What are Prebiotics? – Ask a Doctor – May 2018

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What are Prebiotics? – Ask a Doctor – May 2018

Though their positive effects have been researched by scientists for many years, the power of prebiotics has been widely misunderstood throughout the world by both health practitioners and supplement fans. This month we sat down with founder, CEO, and medical director of the Center for Natural Medicine, Inc, Martin Milner, M.A., N.D. to discuss prebiotics and when to consider adding them to your supplement routine. 

Q: What are prebiotics? How do prebiotics work with probiotics?

A: In the simplest terms, prebiotics are carbohydrates that fertilize your intestinal lining to prepare the environment for growing friendly bacteria. Like fertilizer in a garden, they nourish your intestinal lining to encourage the growth of good bacteria, called probiotics. The prebiotic environment is the food that the probiotics use as a setting to grow and flourish. Adding a prebiotic to your supplement routine optimizes that underground environment so the friendliest bacteria can proliferate.

Prebiotics occur naturally in food. The most well-known prebiotics are oligosaccharides, which are carbohydrates that are found in small amounts in onions, legumes, wheat, and asparagus. Prebiotics aren’t grown in the body. When you consume them in foods or in a supplement, you’re adding prebiotics to your body as part of the food supply to encourage the growth of probiotics.

Q: When should I take a prebiotic?

A: If you’ve struggled with taking high-quality probiotics and found that they haven't worked, or you have a specific concern about your digestive health, prebiotics may be a helpful addition to your supplement regimen. 

For example, some people experience gas, bloating, indigestion, or gastrointestinal discomfort due to diet, lifestyle and other causes. This digestive upset may be associated with an intestinal microflora that is out of balance. Even though they take probiotic supplements to help balance their gut microflora, their discomfort may linger. One option is to add a prebiotic.

Others may choose to get their probiotics from regularly consuming yogurt and other fermented foods rather than take a probiotic supplement. For these people, a prebiotic supplement is especially beneficial to help stimulate the growth and activity of probiotics in the intestine. 

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