How to Keep Your Intestine Healthy With Prebiotic

Last updated on April 23rd, 2023 at 11:20 am

10 minutes read.       

In this article:

What is Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in your intestine (gut). This makes your digestive system work better and stay healthy.

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Both prebiotics and probiotics are good for your gut, but they help in different ways.

Prebiotics are a source of food for your intestine’s healthy bacteria. They’re carbohydrates your body can’t digest. So they go to your lower digestive tract, where they act like food to help the healthy bacteria in your gut grow.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are live yeasts and good bacteria that live in your body and are good for your digestive system to stay healthy. You can take probiotics as supplements or get them through whole food.

Food Sources of Prebiotics

What food contains prebiotics?

You’ll find prebiotics in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as:

  • Apple
  • Cucumber
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Aghara (small garden egg leaves)
  • Bananas
  • African bullet pear and Avocados
  • Barley
  • Berries
  • Chicory
  • Cocoa
  • Dandelion greens
  • Flaxseed
  • Tiger nuts
  • Garlic
  • Green vegetables including bitter leafs
  • Cabbage
  • Konjac root
  • Leeks
  • Legumes (peas and beans, fresh black beans-akidi)
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Yacon root

What product contain Prebiotics?

Note: Some food products have added prebiotics. They may say “fortified with.” Some products that may have them include:

  • Baby formula
  • bread
  • Cereal
  • Cookies
  • Yogurt

When you’re shopping for these products, you probably won’t see the word prebiotic on the label. Instead, look for terms like:

  • Galactooligosaccharides
  • Fructooligosaccharides
  • Oligofructose
  • Chicory fiber
  • Inulin

You can also find prebiotics in dietary supplement form. Babies can get them from their mother’s milk.

Prebiotic Benefits

What is the health benefit of prebiotics?

A diet rich in prebiotics promotes digestive system health by stimulating the growth of beneficial microorganisms.

The fermentation of prebiotics produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including acetate, propionate, and butyrate. They play important roles in the intestine and metabolic health.

For example, SCFAs provide energy for colonocytes and are involved in mucus production, regulation of intestinal pH, and more.

In addition to intestine (gut) health, prebiotics influences immune function, blood sugar regulation, appetite, and energy expenditure.

Studies suggest that when taken in specific amounts, prebiotics may improve health in various ways.

May improve certain intestine (gut) conditions

Because prebiotics stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and improves certain aspects of gut health, they may benefit those who have gut-related health conditions like constipation.

A 2020 review noted that treatment with inulin, a type of prebiotic, may benefit folks who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation.

It may improve the frequency and consistency of stool as well as intestinal transit time, or the time it takes food to move through the digestive tract.

However, a 2021 review found limited evidence that treatment with prebiotics or prebiotics mixed with probiotics (synbiotics) — is helpful for treating IBS and that the quality of existing studies is low.

As a result, most experts, including the American College of Gastroenterology, don’t recommend prebiotics as a treatment for IBS.

Another 2020 review that included 21 randomized controlled trials found that prebiotic treatments were effective for improving stool consistency, the number of bowel movements, and bloating in people with chronic constipation.

However, the researchers noted that it’s still unclear which prebiotic formulation is best for treating constipation.

Although more research is needed to assess the effectiveness of prebiotic supplements on constipation and IBS, consuming a diet rich in foods high in prebiotics supports overall gut health and may help stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms.

May improve metabolic health

Eating a diet rich in prebiotics and taking prebiotic supplements may benefit certain aspects of metabolic health, including blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

A 2019 review of 33 studies found that treatment with the prebiotics called Inulin-type fructans (ITF) significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, a long-term blood sugar control marker called glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and fasting insulin levels.

The researchers found that these results were most significant in people with prediabetics and type 2 diabetics and recommended that people with these conditions should supplement with 10 grams of ITF per day for 6 weeks and longer to reap these potential benefits.

In addition, a 2021 review of 33 randomized controlled human trials found that ITF supplements significantly reduced levels of blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in people with prediabetes and diabetes.

However, not all studies of prebiotics in these populations have found benefits.

Another small 2021 randomized, double-blind crossover trial including 29 people with type 2 diabetes found that treatment with 16 grams of ITF daily for 6 weeks had no effect on fasting or post-meal blood sugar levels compared with a control treatment.

