how safe live bacterial microorganisms are to consume and are very much essential for our body. They have presence in supplements, beverages and everyday foods etc. As mentioned previously, Probiotics help in stimulating the growth of helpful bacteria, while also stopping the harmful bacteria in the intestine. Specific Probiotics can shorten the risk of infections such as intestinal viruses and the Consumption of probiotics, can improve the barrier function of the gut.  
The most scintillating evidence of probiotic effect is in the case of diarrhoea. Especially in the case of yoghurts that contain sufficient amount of probiotics, it is clearly proven that probiotic ingredients alleviate the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. An analysis made from a number of studies, showed that probiotic bacterial therapy shortened the length of diarrhoea illness in children. It is believed that the presence of Bifidobacteria in the gut of breast fed children is the reason behind the fact that these infants are generally healthier than infants fed with formula. Probiotics may also reduce the severity of allergies, microbe inducted inflammations, gastroenteritis and colorectal cancer etc.
Benefits of Prebiotics
Now that we have gone through a deep analysis about the good effects of prebiotics in the GI Tract, let us discuss the other benefits of prebiotics.
1.       Vaginal Yeast Infections
Prebiotics help in preventing and treating the vaginal yeast infections such as itching and swelling.
2.       Urinary Tract Infections
For people suffering from urinary tract infections and experiencing painful/frequent urination, prebiotics in-take is the one for you.
3.       Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome generally occurs in the colon or the large intestines and they result in abdominal pain, cramping and serious discomfort. Treat them with prebiotics because it inhibits the occurrence of pathogens and viruses in the intestines.
4.       Faster Treatment of Intestinal Infections
The details about the prebiotics helping the intestinal tract have been mentioned above. (Ref: Action of Prebiotics)
5.       Reducing Bladder Cancer
Painless blood in the urine and frequent urination are the symptoms of bladder cancer. One of the options for treating this is consumption of prebiotic containing foods. 
6.       Eczema in Children
Eczema is a frustrating condition for children, where they are affected with rashes or inflammations inside their elbows or knees, around the mouths etc. Consumption of Prebiotic containing foods could prevent the eczema in children.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much amount of Prebiotic is needed to witness a benefit?
There is nothing called a recommended amount when it comes to consuming prebiotics. But the general advice will be to consult a doctor before taking it as a supplement. A regular consumption of prebiotics will provide a constant flow of food for the good bacteria or probiotics.
Can a Child take prebiotics?
Anybody can safely consume foods with prebiotics. Kindly speak to your doctor and find out if the prebiotic supplement is right for the children.
Are Prebiotics safe for Pregnant Women?
Consumption of foods with prebiotics is safe for most people including pregnant women. However Individuals with milk allergy should consult with a dietician first and then think about consuming prebiotics.
 Is it advisable to consume foods with Prebiotics only?
5-     It is not compulsory to only eat foods which contain prebiotics; however Foods such as yoghurt are safe to eat for people seeking health and taste. If you do not eat foods with prebiotics, you will still have a healthy digestive system but you should follow a healthy diet.



The data and facts published in this article are general and nature. It is made available on the understanding that Frosty Boy is not thereby engaged in rendering professional advice. Before relying on the material in any important matter, users should accuracy and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.

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