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What Is The Best Prebiotic?

What are the best prebiotics? Naturopath advice on prebiotics

Unlike what is commonly advised throughout the blogosphere, just because something contains fibre, it does not automatically mean it is a prebiotic for the gut – true prebiotics are much more specific. So, what is the best prebiotic?

What is a true prebiotic?

A true prebiotic is non-digestible (to us) but supports our gut microbiota by stimulating its growth and increasing its activity.

A good prebiotic is selective, providing nourishment (food) to the desired bacteria, and suppressing the growth of bacteria that is less favourable. This modulation of the gut microbiota in the large intestine results in the production of beneficial microbial metabolites such as those all-important short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate, that play an essential role in our overall health and wellbeing.

So, different prebiotics support the healthy growth of specific beneficial bacteria and can have a specified action against the bacteria we want less of, but what about normal types of fibre that we find in other foods? Well, you can consider non-specific fibre-containing foods to be beneficial colonic foods that help to support overall gut function and promote a favourable gut landscape, but don’t have a measurable action on certain bacteria. You can read more about the different types of fibre found in certain foods here.

What prebiotics are prescribed by a naturopath?

I use prebiotics regularly in my clinical practice (often more than one), as they form a very important part of long-term gut support for different types of gastrointestinal conditions. As I tell all my patients, the introduction of the right prebiotic/s is one of the most vital long-term interventions to support our gut health, alongside dietary changes, as prebiotics help to “hold” the beneficial changes in the gut by continuing to feed favourable bacteria, maintaining their populations and continuing production of the beneficial microbial metabolites.

Prebiotics I commonly use include partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG), fructooligosaccharides (FOS/inulin-type fructans), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and lactulose (in small doses it’s a prebiotic; in large doses it’s a laxative). Other prebiotics include human milk oligosaccharides, acacia gum, raffinose and glucomannan.

How do you know what prebiotics are best for you?

Knowing which prebiotic/s would be best for you really does depend on what is going on in your own gut microbiota.

I do suggest that people with gut issues start to use prebiotics under proper qualified supervision, because sometimes we need to start other supports before prebiotics. Prebiotics can also cause gastrointestinal disturbance if they’re not introduced in a slow and measured way over many weeks to build up to a therapeutic dose. You’ll suddenly have a very bloated belly and a trumpety bottom if fermentation goes into overdrive! 

People who have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or IMO (intestinal methanogen overgrowth) or are having issues with FODMAPs absolutely need professional advice, as using the correct prebiotic and timing its introduction is vital when it comes to these types of presentations.

What is the best probiotic for you? If you’d like some advice about prebiotic prescribing that is tailored to your specific situation, book an appointment to see me! I would love to help.

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