Prebiotics are subtances found in food and supplements that are not digested in the upper GI tract, and so pass into the large intestine, where they are acted upon by the micribiota in that environment. Bacteria that are regarded as beneficial (bifidobacter and lactic acid bacterias) are said to thrive in the presence of prebiotics. Some indivuals are not able to tolerate the activity (fermentation) brought about by the presence of these oligosaccharides, and are excluded through use of the low FODMAPs diet.

Prebiotics include inulin, fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and others. Inulin is typically derived from chickory root. FOS can either be extracted from plant sources or produced commercially. GOS products typically start with food-grade lactose, which is manufactured from sweet whey (a by-product during the manufacture of cheese). Then they use an enzyme (beta-galactosidase) to catalyze the transgalactosylation reaction. And although they all start out with lactose, the various manufacturers might use different microorganisms (bifodobacterium bifidum, bacillus circulans, sporobolomyces singularis, etc) to get the enzyme. That effects the fractions of mono, di, tri, and higher saccharides as well as the degree of polymerization and beta configurations.

Food Source Examples

  • Chickory root
  • Artichokes
  • Root vegetables (garlic, onion, leek)
In food sources, the amount of prebiotic is significantly reduced through cooking, so for the maximum effect, one would eat these sources in raw form. While prebiotics occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables you would have to eat impractically large quantities of even the richer sources such as garlic, leek and onion in order to have appreciable benefits.

Supplement Source Examples

  • Bimuno (Clasado, United Kingdom)
  • Galactomune Klaire Labs (manufacturer not disclosed, possibly Yunfu, China)
  • Oligomate 55N/55NP (Yakult, Japan)
  • Purimune (GTC Nutrition, Colorodo USA)
  • Vivinal (Friesland Foods Domo, Netherlands)
These examples are all galacto-oligosaccharides, but probably differ in their degrees of polymerization (DP) and structure (beta 1-4 or beta 1-3). There is ongoing study to determine how these various forms affect the microbiome.

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