Prebiotics (dietary fibre)
Prebiotics are not living microorganisms like probiotics, but a special type of dietary fibre that is mainly found in plant foods such as onions, artichokes or bananas. The food industry also adds prebiotics to various products such as baked goods, fruit juices or dairy products to increase their fibre content.
Unlike the other nutrients, prebiotics are not digested directly and absorbed through the intestines. They are not broken down by digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Instead, they travel undigested through the stomach and small intestine on to the large intestine, where they support the beneficial intestinal flora (e.g. lactobacteria and bifidobacteria) as energy suppliers. These “good” bacteria virtually pounce on the prebiotics and utilise them. The intestinal bacteria form vitamins and short-chain fatty acids from the fibre provided. In this way, the pH value in the intestine decreases and certain minerals such as calcium or magnesium can dissolve better and are more easily absorbed by the body. Furthermore, the fatty acids are messengers between the intestinal flora and the immune cells, prevent inflammatory reactions and serve as food for the cells of the intestinal mucosa. There is a positive stimulation and growth, multiplication and also the activity of these probiotic bacteria, as well as other beneficial intestinal inhabitants, is increased. The spread of harmful bacteria and viruses in the intestine is simultaneously curbed in number and activity and the intestinal flora remains in balance.
Prebiotics also include plant ingredients such as inulin and oligofructose. By the way, cooking reduces the content of prebiotics, which is why it is advisable to eat prebiotic foods raw.