The digestive tract relies on beneficial bacteria and friendly microorganisms to process food. And in order to do this, the digestive tract’s flora should be balanced. Certain types of foods we eat contain compounds that promote a balanced stomach flora. These compounds include probiotics, inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS).
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the large intestines. These gut-friendly bacteria are called probiotic because they support our health in some ways. They improve the condition of the intestinal tract, promote better digestion and prevent intestinal inflammation.
On the other hand, inulin and fructooligosaccharides belong to fructans. Fructans are long chains of fructose units obtained from plants. The difference between inulin and FOS is that the former is long chain fructans while the latter is short chain fructans. Probiotics and fructans are a part of a healthy diet. They are derived from whole foods, fruits, and fermented foods.
Advantages of Prebiotics, Inulin, and FOS
Boosts Digestive Health
Inulin and FOS are classified as dietary fiber. Although the body cannot break down these compounds, they bulk up the stool. These nutrients also improve digestion. Short chain fructans like FOS sweetens fruits without increasing their caloric amount. This makes them a safe sweetener for diabetics.
On the other hand, long-chain fructans like inulin give food a palatable texture or mouth-feel. This helps eliminate the need to add more fat to cook or process foods. In addition, inulin and FOS promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Aids in Nutrient Absorption
Inulin and FOS also aid in the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals in the lower intestines. These minerals include calcium and magnesium. These compounds also lower bad cholesterol level in the blood.
Prevents Intestinal Inflammation
Several studies also suggest that FOS and inulin help prevent intestinal inflammation in infants and adults. These compounds work by modulating the activity of the immune system in the intestines. Modulation is a process wherein the over or under activity of the immune system is corrected.
Promotes Growth of Good Bacteria
The benefits of probiotics are well documented. Apart from replenishing the number of good bacteria in the gut, probiotics also aid in the processing of food. Good bacteria also break down fructans in the body.
Disadvantages of Prebiotics, Inulin and FOS
Bloating and Gas
Probiotics, inulin, and FOS could lead to an overgrowth of good bacteria. These microorganisms trigger fermentation in the gut, causing gas and bloating. Too much probiotics, inulin, and FOS could also lead to flatulence and diarrhea. Although these symptoms aren’t severe, it’s worth noting the discomforts.
Feeds Bad Bacteria
Probiotics, inulin, and FOS might also increase bad bacteria growth in the gut. Although there is no scientific proof that it is the case, some studies suggest that bad bacteria “feed” on probiotics and fructans too. In addition, these compounds produce digestive upset when taken in excess. This could lead to a dramatic increase of bad bacteria in the digestive tract.
The excess amount of probiotics and fructans will vary from person to person. We recommend consulting your doctor to determine the right amount of probiotics and fructans to take every day.