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Prebiotics Definition

Prebiotics refer to a special form of dietary fiber for human microflora. They are indigestible by human enzymes and help drive the growth and development of beneficial colonizing microbes in the gut.

All prebiotics are fiber, yet not all fiber is prebiotic. Research indicates prebiotics foster the growth of healthy gut bacteria, improve calcium absorption, and deliver other health benefits. Prebiotics also have been shown to deliver positive effects for diabetes, colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis patients.

Prebiotic Foods and Information

Prebiotics are found naturally in a variety of plants, including:

  • Bananas
  • Chicory root
  • Garlic
  • Onions

Prebiotics may be incorporated into breads, cereals, drinks, and yogurts. However, they rarely are listed as prebiotics on food and beverage product labels. Prebiotics instead may be referred to as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), oligofructose (OF), chicory fiber, or inulin.

Additionally, prebiotics are present in mother's milk. They help foster the growth and development of a newborn's gut, as well as protect the gut against pathogens that otherwise cause infection. Some infant formulas also contain oligosaccharide prebiotics that mimic the prebiotics found in mother's milk.

Certain pet foods contain prebiotics, too. Various kibble and supplements include prebiotics that boost the growth of healthy gut bacteria in dogs, cats, and other pets.

Prebiotics in Your Diet

Some doctors recommend getting at least 5 grams of prebiotics daily. Consuming foods and beverages that contain high levels of prebiotics offers an effective way for an individual to boost his or her prebiotic intake. Or, over-the-counter prebiotic supplements are available.

Including prebiotics as part of your daily diet may prove to be beneficial for a number of reasons. In fact, studies indicate the potential health benefits of prebiotics include:

  • Reduced prevalence and duration of infectious and antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Reduced inflammation and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Enhanced protection against colon cancer
  • Increased bioavailability and uptake of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of obesity
  • Improved satiety and weight loss

Bovine Colostrum as a Prebiotic

Bovine colostrum does more than a prebiotic. It contains immunoglobulins that identify, bind, and destroy pathogens, toxins, viruses, and other antigens in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. At the same time, bovine colostrum's immunoglobulins aid beneficial bacteria in the gut and help restore gut balance.

Colostrum also contains growth factors that protect the GI tract against intestinal hyperpermeability, which affects a large percentage of the population, perhaps as many as 8 in 10 people. Intestinal hyperpermeability occurs when toxins, parasites, infectious bacteria, and foreign materials penetrate the cells lining the bowel wall and flow into the bloodstream. Colostrum's growth factors help restore the "tight junctions" between the cells lining the bowel wall, thereby preventing harmful materials from entering the bloodstream.

The Bottom Line on Prebiotics

Prebiotics stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are found in a wide range of foods and beverages and may help individuals maintain the optimal gut balance.

Bovine colostrum offers a rich source of immunoglobulins, growth factors, and other powerful bioactives to help people combat a leaky gut and other GI issues. Like prebiotics, bovine colostrum can be taken regularly to help optimize gut health.

Sovereign Laboratories offers GastroDefense® Daily Therapy, Colostrum-LD®, and other products designed to accelerate the colonization of good bacteria in the gut.