Prebiotics are misunderstood but they have a crucial role in a healthy diet.
Today we’re discussing prebiotics, what they are and how they can help you, and how long you need to take prebiotics for them to work.
We’ll be giving you the full outline of why these compounds are important and how long you need to take them for to ensure the best benefits. Stick with us and you’ll learn how to take control of your own digestive system!
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are products that provide bacteria with food in the gut when they are consumed. These compounds act as a fuel source for good bacteria that are considered crucial for gut health.
These tend to be produced from naturally occurring extracts and provide a large amount of intentional, specifically chosen plant extracts. They’re often a form of indigestible foods like resistant starches or soluble fiber.
The balance of your gut bacteria is important. And by adjusting this environment you can affect your health – specifically digestion and immunity.
Prebiotics support the existing bacteria in the body and promote the growth and replication of existing good bacteria. They are resistant to being digested and tend to hang around in the gut longer than regular foods, contributing to the environment and improving digestive health.
Pre vs Pro: What You Need to Know
Prebiotics often have probiotic effects, but they’re not the same thing.
Probiotics attempt to provide bacteria directly to the gut whole-form. It’s an attempt to supplement bacteria, which is a difficult process since they tend to be broken up in the digestive system and are required to be consistently consumed or they stop working.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, support the existing microbiome with effective fuel and promotes the growth and development of existing strains of good bacteria. This means that you’re not relying on a new type of bacteria settling, simply cultivating and feeding existing kinds.
The result is that prebiotics are far more effective and sustainable than probiotics. They support gut health and improve your digestive wellbeing without causing dependence and have knock-on benefits in all the other foods you consume.
But what are these benefits? That’s the key reason you need to know what you’re looking for, and it’s our next key topic…
Quick Summary: Prebiotics nurture and feed the existing ‘good’ bacteria in your body, while probiotics try to introduce ‘good’ bacteria into your body directly.
Benefits of a Prebiotic
The benefits of a prebiotic come from the fact that they improve gut health with benefits similar to fiber.
We can say there are three general overlapping types of benefits that you will get from prebiotics:
- Immune system
These all interact in interesting ways, but it’s a simple and effective way of looking at them. These systems in your body communicate in a variety of ways, and it’s important to remember that improving one of them will indirectly benefit the others in positive ways!
Digestive Benefits of Prebiotics
Obviously, there are digestive benefits to prebiotics, or they wouldn’t make much sense!
Prebiotics are soluble forms of fiber that come with many of the same benefits associated with other forms of dietary fiber. These are widespread from improving regular digestive clearance speed (and regular bowel movements) to reducing the glycemic load of meals.
The digestive system is a crucial center for health as it is involved in signaling, processing, metabolism, and has knock-on effects in the brain and hormonal systems. It’s impossible to be healthy without using your digestive system – both for its role in nutrition and its own important functions in the body.
Specifically, high-quality prebiotic supplements like Inulin – included in our favorite prebiotic, Performance Lab Prebiotic – can promote the development of good bacteria in the gut. These are associated with a wide variety of benefits to the digestive system and overall health.
For example, inulin prebiotics improve the uptake of calcium for bone health and breast-cancer protection in the digestive tract. On top of this, they’ve got interesting antioxidant effects that can improve cellular health in the digestive system, combining to produce even stronger anti-cancer effects in the colon.
These benefits are pretty simple to understand: the use of a good prebiotic supplement actively supports healthy bacteria in their competition with bad bacteria. This supports better health, reduced cravings, improved mood, and (on tests done with rodents) we even see extended lifespan.
So, a high-quality inulin-based prebiotic like the Performance Lab Prebiotic is going to produce a longer, healthier, happier life with less illness and better immunity. Win-win!
Metabolic Benefits of Prebiotics
Improving enzymatic function in the digestive system is one of the crucial ways prebiotics will improve your metabolic health.
Enzyme function is a key player in the metabolism of food and ensuring that you get the maximum benefit from what you eat. This is a central concern to making sure that your vitamin and mineral levels remain high.
A dysfunctional gut environment can hamstring the absorption, uptake, and use of food-nutrients. This could be disastrous if you’re already contending with nutrient deficiencies and it can make a good diet sub-optimal even if you’re eating the right things.
