What are prebiotics? How do they work? Should you use prebiotics or probiotics? What are the best prebiotics on sale today? In this article, we explain it all!
Prebiotic refers to a substance which feeds the beneficial gut bacteria in your gut.
While the two are often confused, prebiotics and probiotics are very different supplements.
Probiotics deliver exogenous strains of various bacteria to your gut in the hope that they will help re-balance your microbiome. The end goal is to create a gut microbiome more conducive to digestive health, mental performance, and overall health. Probiotics do not seek to support your existing gut bacteria, but to bring in outside help.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, provide nutrients to your existing gut bacteria to help them thrive. The best supplements for gut health will selectively feed the most healthful strains of bacteria in your gut, leaving the less helpful strains to effectively starve.
So probiotics introduce foreign bacteria species, while prebiotics feed the bacteria already present.
For the last couple of years, probiotics been some of the most sought-after supplements in the world.
However, people are finally starting to see that prebiotics potentially offer far more benefits than probiotics, and far fewer side effect risks.
Prebiotics are finally starting to get the attention they deserve.
Prebiotics vs Probiotics
We believe that the best way to promote a healthy gut is to use the best prebiotics.
The highest quality prebiotic supplements can dramatically improve digestive health, enhance cognitive performance, support your immune system and even help with weight management.
They do all this by providing nutritious food for your friendly gut bacteria.
Good prebiotics will only feed the strains of gut bacteria which are linked to better health and performance.
By only relying on your existing gut bacteria, prebiotics offer a safe, sustainable and side effect-free way to enhance multiple different aspects of health and performance at the same time.
The Best Prebiotic Supplements
Today there are hundreds of prebiotic supplements on the market. Many of them are good. But some are seriously over-priced, and a small number are not particularly effective.
To help you find the right prebiotic supplement for you, we’ve reviewed and ranked the most effective and best value prebiotics on the market today.
Below is a list of the best prebiotics on sale right now. Take a look and see which is right for you!
#1 – Overall Best – Performance Lab Prebiotic
Performance Lab Prebiotic is the best prebiotic supplement on sale today. We believe it is the single best supplement for improving gut health available. It delivers 2g of Inulin-FOS. This unique compound combines two soluble fibers – one short-chain and one long-chain. Inulin-FOS passes almost untouched into the colon, where it selectively feeds Bifidobacterium strains (which are vital for health and performance).
The fact that Performance Lab Prebiotic selectively feeds Bifidobacterium means that this prebiotic delivers several major benefits, including:
- Immune system support
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Improved mood
- Better digestive health and nutrient absorption
- Better weight control
- Easier blood sugar control
- Help maintaining cholesterol levels
To top it off, Performance Lab Prebiotic is delivered in prebiotic capsules made from fermented tapioca. At $35 per month’s supply, you can’t ask for more than that!
All of these factors made our choice very easy – Performance Lab Prebiotic is the best prebiotic supplement on sale right now.
To learn more, check out our detailed Performance Lab Prebiotic review.
Or you can go straight to the Performance Lab website to learn more about the ingredients, prices, and offers -> here.
#2 – Hyperbiotic Prebiotic
Hyperbiotics take a very different approach to Performance Lab when it comes to their formulas. While Performance Lab produce extremely pure, potent, nature-identical stacks, Hyperbiotics tend to use whole plant powders. Hyperbiotics Prebiotic is no different. This powder blend combines three organic prebiotic plant powders – acacia fiber, artichoke fiber, and green banana fiber.
Each daily serving delivers a massive 7g of prebiotic fiber! Now while this is more than you get from Performance Lab Prebiotic, Hyperbiotics Prebiotic powder isn’t as selective as Performance Lab Prebiotic when it comes to which bacteria it feeds. So you don’t get anywhere near the same bang for your buck.
Some people might also find the 7g of soluble fiber a lot to take in every morning! Side effects will be mild, but you might experience bloating and cramps at first.
Even so, Hyperbiotics Prebiotic is a great gut health supplement. This isn’t the best prebiotic supplement on sale right now, but it certainly comes close.
How we ranked the best prebiotics
With so many options out there, choosing the best prebiotic can be extremely difficult.
When we review prebiotics, we always follow the same approach.
First, we check out the ingredients; their provenance, purity, effectiveness, and scientific pedigree. We expect top quality prebiotics to be composed exclusively of ingredients which have been tested and proven to work in robust clinical trials.
