Toddlers & Fiber: Prebiotics 101

You may have heard that we recently launched a new product: Neocate Junior with Prebiotics. You may wondering, “what exactly are prebiotics?” so I wanted to take the opportunity to explain in this blog post, which I’ll call “Prebiotics 101”.

Understanding Fiber:

Prebiotics are a special form of fiber but before we get into the details, let’s start with an overview of fiber in general. Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies can’t digest. It is found in plant foods that we eat each day such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Among its many important functions, fiber adds bulk to the diet, makes us feel full, aids in digestion and prevents constipation.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is highly fermentable and dissolves in water, forming a gel during digestion. Insoluble fiber is not generally fermentable and does not dissolve in water, traveling through the GI system unchanged.

Soluble Fiber:

Prebiotics are a special kind of soluble fiber that is resistant to digestion and selectively feeds the “friendly bacteria” in our digestive tracts. These bacteria are beneficial to our health. By nourishing the growth of friendly bacteria, prebiotics inhibit the growth of the “bad bacteria”. Studies show that prebiotics can help:

  • Promote normal bowel function
  • Strengthen the protective layer of the GI tract and help restore a healthy gut
  • Decrease the incidence of diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and gas

The Difference Between Prebiotics & Probiotics:

Many people are confused about the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are live strains of beneficial bacteria that increase the number of beneficial bacteria in our guts when we consume them. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a special type of fiber that support the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in our guts.

It helps me to think about it with this analogy: You can increase the growth of your lawn in two ways:

1) you can plant grass seedlings, or
2) you can add fertilizer to stimulate the growth of the present grass.

If we think of the beneficial bacteria as grass, probiotics would act like seedlings and prebiotics act like the fertilizer.

Still confused about prebiotics? Ask away! That’s what we’re here for.

Mallory West

Published: 04/13/2010
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