Post-holiday blues? Balance your belly! PART 2
Prebiotics play an important role in our overall daily health. There is enough of it in your daily diet—provided that you consciously include it. Unfortunately we do not always make the best choices, forced as we often are by the time and consumer constraints of modern life. Prebiotics occur naturally in asparagus, beet root, garlic, chicory, onion, leek, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat, honey, banana, barley, tomato, rye, soy, human and cow’s milk, peas, beans, and, as recently confirmed, various seaweeds and microalgae. In short: eat as pure as possible and stay away from so-called ultra-processed foods. It should also be noted that some prebiotics, including the GOS and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), do not occur in abundance in daily food.
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) is an important class of prebiotics, occurring naturally only in small amounts in the typical diet.
Types of prebiotics
The most common prebiotics are the fructans (fructo-oligosaccharides [FOS] and inulin), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and the trans-galacto-oligosaccharides (TOS). Fermentation of these prebiotics by the gut bacteria produces short chain fatty acids that nutritionists consider to have numerous beneficial effects. It appears that prebiotics can selectively stimulate the well-being and activity of those intestinal bacteria that are beneficial for us, including the Bifidobacteria and the Lactobacillus. What you eat is not only for yourself, but also for the trillions of microbes in your gut. When you buy or order food, you are buying or ordering for many, many table companions.
A new concept
In the review article "Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications" it can be read that the term prebiotic is actually still very young. The concept was first introduced in 1995 by Glenn Gibson and Marcel Roberfroid. They defined it as "a non-digestible food ingredient that positively affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and / or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improving host health." A definition that would remain authoritative for no less than fifteen years.
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are one of the best studied types of prebiotic fibers. Beta-GOS is still considered to be the reference pre-biotic. It occurs naturally in breast milk and contributes to the development of the intestinal microbiome. GOS is also a specific form of prebiotic galactose sugar. GOS is one of the more than 200 biologically active sugars that occur naturally in human breast milk. Formally speaking, it belongs to the group of Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO sugars). These sugars are complex in structure, have a very wide spectrum of biological effects, and are suitable for both adults and children.
Because more than 99% of your genes, and about 9 out of 10 cells in your body, are of bacterial origin, it may worth your while to take a look at what these permanent residents actually like to eat.
Significance of the intestinal flora
The role of the intestinal flora is increasingly seen as that of a subsidiary control center within the human body: a second 'brain'. Scientists have gradually become convinced that the intestines communicate directly and continuously with our brain and thus influence our cognitions and overall state of mind. Maintaining diversity and quality is therefore very important. High-fiber and fermented foods sustain the intestines and their residents, but beneficial prebiotics and probiotics can play an equally important role. And this may well apply especially at those occasions when minding your food is a challenge.