What is a prebiotic and what is its function?
We’ve explored fibre and the role it plays in the digestive process. Now, let's dig a little deeper into the world of prebiotics.
Prebiotic versus probiotic
Due to the similarity in name, prebiotic foods are sometimes confused with probiotic foods, but they serve different functions.
Probiotic foods contain living strains of bacteria designed to join and support the gut's own bacteria. These commonly take the form of fermented foods such as yoghurt or kimchi.
Prebiotic foods, on the other hand, provide raw fuel for the gut microbiome. So in general: prebiotics are food for bacteria, probiotics are the actual bacteria.
Fibre and prebiotics
When we talk about prebiotics, we are most often referring to dietary fibre. Visit our page on fibre for more information on how fibre works and the best places to find it.
Prebiotics follow a common pattern:
- Prebiotics resist digestion by the acids and enzymes of the stomach and small intestine.
- Prebiotics are instead fermented by the microbiome in the colon, leading to a positive change in the microbial community of the gut.
Dietary fibre from plants is our main supply of prebiotics, although not all of the fibre we eat serves a prebiotic function
Prebiotics play an important role in the development of your child's microbiome, providing fuel for the beneficial bacteria
Oligosaccharides in breast milk serve a prebiotic function during breastfeeding, but once your kids move on to solid foods it's time to start thinking about dietary prebiotics.
Getting the most out of prebiotics
Fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts, vegetables: we have the plant world to thank for pretty much all the prebiotics in our diet.
Plants naturally contain fibre in the form of polysaccharides, inulin, starch and other indigestible materials. But remember, the way you prepare your kids' meals can reduce their prebiotic potential.
- Fibre is often concentrated in the outer peel of fruits and vegetables, so leave the skin on where possible. (If you can't buy organic, be sure to wash them thoroughly first.)
- Don't overcook. Overcooking can damage fibre and reduce the nutritional value of some foods. Try lightly steaming your vegetables.
- Avoid processed foods, as they usually have a lower fibre content. For instance, wholemeal bread is a better source of prebiotic fibre than white bread.
While food is the best source, if your kids aren't always getting enough fibre through their diet, prebiotic supplements can be a useful way to add more.
In addition to a fibre-rich diet, you can consider Pentavite Fibre & Prebiotic Kids Liquid which contains two different sources of fibre – fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin.
Pentavite Fibre & Prebiotic Kids Liquid helps maintain bowel regularity and provide fuel to the beneficial bacteria of the gut.
It's convenient to add to a child's diet - mix the liquid into any food or drink. And the delicious natural berry flavour should make it a favourite with kids.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.