Prebiotics are food elements, like dietary fiber, that help promote healthy activity and the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the human body. Most prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that provide food for friendly microbes in your gut.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1521691803001331
The most common target organ for prebiotics is the gastrointestinal tract, where it serves as a substrate for microorganisms residing in the intestines. There, they induce significant and advantageous alterations in the gut flora.
Prebiotics are often confused with the term ‘probiotics’, which are microorganisms (mostly bacteria, along with beneficial viruses and fungi) that cater to numerous health benefits in the human body.
Mechanism of Action of Prebiotics
Since these compounds cannot be broken down by stomach acids or enzymes, they end up being fermented by the microbial flora found in the large intestine. The healthy microbial flora is thought to ‘feed’ on the prebiotics.
Harmful microorganisms are also present in the gut, even if your gut microbiome is healthy and balanced. Prebiotics only support certain beneficial bacteria in a given environment.
Probiotics – the friendly microorganisms like beneficial bacteria, viruses, and fungi – feed on prebiotics to produce useful short-chain fatty acids and other nutrients that your digestive system wouldn’t have otherwise been able to extract from food.
Prebiotics vs Probiotics
Two of the more common probiotics you may be familiar with include ‘Bifidobacteria’ and ‘Lactobacillus.’ The growth of these probiotic organisms – with the help of prebiotics – supports a healthy digestive system and may strengthen the immune system.
When Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus flourish, they help limit the growth of harmful microbes present in the gut. Examples of harmful microbes include Clostridium, Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli, etc.
Sources Of Prebiotics
Endogenous – prebiotics that are produced by the body
Human breast milk
Exogenous – prebiotics that are ingested
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Wheat bran
- Wheat flour