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Category: Nutrition

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Why Supplementing with Prebiotic Fiber Makes Sense

While there has been so much attention given in recent years to the importance of probiotics across a wide spectrum of important aspects of human physiology, we are just beginning to see an expansion of the medical literature clarifying the importance of prebiotic fiber as it relates to health.

Prebiotic fiber is a type of carbohydrate that we as humans do not digest. That said, our gut bacteria thrive on prebiotic fiber, as it allows them to reproduce, and enhances their ability to make various products that are so important for our health.

Much of the work on prebiotic fiber has been done using the animal model, typically mice, in which administration of prebiotic fiber has been shown to have dramatic and positive effects, upon the gut bacteria. Beyond that, positive metabolic effects are seen as well. 

In a recent study entitled, Prebiotic fiber modulation of the gut microbiota improves risk factors for obesity and the metabolic syndrome, Canadian researchers evaluated a variety of parameters in laboratory mice that were given various dosages of prebiotic fiber. They documented changes in the gut bacteria, and endocrine function, how these animals were able to regulate their blood sugar, how they metabolized lipids (fats), and even discussed how these observed changes might impact issues related to things like type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The extremely positive changes that these authors described in laboratory animals may will translate to humans, as the author stated:

Prebiotic fibers have the ability to alter the gut microbiota in a positive manner, indicating their promise as a dietary treatment. Several animal studies, including our recent publications, have been undertaken and provide promising results. Human clinical trials are now necessary to determine if these benefits are translatable.

Further, the authors indicated that higher dosages of prebiotic fiber are often not well-tolerated, stating:

One major limitation to prebiotic fiber usage in humans is the effective dose. The current dose of 10% used in the majority of animal studies is not feasible in humans due to increased GI side-effects.

There are many forms of prebiotic fiber available at health food stores. Clearly one of the most well-tolerated forms is derived from acacia gum which seems to be much better tolerated then other forms like fructose oligosaccharides and inulin.

It’s clear that boosting prebiotic fiber goes a long way to balancing a variety of important areas of human metabolism and this in turn paves for the way for health.

  • Alex Barron

    I’ve been using probiotics and prebiotic acacia fiber daily. I’ve even bought the Doctor Formulated Mood probiotics that are endorsed by Dr. Perlmutter. I’m not sure if it’s made a difference because I use so many other supplements. My health has improved, so I will keep doing what I’m doing.

    BTW, there is a typo at the end of this article. The last sentence reads: “this in turn paves for the way for health.”

    • Emmalee

      Hi Alex. I also take several supplements. I’m concerned about acacia fiber as I have celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and microscopic colitis. The last condition can be exacerbated by fiber. Any problems with bloating or other GI issues?

  • Chris Frochaux

    Acacia gum works just fine. I use a heaping spoonful diluted in a glass of (filtered) water, followed by one or two more glasses.

    • Emmalee

      Hi Chris. I have asked Alex who posted below about acacia fiber. Have you had any GI issues such as bloating, diarrhea, etc?

      • Chris Frochaux

        Hi Emmalee, I would imagine that reactions depend upon individuals but, as far as I am concerned, I haven’t observed any reaction at all. I’m 68 and follow David’s guidelines as much as possible, I ferment my own sauerkraut, eat no sugar, avoid gluten and practice intermittent fasting. Regrettably, I have no time for exercise, but in my view nutrition is the most important factor (witness so many unhealthy gym rats, who think they earned the right to satisfy their junk food cravings). I count no calories and don’t even follow a low carb diet, but I enjoy perfect health – possibly because I have never taken a prescription drug.

        • lynette mayo

          They have mini versions of trampoline’s on the market, very inexpensive, many come with a bar to hold onto. Whole body vibration is a great alternative when you cannot exercise!

  • Ronna Berezin

    I use the Acacia fiber you recommend , andit is great; off topic: did you read the EPA artcle on Arsenic contamination in rice. Pls. cange the formulation in Garden of Life new protein bars that are baded on brown rice protein even though it is sprouted after Arsenic contamination! Thx

    • lynette mayo

      Arsenic is found mostly in White Rice. Safest to use Organic Brown Rice!

      • Stephanie

        How can that be when the arsenic comes from the water that the rice is grown in?

  • Truth59

    If you take the prebiotic fiber, will you still be able to get into ketosis? There are quite a lot of carbs in each portion and you need to have three or more portions/day.

    • Billy McKee

      HI – I recently did a low carb diet at 25 carbs per day for 6 weeks leading up to an Ironman race. Stayed in Ketosis most of the time during that period. Added back another 50-75 carbs race week. For a couple years now I have been using Tiger Nuts daily as my prebiotic supplement. All natural and when only consuming 4-5 soaked in water over night, the net carbs is only 2-3. Not sure what % of daily prebiotic that equates to. Hope this helps.

      • Truth59

        Thanks so much!

  • Does brewing roasted chicory root, similar to the way one brews coffee, provide prebiotic benefit?

  • Michele Gregory

    What about xylooligosaccharides?

    • Les Tindale

      Google it, plenty of info.

  • Bob

    I have taken Gum Arabic and it caused me significant mood alteration. I became sad, dejected, feeling lousy. Stopped taking it, through three cycles, and the feelings, which are altogether unnatural, only show up with the Gum Arabic. Any experience like that?

  • maria

    Is psyllium husk a prebiotic fibre?

    • Patti McTee

      I would like to know that too. I use it in my seed and veggie juice pulp crackers.

  • ron

    Would a digestive enzyme be helpful?

  • Steve

    what about acaia powder

  • Steve

    These are all very good questions ! I would love to see answers by you as a qualified person posted to these questions Dr. Pearl matter as it would be very informative

  • Don’t forget shiritake or konjac noodles!

    • lynette mayo

      What are Shitake noodles! are they free of junk additives! what brand do they come in!

    • SHIRITAKE (no relation with shitake mushrooms) is pure glucomanan a prebiotic. No idea about possible contaminants or additives. Consumed in Japan for centuries.

  • Emiliana

    Kefir has both pre and probiotics !

  • lynette mayo

    Loved your show on PBS last night. I also listened to a 2 hour one by Marco Ruggiero MD last night. One thing l need feedback on. How do we determine we need a fecal implant!

    • David Perlmutter

      Thanks for tuning in Lynette!

  • lynette mayo

    I seem to always end up with organic psyillium husks. It can be tedious to mix & shake. What are quick alternatives to this!

  • gypCowgirl

    Hi Dr. Perlmutter,
    Thank you for your research. I bought a pure form of acacia powder at the healthfood store and it seems to burn my tounge, lips and digestive track. Is there a better form/ brand to try? Have you heard of this reaction?
    Thank you,

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