What are Prebiotics and Why are They Important (Health Benefit)?
Prebiotics is a word used to describe nutritional ingredients which includes a range of non-digestible carbohydrates. They escape digestion and pass into the colon intact and act as nutrients for the commensal bacteria or probiotics that reside there, a necessary condition required for an ingredient to classify as prebiotic. This facilitates the ability to create optimal conditions for the immune system especially when administered in early life. Prebiotics have a positive influence on the immune system via modulation of the gut microbiota.
The most common prebiotics used are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), inulin, trans-galacto-oligosaccharides and lactulose.
- Breast Milk- Prebiotic Oligosaccharides are naturally present
- Infant milk formula: In the form of GOS/FOS mixture
- Inulin-Asparagus, bananas, garlic, honey, barley, chicory, artichokes, leeks and tomatoes
- Lactulose- Medicines
Prebiotics offers many health benefits:
- Strengthens the Intestinal barrier: Intestines have a mucus barrier that prevents harmful bacteria and potential allergens from entering the bloodstream. The commensal bacteria help in keeping this gut barrier strong by promoting a thicker and more protective mucus lining.
- Competes for survival: Healthy bacteria compete with bad bacteria for the same nutrition there by lowering their chances for survival. Hence, the more good bacteria we have, the less chance bad bacteria to survive in the child’s intestines and cause infection. Prebiotics increase the good bacteria in the intestine and is being used in reducing the prevalence of diarrhoea and constipation.
- Supports the Immune System: Since, the immune system in our gut plays a key role in our body's natural defence mechanism, making up two thirds of the body's overall immune system. By encouraging growth of good bacteria, prebiotics can also help influence the amount of immune tissue in the gut, it also has an effect on the IgE levels.
Other benefits include:
- Prebiotics help in reducing the incidences of allergy by bringing about a balance in Th1/Th2 levels.
- Prebiotics reduce the incidence of respiratory infections.
- They decrease the episodes of fever and dependency on antibiotics.