Prebiotics wind up stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria (often called “probiotics”) that colonize our gut microflora. Since they act like food for probiotics, prebiotic compounds help balance harmful bacteria and toxins living in the digestive tract, which has numerous health implications, including improving digestion.
One of the benefits of having good bacteria in the gut is that they’re able to use fiber from the foods that we eat, which would otherwise be non-digestible, as a source for their own survival. As our gut bacteria metabolize otherwise non-digestible fibers from foods, they produce those short-chain fatty acids that help us in many ways.
One of these beneficial fatty acids is called butyric acid, which improves the health of the intestinal lining. Short-chain fatty acids also help regulate electrolyte levels in the body, including sodium, magnesium, calcium and water, which are also important for proper digestion, producing bowel movements, preventing diarrhea and so on.
Changes in the gut microbiota composition are classically considered as one of the many factors involved in the development of either inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
Consuming foods high in prebiotics can reduce glycation, which increases free radicals and triggers inflammation, and lowers insulin resistance.
Probiotics have a so-called hypocholesterolemic effect, improving the body’s ability to prevent ischemic heart diseases and autoimmune diseases (like arthritis, for example). Another benefit is that they balance the body’s electrolyte and mineral levels, including potassium and sodium, which are responsible for controlling blood pressure.
Probiotics enhance the absorption of minerals in the body, including magnesium, possibly iron and calcium. All of these are crucial for retaining strong bone bones and preventing fractures or osteoporosis. In one study, just eight grams of prebiotics a day was shown to have a big effect on the uptake of calcium in the body that led to an increase in bone density.