Help with digestive and intestinal problems: Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers or dietary fibers that are located in the large intestine and work for hand in hand with the so-called probiotics. They can be used to increase the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics support intestinal health and have many health-promoting properties.
What exactly are prebiotics?
Prebiotics (from the Latin: “pre” = “before”, “bios” = “life”) are certain dietary fibers that reach the intestine undigested and feed the health-promoting bacteria (probiotics) there. Accordingly, they represent a selective nutritional basis for intestinal bacterial species. Prebiotics can specifically modify the composition of the intestinal flora. Most potential prebiotics is carbohydrates. These get into the large intestine and are broken down there again by certain components of the bacterial flora. The best-known prebiotics: are inulin and oligofructose.
The literature states of prebiotics: “Non-digestible food components that favorably affect their host by targeting the growth and/or activity of one or more species of bacteria in the colon, thereby improving the health of the host.” (Gibson and Roberfroid, 1995)
Important: Although all prebiotics belong to the group of dietary fibers, not all dietary fibers are defined as prebiotics. Accordingly, non-carbohydrates can also act as prebiotics. But first, they have to meet certain criteria. This includes, for example, that they survive the stomach acid – without being damaged. In addition, the roughage must be utilized by the intestinal flora and stimulate the growth and activity of good intestinal bacteria.
Prebiotics and probiotics – a good team
Probiotics, on the other hand, are living microorganisms with health-promoting benefits. Good intestinal bacteria should be able to draw enough energy to pursue their protective properties and multiply. Therefore, a sufficient supply of prebiotics should take placed every day. Our body, therefore, benefits when probiotics (e.g. bifidobacteria) feel comfortable in the intestine. Prebiotics such as the sugar molecules oligofructose or inulin can support this. The indigestible components of food are used by bifidobacteria. This supports the growth of good intestinal bacteria. You could say, probiotics eat prebiotics.
What can prebiotics do?
Once the prebiotics has been absorbed by the body, they reach the intestines undigested. There they are decomposed by the intestinal flora and stimulate the growth and/or activity of good intestinal bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are formed. So they not only act as “food” for the intestinal dwellers but also indirectly promote SCFA production. Prebiotics has a decisive influence on the colon flora.
They can have a positive effect on digestion and help with constipation and constipation, for example. Since the good bacterial cultures receive a kind of growth spurt through the supply of prebiotics, harmful bacterial strains (e.g. Escherichia coli, clostridia) and viruses can spread more poorly in the intestine. The special dietary fibers sometimes also increase bone density by supporting the absorption and utilization of calcium. In addition, valuable prebiotics should also reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. The prebiotic properties of the intestinal flora include, for example:
- Reduction of the pH value
- Growth promotion of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli
- increasing calcium absorption
- Increase in stool volume (reduction in throughput time)
- Improvement of the intestinal barrier and immune function
- increasing diversity
- Reduced risk of penetration and spread of pathogenic germs
Indication areas: when can prebiotics help?
The use of prebiotics can be useful for many different health reasons. They possess some health-promoting properties. A distinction must be made here that prebiotics can be used either preventively or to support therapy. Among others, they are recommended within the following indication areas:
- constipation and diarrhea
- Proven pathogenic germs: Increased number of harmful bacteria, fungi, yeasts, etc.
- Elevated inflammatory parameters (e.g. α-1-antitrypsin, calprotectin, zonulin)
- Increase in putrefactive bacteria: Escherichia coli biovare, Proteus species, Klebsiella species, etc.
- Insufficient mucous membrane-protecting bacteria: Akkermansia muciniphila (ensures the breakdown of
- old mucus and stimulates new production)
- Reduced diversity: Is associated, for example, with type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity (obesity), fatty liver, Alzheimer’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and colon cancer
- Reduced immunity: Not enough immunogenic bacteria (e.g. Enterococcus species, Escherichia coli, Lactobacillus species, etc.) or Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (important for the formation of butyrate, for intestinal cell renewal) present