An Intro To Prebiotics
At a time when gut health and immunity are among the most salient topics in the world of popular nutrition discourse it’s almost inevitable that the topic of prebiotics won’t be far from the tip of our clients’ tongues.
A prebiotic is essentially an indigestible compound (often fibre) that is ultimately metabolized by the human gut microbiota leading to a net positive benefit to probiotic populations and a number of other physiological benefits.
Popular foods containing significant amounts of prebiotic fibre include garlic, onions, legumes, asparagus, pistachios, apples, bananas, oats and artichokes, among others.
There is also emerging evidence that “prebiotic-like” compounds such as foods containing large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants may have a similar potential.
When explaining prebiotics to my clients in simple terms I often refer to them as “food” for the healthy bacteria in the GI tract that helps facilitate their growth and flourishing. One of the significant stated benefits of prebiotic consumption is an increased population of probiotic species from the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli family.
There is, of course, a bit more to it than that though since we also know that metabolism of prebiotic fibres by gut bacteria leads to the production of a group of compounds known as SCFAs (short chain fatty acids).
SCFAs include a range of compounds such as acetate, butyrate and propionate and have become a topic of increased interest in the scientific community because they act as a fuel source for intestinal cells and serve to strengthen the gut barrier.
These compounds may also have a messaging role to play within the immune system and have become topics of increasing scientific interest as it relates to potential anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory effects in the digestive tract.
Certainly prebiotics are a topic you will want to be well versed in when speaking with the modern client.
Your Clients & Further Reading
If you’d like to learn more about the science behind prebiotics and the type of foods that may contain them, this 2020 paper out of the Nutrients journal is a concisely put together summary that I recommend taking a look at.
While this type of knowledge will likely be well endowed in seasoned gut-health practitioners, an understanding of prebiotics allows a general practice dietitian to have meaningful conversions about how these unique compounds may actually have significant immune and gut health benefits for the right individual.
If you have clients who are interested in this type of dietary optimization, utilizing Nutrioso’s recipe library will allow you to support your educational endeavours by demonstrating practical ways for them to incorporate more prebiotic-rich foods and recipes into their daily routine.
-Andy De Santis RD MPH