BY: DR. JASON BUSH
Public awareness of gut health is growing. Probiotic supplements have paved the way for a wide array of gut health supplements. Prebiotics have benefitted from this partly due to the appealing simplicity in explaining that ‘prebiotics are food for probiotics’. The take-away message is that you need prebiotics to feed your probiotics – both those already in your gut and the probiotics you consume via supplementation.
Prebiotics come from various sources and a healthy diet rich in whole fruits, grains, and vegetables can deliver much of the prebiotic material your gut microbiome requires. But meeting these demands on a daily basis, which is important for the consistent support of your gut health, leads many people to seek out supplements. Below are a few tips in helping choose the best prebiotic supplements:
- Don’t ignore the prebiotics in your diet. Variety is important when it comes to prebiotics as different probiotics may favour different prebiotic sources. Most modern diets are already rich in prebiotics like inulin, inulin-like fructans, and FOS, which are found in many fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat products. Adding more of these prebiotics via supplementation can actually overload your microbiome, leading to increased gas, bloating, and discomfort.
- Choose dietary fiber. Regulations surrounding the labeling of dietary fiber require that these ingredients meet a number of requirements, including the scientific documentation of health benefits in humans. Not all prebiotics qualify as dietary fiber, so make sure your supplement does.
- Go natural. While synthetic prebiotics made through chemical processes may produce a measurable benefit in the microbiome, these modified ingredients were not historically part of our diet. Unmodified prebiotics like resistant starch were naturally part of our ancestral diet and are difficult to get from modern diets due to processing and cooking.
- Stay FODMAP Friendly. Many prebiotics are FODMAPs, small, rapidly-fermented fibers that cause discomfort in a substantial portion of the population. FODMAP Friendly uses third-party laboratory testing to verify that products are free from FODMAPs, allowing consumers to navigate both food and supplement aisles with confidence.
While prebiotics play an important role in maintaining gut health, it’s good to recognize that dietary choices, careful supplement selection, and scientific substantiation should all influence your prebiotic consumption.