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What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a source of food for probiotics to grow, multiply and survive in the gut.

Prebiotics are fibres which cannot be absorbed or broken down by the body and therefore serve as a great food source for probiotics, in particular the Bifidobacteria genus, to increase in numbers.  Prebiotics by nature do not stimulate the growth of bad bacteria or other pathogens; the official definition of prebiotics is: "non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, which can improve host health."

Prebiotics occur naturally in our diet and prebiotic fibres can be found in Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, chicory, and onions amongst other things.  One may have to eat large quantities of these foods to have a ‘bifidogenic’ effect – that is to increase the levels of friendly bacteria in our intestines.  For this reason many people find it easier to take a prebiotic supplement, or a combination probiotic and prebiotic supplement (called a synbiotic) to ensure they are feeding their levels of friendly bacteria.

Research shows that there are different types of prebiotics, in a similar manner as there are different types of probiotics.  With prebiotics, the key differentiating factor is the length of the chemical chain – short chain; medium chain or long chain determines where in the gastrointestinal tract the prebiotic has its effect & how the benefits are felt by the host.

Common prebiotics include: inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), lactulose and lafinose.

Within the OptiBac Probiotics range, the prebiotic FOS can be found in For daily wellbeing, For a flat stomachFor your child's health and For maintaining regularity. Fructo-oligosaccharides prebiotics are low molecular weight carbohydrates which only promote growth of probiotics. FOS is probably the most researched of the prebiotic fibres.

NB: In some cases, prebiotics can cause minor disturbance / flatulence in the first few days of taking them… but after 3-4 days of continued use (once the intestines have adapted to the prebiotics) this discomfort tends to disappear, and positive results are experienced.

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