While prebiotic supplements may help improve certain aspects of metabolic health in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

Other potential benefits

In addition to having possible benefits for metabolic health and the potential to improve certain digestive conditions, prebiotics may benefit health in the following ways.

May reduce markers of inflammation

 A 2017 review found that 14 out of the 29 included prebiotic studies reported a significant decrease in 1 or more markers of systemic inflammation.

SCFAs may help reduce inflammation by maintaining the health of the intestinal lining and preventing the movement of pro-inflammatory molecules across the gut wall.

May reduce appetite and cravings

Some studies have found that supplementing with prebiotics like galactooligosaccharides and oligofructose-enriched inulin may reduce appetite and cravings for specific foods, like sugary foods.

May help reduce body fat

 A 2021 review that included 27 studies concluded that symbiotics, or the combination of probiotics and prebiotics, may aid in weight loss and fat loss in people with overweight or obesity.

Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and there are many other potential benefits related to prebiotics.

Clinical trials exploring the effects of prebiotic supplements on knee osteoarthritis, obesity, allergies, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, atopic dermatitis, and more are currently underway.

In addition to feeding your good intestine bacterial, prebiotics can:

  • Help you absorb calcium 
  • It ferments foods faster, so they spend less time in your digestive system. That helps you not get constipated.
  • Keep the cells that line your gut healthy

How to use prebiotic

Try to get prebiotics from whole foods since they also have healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some experts say you should get at least 5 grams of prebiotics in your diet every day.

How to take prebiotic supplements

Experts suggest that if you want to take prebiotics, a daily dose of 2.5–10 grams is the minimum required for a meaningful effect on your health.

The majority of prebiotic supplements on the market contain between 1.5–5 grams of prebiotics per serving.

Most prebiotic supplement manufacturers recommend taking a serving of prebiotics one or more times per day with a food or beverage.

Prebiotic powders can be mixed with beverages like water or smoothies.

Related: What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics?

Related: Best Smoothie Recipe to Restore Your Skin Collagen

They can also be added to foods like yogurt.

Keep in mind that some prebiotics has special instructions for use.

For example, psyllium husk, a fiber with prebiotic properties, should be taken with plenty of fluids, as it has a bulking effect on stools. It can lead to constipation and even intestinal or esophageal obstruction if it’s not taken with adequate fluids.

If you’re trying out a new prebiotic supplement, it’s important to read the instructions on the label and use the prebiotic as recommended to avoid potential side effects.

Also, it’s suggested to start with a smaller dose of prebiotics and slowly increase the amount over time in order to minimize digestive side effects.

Risk and Side Effects

Most types of prebiotics are considered safe and aren’t associated with serious side effects.

Too much can lead to gas or bloating. Start with small amounts so your gut can get used to them.

Although side effects are rare, prebiotics isn’t for everyone. If you have IBS, not all prebiotic food you can tolerate. Some of them may make your symptoms worse, and you could have:

  • bloating 
  • constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas

Therefore you should study and listen to understand how your system reacts to each of the prebiotic food when consumed. You shouldn’t take prebiotics if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or FODMAPs intolerance.

While low doses of 2.5–10 grams per day can lead to mild symptoms like gas, high doses of 40–50 grams per day could cause diarrhea

It’s important to note that a daily dose of 2.5–10 grams of prebiotics is necessary in order to reap their health benefits. That means prebiotics may cause side effects, even at recommended therapeutic doses.

Prebiotics are even considered safe during pregnancy and lactation.


Prebiotics are sometimes referred to as microbiome fertilizers.

They promote the growth of beneficial microbes, fuel colonocytes, and influence health in many other ways.

Some evidence suggests that prebiotic foods or supplements may be helpful for those with chronic constipation, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and more — but more research is needed.

If you’re interested in taking a prebiotic supplement, talk with a healthcare professional first. They can help you decide whether a prebiotic supplement is right for you.

I hope you get the value worth your time. I appreciate the time you spend with me. Leave a comment below if you find this article helpful and feel free to drop your question if any. Cheers!


The content provided in Living Good Blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal doctor. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Living Good Blog takes no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person(s) reading or following the information in this educational content. Viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medication, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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