With the rise of probiotic-enhanced foods and drinks, more and more people are aware of the central importance of our gut bacteria to our overall health.
A healthy gut microbiome, including the billions and billions of live bacteria lining our digestive tract, is the foundation of virtually all other bodily health systems. But despite knowing this, we still often fail to recognize the importance of our gut health to our immune system.
In our minds, we think “sickness” and we think “antibiotics,” reasonably framing bacteria as pathogenic carriers of sickness. However, though certain “bad” bacteria strains may pose a significant health risk, much of our exposure to “bad” bacteria may be mitigated by promoting the “good” bacteria already present in our gut.
“Good” bacteria can metabolically outcompete “bad” bacteria when present in healthy numbers, in addition to promoting other immune-related functions in the body.
Does this then mean that prebiotics, a distinct food class known to selectively promote beneficial bacteria (or “probiotics”) in the gut, may also help your immune system?
For the most part, the answer there is “yes.” But there’s much more to this question, such as: how do prebiotics work? and which are the best prebiotics for the job?
The all-in-all best prebiotic supplement for immunity is Performance Lab® Prebiotic, an all-natural daily prebiotic fiber supplement safe for daily, long-term use. For a full analysis on this supplement, jump below to the section “Performance Lab® Prebiotic.”
Otherwise, continue reading to learn all the basics on the link between prebiotics, gut health, and your immune system.
What Are Prebiotics and What Are Their Benefits?
So, prebiotics may help your immune system… but what exactly are prebiotics? Simply put, prebiotics are a distinct class of non-digestible foods, specifically fiber, that require the help of bacteria to digest fully in the gut.
Really, it doesn’t get much more complicated than the “simply put” definition. As prebiotics were originally defined by Gibson and Roberfroid in 1995:
“Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacterial species already resident in the colon, and thus attempt to improve host health.”
As opposed to probiotics, which are the beneficial bacteria themselves, prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria already present in the gut. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics.
This potentially makes prebiotics more reliable and effective than probiotic supplements, which often denature before even making it to the large intestine. Though prebiotics can (and perhaps should) be taken with probiotics, a combination called “synbiotics,” the health advantages of prebiotics alone are significant.
Health Benefits of Prebiotics
The advantages of a healthy gut biome are generally the health benefits of prebiotic supplementation. However, as soluble fibers, prebiotics also possess benefits distinct from probiotic supplements. All in all, the health benefits of prebiotics include:
Digestive Health and Regularity
Bacteria ferment prebiotic fibers in the gut, which in turn encourages the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria while producing metabolite byproducts that come with their own health benefits. Prebiotic-enhanced intestinal microflora enhances the digestion of, say, lactose for lactose-intolerant individuals while also forming a gel-like substance in the GI tract, softening and bulking stool for easier, more comfortable elimination.
Appetite and Weight Control
Hormonally speaking, appetite is stimulated via ghrelin, the “hunger hormone” secreted from the stomach. When the stomach is full, it stops secreting ghrelin; however, when we overeat, as many of us tend to do, we stretch our stomachs, requiring greater food intake to slow down ghrelin secretion.
By absorbing water and swelling in the stomach, prebiotic fibers help block ghrelin and increase satiety (“feeling of fulness”) hormones in a dose-dependent manner.
Not to mention that prebiotic fibers may also limit the calorie content of any food time consumed, combatting the increased calorie uptake that occurs with weight gain.
The nutritional composition of your diet is, of course, important to your overall health, including your immune health. But it’s also completely beside the point if you fail to adequately absorb all those dietary nutrients in the first place. One key problem with gut dysbiosis, or gut microbiome imbalance, is poor micronutrient absorption rates. By promoting a favorable bacterial and acidic environment for nutrient digestion and absorption, prebiotics may help optimize your overall nutritional status.
Again, one of the key advantages of optimizing your gut microbiome towards “good” bacteria is how those “good” bacteria, namely Bifidobacteria, metabolically out-compete “bad” bacteria, making your gut environment inhospitable towards pathogenic bacteria and other microbes. Bifidobacterium fermentation of certain prebiotic fibers helps reduce gut pH to limit growth of bad bacteria and pathogens while also strengthening the intestinal lining’s barrier against pathogenic microbes.
Related to pathogen resistance, prebiotics may also boost immune function in other ways. In addition to increasing resistance to pathogens, prebiotics also seem to increase the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines while reducing the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, reorienting the immune system towards reducing inflammation and promoting healing.
Below, we’ll cover the link between prebiotics and immunity in greater detail. But first let’s go over a few different types of prebiotics, including the best prebiotic ingredient for improving your gut microbiome.
Different Types of Prebiotics:
Not all prebiotics are equal. Typically, our initial exposure to prebiotics and probiotics is through breast-milk; however, when we recommend “increasing your prebiotic” intake, we’re not exactly recommending a return to breast-milk.
There are plenty of diverse food sources of prebiotic fibers you can eat to. Some of the best natural prebiotic food sources include:
Aside from the fact that they’re tasty, especially when doused in garlic butter, mushrooms are consumed for several health reasons, ranging from skincare to sex hormone regulation.
However, one underappreciated aspect of mushrooms is the fungi’s rich supply of carbohydrates, such as chitin, hemicellulose, β and α-glucans, mannans, xylans, and galactans, which possess prebiotic properties.
As a result, mushrooms may help benefit gut microbiota by inhibiting exogenous pathogens, making this an immune-friendly type of prebiotic.