If a substance has never been tested and shown to promote good bacteria growth, we assume it’s bunk.
Second, we look at the side effects that a prebiotic supplement is likely to cause.
Then we look at the price. Usually, we’ll ignore the simple product price and look at the real cost per day for a prebiotic.
Finally, we look at the prebiotic as a whole. We decide whether the benefits, the risks, the flaws and the price all add up to a good product or a bad one. We then give each product a rating out of 10.
So what makes a product the best prebiotic?
What qualities do we look for exactly?
For us, a great prebiotic is a product which delivers top quality, scientifically proven ingredients, without any dead weight or side effect risks, for a reasonable price.
The best gut health supplements will always use fibers which you cannot get from everyday, easily-accessible foods. We don’t think you should be paying premium prices for some banana and flaxseed powder!
The very best prebiotic supplements – in our opinion at least – must selectively and exclusively feed the beneficial, “friendly” bacteria in your gut.
By that, we mean that a top tier prebiotic will only promote the growth of those gut bacteria strains which are most beneficial to health and performance – Bifidobacterium being the most important one.
If a supplement meets all these criteria, then it is probably the best prebiotic supplement in existence. It’s very rare for a supplement to hit even two of these points. Only a couple hit more than one!
Which foods contain prebiotics?
Any food which is high in water soluble fiber is technically a prebiotic fiber.
Water soluble fibers are not digested in the stomach. Instead, they pass through the digestive tract relatively unchanged until they reach the colon, where they are feasted upon by bacteria.
However, some fibers are better than others when it comes to nourishing beneficial gut bacteria.
Unfortunately, a lot of the foods which provide the most beneficial prebiotic fiber are not easy to eat in large amounts on a day-to-day basis.
For one thing, consuming large amounts of fibrous foods can be tough on the digestive system. Try eating 3 bananas with your oatmeal and you’ll see what we mean – it’s one bulky meal!
Another issue is availability – for a lot of people, the kind of foods which are highest in the best prebiotic fibers are not part of the normal diet.
But there are some really great, commonly available foods packed full of prebiotics which you can eat on a regular basis.
Here are the best food sources of prebiotic fiber:
- Sweet potato
Eating these foods on a regular basis will dramatically improve gut microbiome health.
There are some other foods which you might not be able to eat on a regular basis, but which provide the very best prebiotics available. These are the foods which you will typically see in prebiotic supplements.
The best sources of prebiotic fiber which you will need to get from supplements are:
- Chicory root
- Yacon root
- Dandelion greens
Who should use prebiotics?
Some people believe that prebiotics are only for people with serious digestive problems.
Prebiotics can benefit practically everybody.
Whether you are looking to improve your digestive health, combat IBS, enhance cognitive function, improve mood, or increase nutrient absorption, a good prebiotic can help enormously.
This is especially true today when people generally consume far too little fiber.
The typical diet in a developed country today is high in processed meats, sugar, and fat, and low in soluble fiber. That is a nightmare situation for your gut microbiome.
Even when we do consume fiber, it is rarely the kind of fiber that makes the biggest difference to your gut health. Very few of us regularly consume foods rich in Inulin, such as artichoke or asparagus. We sometimes consume foods high in Oligosaccharides, such as bananas, leeks, and garlic.
But our consumption of these prebiotic foods is still dramatically lower than what it needs to be for optimal gut health.
So now more than ever people stand to benefit enormously from using the best prebiotic supplements.
You may not even realize that your gut microbiome is in bad shape because it’s always been that way! A lot of people go through their entire lives with extremely unhealthy gut microbiomes, and they never know how much it is affecting their health or performance.
Prebiotics have such broad effects on the body, and such low side effect risks, that we think everybody should consider adding prebiotics to their supplement routine.
That said, if you are frequently bothered by digestive discomfort, low mood, fatigue, or chronic nutrient deficiencies, we think you should seriously consider adding a good quality prebiotic to your daily supplement regimen.
Benefits of prebiotics
The benefits of prebiotics are extremely wide ranging.
Few people realize that your gut microbiome has an absolutely enormous influence on your overall health and performance.
We are actually only just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the relationship between the gut and the rest of the body.
But the research carried out over the last few years tells us that the health of your gut microbiome directly affects everything from memory function to stamina.
The benefits of prebiotics include:
- Improved immune system function
- Better cardiovascular health
- Reduced body fat levels
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Improved mood
It is sometimes hard for people to believe just how many of the body’s processes the gut influences, but it’s true. You just have to look at the processes going on in the gut and how they relate to the wider body system.
