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Prebiotics: Food for the good guys

A prebiotic is a nutrient that selectively feeds good gut bacteria. A Probiotic contains the good gut bacteria themselves. Synbiotics are just the combination of the two.

Random facts from an ongoing study of this emerging field:

  • This is a relatively new area: first major paper was in 1995. Doctors may not know much about it. Many studies just coming out in recent years (2000+).
  • Prebiotics may be more important than probiotics for several reasons:
    • Stomach acid neutralizes most bacteria (good or bad) before they can get to the intestine, so taking live bacteria orally is probably not very effective.
    • Most of these gut bacteria are already there, and the main factor on their levels relative to other bacteria is how well they thrive. Feeding them is clearly a good idea.
  • Main sources: FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) -- long chain sugars that cannot be digested by us, and thus are left overs for the bacteria. Inulin is one particular source, derived from chickory root, which has longer-chains.
  • Which is best source? Nothing definitive, but it looks like inulin might be better than FOS. General clinical studies seem to show FOS and Inulin produce similar results in terms of overall good bacteria growth, etc.
    • This paper: shows that "butyrate was the major fermentation product on inulin, whereas mostly acetate and lactate were produced on FOS." -- it seems that butyrate has a lot of good effects, so maybe Inulin is better? Even though many of the bacteria could not directly metabolize the Inulin, they were able to indirectly. The gut is a very complex environment with many many interactions between the bugs.. Amazing.
    • The lactic acid produced by FOS, in large quantities, can inflame the intestine -- see discussion below about important cautionary results.

Scientific Papers

Short gut specific

  • Kanamori Et Al, 2001: Pdf icon.png KanamoriEtAl01.pdf‎ -- synbiotics case report, showing good benefits. Dose of prebiotics was 3g/day (oligomate HR -- seems to be only used by this research group). Kanamori et al have several other similar papers.
  • Recent review of bacterial overgrowth that likely reflects standard wisdom among practicing doctors -- give people antibiotics, and maybe there is something to prebiotics, but it hasn't been studied in these populations, and who knows but it might do some good: PDF: Pdf icon.png DiBaiseYoungVanderhoof06.pdf

More general


Commercial Sources of Supplements

Informal List of Results -- Add Yours Here!

  • Max Munakata, started on Inulin 6/12/07, and his stoma output dropped by 15cc/kg the very next day, and has remained at this level since then. He is gaining weight at a rate of roughly .2kg per week. He had experienced some bacterial overgrowth a month earlier, and was given oral Flagyl (first time on oral antibiotic), which seemed to fix the problem but left his system fairly significantly out of balance with high residual output. Hence our desire to avoid this in the future, and the motivation for prebiotics. We'll report if we get any bacterial overgrowth in the future, but so far looks good (6/25/07). Update on 1/16/2011: We have continued to use inulin and Max has only needed antibiotics for bacterial overgrowth once every couple of years or so.
  • Per Dr. Kocoshis at Cincinnati, fiber products such as Benefiber and Metamucil are themselves prebiotics