We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Prebiotics?

By L. Burgoon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that feed beneficial bacteria living in intestines. High levels of the food components allow friendly bacteria to flourish along the intestinal tract. A prebiotic occurs naturally and is found in many foods, especially high-fiber fare. While touted as paramount for good digestive health and as a possible cure for digestive ailments, some doctors have cast doubt on the effectiveness of prebiotics. The term prebiotic should not be confused with a probiotic, which is a bacterium that aids the host’s digestion.

Glenn Gibson, a professor of food microbiology, and Marcel Roberfroid, a biochemist, introduced the idea of a prebiotic in a 1995 Journal of Nutrition article. The scientists found that prebiotics in the intestinal tract prompted specific bacteria growth and changed the composition of the microorganisms in a digestion system. Gibson and Roberfriod’s research indicates that heightened presence of prebiotics regulates lipid metabolism, a process that could help control cholesterol levels.

When the these substances enter the body, they land along the digestive tract. There they selectively feed only certain types of microorganisms present in the body. The friendly bacteria feeding from the prebiotics in turn may aid digestion. Prebiotics selectivity — i.e., targeting beneficial bacteria only — sets the substance apart from dietary fiber, which performs similar tasks in the intestines.

A prebiotic enters the body through food consumption and is not broken down by either the cooking process or digestion. High-fiber foods contain especially high levels of prebiotics, which is why the substance also is known as fermentable fiber. Fermentable fiber is found in high levels in whole grains, such as wheat, barley and oatmeal. It is also found in vegetables and fruits, including artichokes, onions, berries and bananas, honey, and dairy products.

Others choose to introduce a prebiotic through supplements or as an added ingredient in processed foods. Supplements in gummy chewable forms and powders are available through natural food distributors and vitamin sellers. People interested in ingesting additional fermentable fiber also should read food labels; some manufacturers add it to items such as yogurt or energy bars.

Advocates of a prebiotic-heavy diet tout the benefits of its role in digestion. Natural medicine practitioners have prescribed prebiotic foods to address ailments ranging from diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome to an inflamed colon. Some also have suggested that a focus on prebiotic foods could relieve Crohn’s disease. Additionally, supporters say it may improve digestion, calcium absorption, and immunity in already healthy people.

Detractors, however, point to the paucity of research done on the diet’s effects. They note that no recommended daily amount of prebiotics has ever been set. There also is no firm research indicating the the substance provides any true benefit to digestion.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.