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Our microbiome is made of living organisms which means we need to provide appropriate nutrients to keep them happy and our gut balanced. The definition of prebiotics was first establish in 1995 and has been through several iterations. The current 2015 prebiotic definition version from the International Dairy Federation (IDF) is:

“A nondigestible compound that, through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates the composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus conferring a beneficial physiologic effect on the host.”

Benefits of Prebiotics

There are eight forms of prebiotic dietary fiber. All of which have been found to have at least of the following eight health effects when taken in appropriate quantities.

1. Increases in Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli
2. Production of beneficial metabolites
3. Increases in calcium absorption
4. Decreases in protein fermentation
5. Decreases in pathogenic bacteria populations
6. Decreases in allergy risk
7. Effects on gut barrier permeability
8. Improved immune system defense

Eight Categories of Prebiotics

The first three are traditional prebiotic types with the most evidence based beneficial health effects. Foods which are particularly high in a given prebiotic are provided as examples.

  1. Beta-glucan – oats, barley, mushrooms, algae
  2. FOS, Oligofructose and Inulin– jerusalem artichokes, onions, chicory root, wheat, rye
  3. GOS – split peas, beans, cashews
  4. IMO – Isomaltooligosaccharides – enzymatic conversion of corn starch
  5. Guar gum – used in dairy, baked good, cereals and meat products.
  6. Lactulose – does not naturally occur in foods.
  7. RSs and Maltodextrin – derived from corn, potato starch, wheat or rice.
  8. XOS – Xylooligosaccharides and Arabinooligosaccharides – Made from agricultural byproducts corn cobs / husks, straw, sugarcane bagasse, green coconut. Often added to cereals, bars and sports drinks. Popular in Japan.