Improvements here also continue to benefit gut health itself, where improved enzyme function can maintain the positive gut environment and keep your microbiome healthy in future.
Another crucial role of the digestive system – and prebiotic supplements – for metabolism is gastric clearance speeds.
The consumption of high-quality FOS and dietary fiber slow down the absorption of foods in the gut. This is usually crucial for balancing out the absorption time of simpler carbohydrates which can cause a spike in insulin. Performance Lab Prebiotic contains a combination of Inulin and FOS, one reason why it’s our top choice in this section.
Prebiotic supplements can contribute to slower overall absorption and normalize the metabolism of carbohydrates in the body. This effect is crucial for providing regularity and reducing the risk of insulin resistance, improving the consistent release of energy throughout the day, and normalizing the other hormones that are tied to this process.
Metabolic processes benefit from regularity and being balanced with your lifestyle. If you’re trying to keep healthy, prebiotic foods and supplements are a great choice for addressing the metabolic and digestive processes that underlie your day-to-day health and wellbeing!
Immune System Benefits of Prebiotics
The digestive and immune systems operate together to keep you healthy and spot/resolve risks. They’re closely associated and any significant change in one will produce a response in the other.
Inflammatory markers are closely related to digestive health. Disturbances in an organ as important as the digestive tract can cause a cascade of immune responses.
Poor digestive health is thus one of the fastest routes to systematic inflammation and a generally over-active immune system. This is how most cases of inflammation occur: the immune system is over-active against your own body and causes inflammatory response in tissues that should be healthy.
The result is excess stress on the body, increased cell/tissue damage, and reduced overall function and wellness. This can be a concern, but we need to be careful when it comes to inflammation – it’s not all bad, and inflammation is a trendy buzzword lately.
Poor digestive health is a signal for general inflammatory response, as mentioned, so producing a healthy and balanced gut microbiome is a key step to preventing this. It’s not necessarily clear how much benefit you’ll get from adding prebiotics to a healthy gut, when it comes to inflammation, but we know it has a protective role.
Early research has also linked the intake of larger quantities of prebiotics and probiotics to improved resistance to flu – especially with the flu shot. This seems to boost resilience and points to a role for digestive bacteria in overall health and illness-resistance.
Finally, reducing the occurrence of existing immune-digestive problems such as IBS, coeliac, and other later-onset digestive degeneration is important. Supporting the health of the digestive system now prepares it for a better function and saves you the hassle of painful organ decline/damage as you age.
These are all interesting benefits – and they add up to form a comprehensive benefit to health and wellbeing – but the big question: how long do they take to work? Prebiotics are not immediately effective, and the digestive system tends to be rather slow…
How Long Do Prebiotics Take to Work?
Prebiotics are not immediately effective like caffeine or other supplementary compounds. The digestive system is a slow place where change through the whole system can take a lot of time. The cells and bacteria are slow to change and replace, so you need to be consistent and patient with prebiotic supplements. The simple fact is that gut health improves progressively over time.
That said, it may be possible to start seeing initial benefits as little as 3-4 days into supplementation, where wellbeing and perceptions of health/happiness improved. While not about prebiotics per se, this study, for instance, revealed that the gut microbiome responded rapidly to changes in diet.
However, from this point onwards, the effects continue to compound over time and produce more long-term changes. These include the changes to metabolic quality and immune/mental health discussed above.
The more immediate results tend to be smaller and tied into your experience. However, they do continue to improve and the chronic benefits like bone health and cancer risk stack up and respond best to consistency.
Prebiotic supplements can make a great addition to a good diet. When they’re used properly and combined with effective diet/exercise, Prebiotics are a great way to make sure your digestive system and organs remain in peak condition.
It might not be glamorous to take care of your internal organs, but it provides the best possible platform for any fitness goal and ensures better health and wellbeing. These benefits range from the healthy digestive function to indirect metabolic, hormonal, mental health, and immune benefits.
These add up to a complete boost to your quality of life and resilience, which means better living. Using a high-quality prebiotic compound from the best possible source (like Performance Lab Prebiotic from chicory root) is a great way to make the most of a prebiotic supplement.
Take care of your gut and it will take care of you – it’s the foundation for health and performance!