What Do Prebiotics Do For You?

Medically Reviewed on 2/18/2022
Prebiotics stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and probiotics, which in turn provide nutrition to the gut bacteria.

Prebiotics are plant-based fibers and carbohydrates that are non-digestible by the digestive system but they provide nutrition to the gut bacteria.

  • Prebiotics stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium, in the gut. These bacteria improve intestinal functions, such as digestion, absorption of nutrients, and maintenance of good gut health and overall immunity, by fighting other infection-causing microbes.
  • Prebiotics provides nutrition for the development and growth of probiotics (healthy microorganisms in the gut).

The fiber in prebiotics makes you feel fuller, so your intake of food reduces, which helps manage blood glucose levels and weight.

Recent studies state that prebiotics improves the absorption of calcium and help increase bone density.

Prebiotics may also help:

  • Better break down the foods in the gut and help with constipation
  • Improve the health of the gut lining
  • Reduce blood glucose spikes
  • Lose weight
  • Increase calcium absorption

Prebiotics that are currently accepted includes the fiber types galacto-oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides, and inulin. Some of these exist naturally in foods, such as pulses, grains, fruit, and vegetables.

Prebiotics can also be separated and commercially synthesized to use as functional components and supplements.

Do you need to eat various varieties of prebiotic foods?

Experts advise consuming a range of the following foods because each provides various fibers, and different microorganisms prefer different types. This increases the microbial richness, which studies have discovered is essential for a healthy gut.

Even if you have not started on probiotics, you should incorporate prebiotic food items into your diet.

Studies suggest that simply adding prebiotic vegetables to an unhealthy diet can begin to change the composition of the gut by increasing good microorganisms.

32 natural foods that contain prebiotics

Fruits and vegetables that contain prebiotics include:

  1. Bananas
  2. Blueberries
  3. Apples
  4. Broccoli
  5. Kale
  6. Spinach
  7. Brussels sprouts
  8. Rocket leaves
  9. Lentils
  10. Beans
  11. Peas
  12. Dandelion greens
  13. Artichokes
  14. Asparagus
  15. Chives
  16. Shallots
  17. Onions
  18. Garlic
  19. Leaks
  20. Spring onions
  21. Cashew nuts
  22. Pistachios
  23. Flax seeds
  24. Chia seeds
  25. Whole grains
  26. Soybeans
  27. Cooked starches
    • Potatoes
    • Rice
    • Pasta
  28. Konjac root
  29. Burdock root
  30. Yacon root
  31. Chicory root
  32. Cocoa

Most of these foods can be added to dishes to enhance taste and gain their benefits.

What are the side effects of prebiotics?

Not everyone’s body reacts in the same way to prebiotics. Some prebiotics are more difficult for some people to tolerate. Prebiotics, like dietary fibers, can cause abdominal discomfort, gas, or bloating if consumed in excess.

Begin with small quantities and give your gut time to adjust. If unpleasant symptoms persist, it is critical to limit or avoid the meal that is suspected of being the source of the symptoms.


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What is the relationship between prebiotics and inflammatory bowel syndrome?

Research has been conducted on the impact of prebiotics on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease. IBS is a gastrointestinal illness marked by chronic stomach pain and abnormal bowel patterns without any underlying causes, probably brought on by stress.

  • Crohn's disease is a recurrent chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any region of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus.
  • It has been found that in both IBS and Crohn's disease, the populations of Bifidobacterium and other essential Bacteroides were reduced.

People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may benefit from the use of prebiotics. More research is underway to determine whether increasing prebiotic consumption can help lessen IBS symptoms. The outcomes have been mixed.

  • Higher quantities of prebiotics appear to worsen symptoms in certain trials.
  • The symptoms of IBS worsen when more fermentation leads to increased gas, resulting in gassiness, bloating, and abdominal pain.
  • However, researchers discovered that prebiotics may provide a therapeutic advantage for IBS.

If you have IBS or another gastrointestinal problem, you should consult with your doctor to get a personalized suggestion on which prebiotics to consume.

What is the recommended dosage of prebiotics?

Most people can receive prebiotics by setting a goal to meet the necessary fiber consumption. For adults, the recommended fiber consumption ranges from 25 to 38 grams per day. Consuming whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables is frequently the best approach to achieve that goal.

  • Many prebiotic supplements deliver a dose of four to five grams per day.
  • Start by taking a prebiotic supplement one time a day until you know how your body reacts to the supplement.
  • If you experience gas or bloating, reduce your dose to half.

Those in immunocompromised states, such as human immunodeficiency virus, cancer, chemotherapy, or those taking immunosuppressant medications must avoid probiotics unless prescribed by their doctor.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are good bacteria that reside naturally in the gut.

Probiotics that are similar to those found naturally in the stomach are cultured. When consumed, these active cultures help shift or regenerate intestinal bacteria, balancing the gut flora.

Probiotics have the potential to improve immunity and overall health.

Live cultures, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium, are commonly found in fermented dairy foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and some cheeses. These living cultures have the potential to operate as probiotics.

Other fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and cultured non-dairy yogurts, may include live cultures. However, studies are yet to be done on these strains to determine whether they give additional health advantages.

Why is it considered beneficial to take both prebiotics and probiotics?

The combination of prebiotics and probiotics is called synbiotic therapy or synbiotics

Treatment with probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics has been found to be a promising therapy to maintain and repair the gut microbiota and environment, especially for those who have to deal with a lot of stress and eat a lot of packaged meals.

  • Many people combine prebiotics and probiotics to gain an edge.
  • Because probiotics are short-lived, the added prebiotics help them grow, which maintains the levels of probiotics in the intestine.
  • However, prebiotics and probiotics are not a substitute for healthy meals, fruits, physical activity, and stress management.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 2/18/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/

Eat This, Not That! 15 Prebiotic Foods for Your Probiotic Efforts. https://www.eatthis.com/prebiotic-foods/

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. The 10 best food sources of prebiotics. https://chhs.source.colostate.edu/the-10-best-food-sources-of-prebiotics/