The role of prebiotics in wellbeing of colon
I have already written about the normal gut flora and the health of the colon. In writing about the normal gut flora, we also looked at the role of probiotics in keeping the gut healthy. Not only does the normal gut flora keep the colon healthy, there are other organs and systems in the body that are positively affected by the activities of the normal gut flora.
The microorganisms that make up this normal gut flora are in most cases gotten from fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. There are also supplements of probiotics that are sold in health food shops, which make up the microorganism colony of the large intestine. These probiotic foods and supplements have to pass through the mouth, stomach and small intestines to get to the colon. In passing through these portions of the intestines, they get affected by the acid of the stomach and the digestive juices (enzymes) of the small intestines.
The quantity of the microorganisms that will eventually get to the colon can be severely reduced by this acid and enzyme actions along the way. To increase the amount of the microorganisms, the dose of the supplements has to be increased and the choice of probiotics has to be one with more than just of a few strains of bacteria. Consistency in taking the probiotics and the foods is also encouraged.
The prebiotics play a very significant role in ensuring that there is sufficient microorganisms in the normal gut flora at all times.
By definition, prebiotics are non-digestible, plant fibre that are more resistant to the acid of the stomach and digestive enzymes in the small intestines. These fibres therefore, pass through the stomach and small intestines undigested. In the large intestine, they act as food (substrate) for the normal gut flora where they stimulate growth of the microorganisms. The normal gut flora increase in their colony in the large intestine by causing fermentation of the indigestible plant fibre.
With increase in the normal gut flora brought about by the prebiotics, the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria increases and more and more of the bad unfriendly bacteria are destroyed. Studies have shown that this ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria has a direct relationship to the human health and wellbeing. The probiotics and prebiotics work synergistically to bring about a healthy colon and by extension the overall health of the human being.
Other health benefits of prebiotics include boosting the immunity, improved weight control, increased bone density, better bowel movement and better mental clarity.
Food sources of prebiotics are asparagus, banana which is also a rich source of potassium and dandelion greens. Dandelion greens also contain Vitamins A and K, calcium and iron by which they help to maintain strong bones in the elderly and in the blood clotting mechanism. Other sources of prebiotics are garlic, onion, leeks, wheat bran and flour, skin of apples and beans. Some of these sources of prebiotics like onion also contain chromium, which helps to increase insulin production, quercetin, an antioxidant and Vitamin C.
All these sources of prebiotics should be served and eaten raw. If they are cooked the heat may destroy the fibre in them. An average dose of 4 to 5 grams is recommended for a healthy individual and a dose of up to 15 grams for those that may have one health challenge or the other.
Prebiotic fibre supplement: Apart from the food sources of prebiotics, there are also prebiotic fibre supplements. Prebiotin is the commonest of these supplements.