what athletes should know about prebiotics

Prebiotics(or prebiotic)come from non-digestible parts of foods which either by itself are fermented or after being eaten, by microorganisms inside our gut become fermented. These foods include bread, bananas, onions and garlic, the skin of apples, beans and a lot of other fibrous foods.

Fructo-oligosaccharides(FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides(GOS) are the two main categories of prebiotics with beneficial effects on human health.

Fermentation of prebiotics by gut microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including lactic acid, butyric acid, and propionic acid.

butyric acid

improves insulin sensitivity and People with type 2 diabetes often have low amounts of butyric acid–producing bacteria in their gut.

propionic acid

produced mainly in the colon and may have a huge beneficial effect on visceral adipose tissue, reducing obesity-associated inflammation and increasing lipogenesis and glucose uptake.

lactic acid

helps to keep the skin moisturized and less dry. When you use lactic acid on a regular basis, it can also improve signs of aging. It stimulates collagen regeneration and can firm your skin. Hyperpigmentation (sun spots or age spots) fade and fine lines and wrinkles soften and smooth out.

What is the relationship between prebiotic and probiotic?

Prebiotic is non-digestible in the sense that human itself cannot digest them but The beneficial bacteria in your gut can. These beneficial bacteria are also called human microflora or gut microbiota in the scientific field and probiotics(or probiotic) amongst general population.

Microbiota means interacting microbes in a given environment (microbiome is their living genome sequencing)  but microflora is the expression when you need to differentiate a sub-group from the whole microbiota.

Although External factors like antibiotics, stress, climate, infection, disease, some endogenous factors (like mucin) and many other also have a bad effect on the formation and activity of probiotics, human diet is still of high priority since it is the major source of energy and nutrients for their growth. Particularly, non-digestible carbohydrates can highly modify the composition and function of gut microbiota.

The relationship basically between prebiotics and probiotics is that prebiotics serve as a food to balance homeostasis of probiotics inside our gut resulting in increasing gastrointestinal health and potentially promotion of other health benefits like better digestion and synthesis of vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids, preventing mal-absorption of micronutrients, preventing sickness and fighting bad bacteria inside food and our body in general, regulating your immune system, inhibiting the growth of pathogens (disease causing bacteria) and so on.

bad bacteria and less healthy gut flora also promotes fat storage and higher body mass index(BMI).

raising the bioavailability and absorption of calcium with the intake of prebiotics is believed to massively reduce bone related ailments and sufferings in adolescent and elderly populations. The distal intestine is one of the major areas of calcium absorption which is stimulated by the chemical interactions and rises in acid fermentation of the prebiotic dietary fibers by a range of bacteria.

Prebiotics food sources

Chicory Root(around half of chicory root fiber comes from the prebiotic fiber inulin)

Dandelion Greens (contains 4g of fiber containing mostly inulin per each 100g)

Oats (Beta-glucan from oats has been linked to healthy gut bacteria, lower LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol, blood sugar homeostasis and reduced risk of cancer)

Asparagus(The inulin fiber may be around 3g per each 100g)

barley(It contains around 5g beta-glucan per each 100g)

Onions and Garlic (each contains 10% inulin fiber)

Leeks(contains 15% inulin fiber)

Flax seed(The fiber content of flaxseeds is 20–40% soluble fiber from mucilage gums and 60–80% insoluble fiber from cellulose and lignin).

Also cocoa, Blueberries, Spinach, Artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, Chia seed, Walnut and corn are good sources of prebiotics as well But keep in mind If you are planning to eat fermented foods, be sure they are not pasteurized. Pasteurization kills the bacteria. Some of foods mentioned even are considered synbiotic, meaning they contain both probiotics and a prebiotic source of fiber for the bacteria to feed on.

Producing, storing and keeping prebiotics is really cheap and easy and it has shown to be beneficial in so many fields especially sports and fitness. There is no progress if you work out and eat to recover but not be able to digest the food properly. So that is why the promotion of supplementation has gone up in the field of prebiotics and probiotics and other digestive health issues.