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Prebiotics - What are they?

Prebiotics are needed for the health of probiotics. Probiotics are the “healthy bacteria” that support gut health in our digestive system. Prebiotics are what probiotics need to stay alive. In other words, prebiotics are food for probiotics (1, 2).

Just like all different animals have different diets, different types of bacteria need different foods as well. In other words, prebiotic compounds can change the types of populations of bacteria in our intestine. When probiotics have access to the right “food” they strive. When they don’t they die, and unhealthy bacteria can take over.

Prebiotics help to improve the survival of probiotics (1).

The most studied types of prebiotics include: inulin, galactooligosaccharide (GOS), fructooligosaccharide (FOS), oligofructose, PHGG, which are naturally found in some plant foods in small amounts. Supplements extract, or mimic, prebiotics found in nature to deliver a potent supply of food for probiotics.

Research-based benefits of prebiotics:

Increased intake of probiotics may:

  • Stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria (3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 18)
  • Help to improve the survival of probiotic bacteria (7, 8)
  • Help lower cholesterol levels people with obesity (9)
  • Stimulate the immune system (11)
  • Stimulate mineral absorption and bone stability (12)
  • Treat irritable bowl-associated diarrheas (13)

Recommended for:*

  • Anyone taking probiotics, or people who haven’t had success with probiotics alone
  • People who have recently taken antibiotics
  • People who want an immune boost (11)
  • People with digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut (13, 19)

*These are general recommendations and do not replace medical prescriptions or recommendations.


Research summary:





Study Reference

Increase in bifidobacteria population in the gut

Collectively, this study showed that a high purity GOS, administered in a confection product at doses of 5 g or higher, was bifidogenic,

5 or 10g GOS per day


Increase in lactobacilli population

The results demonstrate that supplementing the diet with FOS influences the relative abundances of selected bacteria with some of the changes consistent with those considered advantageous.

4g of FOS per day


Increase in bifidobacteria population in the gut

A 15-g.day-1 dietary addition of oligofructose or inulin led to Bifidobacterium becoming the numerically predominant genus in feces

15 g oligofructose and inulin


Increase in probiotic population with bifidobacteria (probiotic) and inulin (prebiotic) supplementation

Administration of BFM substantially increases the proportion of bifidobacteria in the colonic flora, but the concurrent administration of inulin does not enhance this effect.

18 g inulin per day





  1. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article-abstract/125/6/1401/4730723
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521691803000751
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603605/
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-10722-2
  5. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/11/2568S/4664507
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29414731
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814608003245
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160508005503
  9. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/effect-of-prebiotic-fibre-supplementation-on-hepatic-gene-expression-and-serum-lipids-a-doseresponse-study-in-jcrlacp-rats/F00884DCAA4BF6047C0E1D832BAB1536
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996901001739
  11. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/immuneenhancing-effects-of-dietary-fibres-and-prebiotics/FFEA531AEF921673B1F608A46561EC07
  12. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/effect-of-oligofructose-or-dietary-calcium-on-repeated-calcium-and-phosphorus-balances-bone-mineralization-and-trabecular-structure-in-ovariectomized-rats/B64ACC457C79F4A23CBCC0054F89E14A
  13. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/gastrointestinal-effects-of-prebiotics/BD1B790A844DD58A02125E446FB9F8F8
  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160510005593
  15. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7698613
  17. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8730616
  18. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/129/7/1442S/4722587
  19. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1017947531536