You may have noticed that some probiotic supplements contain “prebiotics”, but what are prebiotics exactly and what do they have to do with probiotics?
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that resist digestion. Instead of being broken down by acids or enzymes in our digestive tracts, prebiotics pass through intact and are fermented by the beneficial bacteria that live in our large intestine. This fermentation process produces short chain fatty acids (such as butyrate) which support normal intestinal function and inhibit growth of pathogens.
Prebiotics occur naturally in a variety of foods and are often isolated and added to products to increase their fiber content. Some common prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) from agave, inulin from chicory root, beta-glucans from oats and baker’s yeast, and resistant starch from potatoes.
You may have seen one or more of the above ingredients included in a probiotic supplement. This is because probiotics are living organisms that need nourishment in order grow and function properly. When you take a probiotic supplement, the probiotic organisms will consume the prebiotic which will allow them to colonize the large intestine and carry out their valuable functions. Simply put, prebiotics feed probiotics.
When shopping for a probiotic, be sure to keep the type of prebiotic in mind. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are commonly found in probiotic supplements, but they may cause negative side effects in some people. FOS has been found to cause digestive disturbances, especially flatulence and bloating. If you have ever been doubled over in pain after an excessive amount of onions, you have experienced the effects of too much FOS.
Since GI complaints are so common among athletes we wanted to avoid these potential side effects. Instead, Sound Probiotics contain the prebiotic beta-glucan which has been shown to increase the performance of various probiotics. Additionally, beta-glucans have been found to decrease upper respiratory infection severity and duration and may even prevent respiratory symptoms following a marathon.
Clearly, prebiotics are necessary to optimize the benefits of probiotic supplements, but not all prebiotics are the same. Beta-glucans are effective prebiotics that also have the added benefit of boosting the immune system like the probiotics they support.
by Katelyn Collins
Katelyn Collins, is a future registered dietitian with a passion for probiotics, a knack for nutrition communications, and a love of athletic pursuits on both land and sea.