Let’s look at two examples from the above list in more detail.
The gut & cognitive function
The gut is not a simple collection of organs. It is an extremely complicated system.
The gut actually contains a sizable amount of neurons. It actually contains so many neurons that it is dubbed a nervous system – the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) to be exact. It is a part of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for carrying out all automatic (non-conscious) processes in the body.
The ENS actually contains more neurons than many animals’ brains. This has led many researchers to refer to the Enteric Nervous System as our “second brain”.
This “second brain” is in constant contact with your actual brain via the vagus nerve. It is important to note that the line of communication between the brain and the gut is bidirectional – just as hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain influence intestinal cells, so too do intestinal cells influence brain hormone and neurotransmitter levels.
Studies have shown that manipulating the composition of the gut microbiome – and therefore the operation of the CNS – can dramatically alter cognitive performance.
Specifically, studies have shown that changing the gut microbiota can positively influence mood, memory function, focus, and mental energy levels.
The gut & heart health
The relationship between prebiotics and heart health is nowhere near as complicated as the gut-brain axis.
The regular consumption of soluble prebiotic fibers has been linked to reduced heart disease, heart attack and stroke risks in numerous clinical trials.
Epidemiological studies back these findings up; populations that consume large amounts of soluble fiber have significantly lower heart disease risks compared to the average Western diet.
One explanation for this is the fact that soluble prebiotic fibers bind to cholesterol in the small intestine, helping to prevent absorption and increase cholesterol elimination.
Since atherosclerosis is the only necessary causal factor for heart disease, and as atherosclerosis is largely caused by excess cholesterol, eliminating cholesterol in the gut is a very good idea!
This is why consuming 7-10g of prebiotic fiber every day is recommended for optimal heart health.
We could go on and on writing about the benefits of prebiotic supplements. Good prebiotic supplements will help with pretty much every aspect of human health and performance, from immune system efficiency to focus and learning.
But what about the negatives of prebiotics?
Are the best prebiotic supplements safe?
Safety – Do prebiotics cause side effects?
Prebiotics are, generally speaking, very safe.
It is extremely rare for someone to experience serious adverse effects from prebiotics alone.
Remember that we’re just talking about soluble plant fibers here.
Of course, these are fibers from foods that you wont necessarily be consuming in significant amounts on a regular basis – that’s why you use supplements.
But they are foods found in the natural human diet. All you are doing is cutting out much of the bulk of the food and consuming only the prebiotic fiber.
Prebiotics are widely-use supplements. People all over the world use them on a regular basis. They do not usually cause side effects.
You might experience some mild side effects during the first week or so of using prebiotics. These side effects include:
- Stomach cramps
These side effects are rare. When they do occur, they are usually very mild and transient, lasting only about a week or so.
Please remember that we are not doctors. This is not medical advice. You need to do your own research and consult with a medical professional before using any supplements. If you have chronic stomach problems, get medical advice form a qualified doctor!
How to use prebiotics for maximum benefits
Prebiotics are pretty versatile supplements.
They can be taken at any time of day.
You can stack prebiotics with any other supplements.
That said, you can maximize benefits by taking prebiotics in a particular way.
If you are using a probiotic then taking a prebiotic at the same time can multiply benefits, producing results greater than you get from using the supplements alone. This si true if you’re eating more probiotic foods too.
We also think you’ll get the best results from prebiotics if you take them first thing in the morning with a full glass of water, shortly before breakfast.
For optimal results, we think you should work up to taking prebiotics with both breakfast and dinner with a full pint of water.
We also recommend taking a multivitamin while you’re taking a prebiotic. The increase in nutrient absorption you get with a prebiotic will mean you get a lot more bang for your buck from a multivitamin.
Should you take a prebiotic with a probiotic?
If you want to improve gut health, then your first step should be consuming more prebiotic fiber. A probiotic is only necessary if your gut microbiome is completely imbalanced.
However, if you are taking a probiotic, then a prebiotic can dramatically improve the beneficial effects. The best prebiotics and probiotics work brilliantly together.
When should I take prebiotics?
It doesn’t matter when you take prebiotics. For the best results, then take some with your breakfast and some with dinner, always with plenty of water. However, you will still benefit greatly if you just take prebiotics with your evening meal, or in the morning on an empty stomach.