A rich source of inulin, a bifidogenic prebiotic (meaning it selectively supports Bifidobacteria), garlic is an effective prebiotic food source for encouraging healthy gut microbiota and combatting gastrointestinal issues. Research suggests that garlic uniquely possesses both prebiotic and antibiotic advantages, with the prebiotic effects acting on gut health and the antibiotic properties working against “bad” bacteria strains, such as Staphylococcus, Myobacteria, and Proteus species.
Like garlic, asparagus is a rich source of inulin, one of the best dietary prebiotic fibers for encouraging the growth of Bifidobacterium, a metabolically competitive probiotic strain for an all-around healthier gut. Animal research has found asparagus extract to be effective at both positively affecting gut bacteria diversity and lowering lipid (fat) levels in the context of a high-fat diet.
Perhaps the easiest dietary addition on this list, bananas are a widely consumed fruit (obviously) with considerable amounts of prebiotic fibers (not so obviously). In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, female participants were administered daily pre-meal snacks of either a medium-sized banana, a cup of banana-flavored drink, or a cup of water (control group) to determine the prebiotic benefits of bananas. The researchers observed that daily banana consumption may induce bifidogenesis in healthy women experiencing body weight issues.
Commonly used as a coffee alternative, as well as a food additive, chicory root is a fiber-rich plant with a high concentration of inulin and FOS (fructooligosaccharides).
Functionally, inulin and FOS are very similar: both nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut, both provide soluble fiber benefits for digestive comfort and regularity. Structurally, however, they slightly differ, with inulin acting as a long-chain molecule and FOS a short-chain.
Ideally, for pronounced gut health benefits, it’s best to take inulin and FOS together as inulin-FOS. The best prebiotic supplement source of inulin-FOS is Orafti® Synergy1, a 2-in-1 prebiotic + soluble fiber support supplement.
Orafti® Synergy1 Inulin-FOS
Sourced from chicory root, Orafti® Synergy1 Inulin-FOS is a pure, potent prebiotic ingredient and an excellent choice for boosting your gut health and, consequently, your immune system. The nutritional benefits of Orafti® Synergy1 include:
- Digestive Health: improves intestinal microflora balance
- Blood Sugar: lowers blood glucose “spike” in response to eating
- Weight Control: reduces calorie count of any food item
- Bone Strength: improves calcium absorption for better bone health
Not to mention improved immune function via the healthy metabolite byproducts of inulin-FOS fermentation in the gut. The cross-benefits of inulin-FOS’ prebiotic + soluble fiber properties make Orafti® Synergy1 an easy, convenient, safe, and effective prebiotic supplement for boosting your gut biome and immunity.[15,16]
Gut Health and Immune System: The Link Explained
One of the essential functions of gut bacteria is to aid us in the digestion of non-digestible foods, such as prebiotic fibers. Without gut bacteria, we wouldn’t be able to fully digest and absorb all of our favorite foods, resulting in malnutrition, low energy, and a big ol’ bloated belly. Given the significant overlap between nutrient status and immunity, gut health naturally affects immunity—and vice versa.
However, what’s often overlooked is how a significant portion of the immune system is located in the gut. This makes sense: many external pathogens, especially food-borne pathogens, enter the body via the GI tract.
The initial contact between the body and pathogens is the GI tract.
It’s critical to note that gut microbiota can influence not only the local intestinal immunity but also the systemic immune responses, making gut bacteria a central component of whole-body immune homeostasis. Aside from intestinal and systemic immunity, also remember that the immune system splits into two main subsystems:
- Innate Immunity–the dominant immune system, innate immunity refers to a cascade of nonspecific defense mechanisms that work immediately.
- Adaptive Immunity–or the “acquired” immune system, adaptive immunity does not work immediately but instead creates antibodies to specific pathogens after initial exposure.
Research suggests that gut microbiota plays a role in both innate and adaptive immunity, with intestinal bacterial lining working as the primary physical barrier against pathogens (innate immunity) and influencing the development of T cell differentiation (adaptive immunity).
How Stress Affects the Gut Biome and Immunity
Stress affects virtually every health system in the body. While a little stress, such as that associated with exercise, is essential for a healthy, active lifestyle, chronic stress may negatively impact your metabolic health and performance, including the composition of your gut bacteria.
Facilitated by the Gut-Brain Axis, the neural network linking the gut to the brain, stress, and mood disorders (e.g., depression) strongly correlate with gut microbiota. While stress reshapes gut bacterial composition, the gut bacteria release metabolites, toxins, and neurohormones that can alter eating behavior and mood.[18,19]
In turn, gut dysbiosis (or gut bacteria imbalance) may alter food cravings, metabolic performance, stress reactivity, mood, and immune function; all of which may further exacerbate your stress, highlighting the importance of not only keeping your nutrient levels in check but also your stress levels.
The Next Step: Prebiotic + Multivitamin
Of course, taking a prebiotic supplement may significantly help reorient the gut biome towards healthier metabolite production and neurotoxic clearance. But to get the most out of your prebiotic supplement, it’s also smart to take an all-natural, comprehensive multivitamin stack, such as Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi.
In addition to all the toxic metabolites, an unhealthy gut biome also fails to sufficiently digest and absorb life-essential nutrients, including a range of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) required for a healthy, effective immune system. This is why stacking a multivitamin with a prebiotic may work synergistically to not only restore your micronutrient levels to a healthy threshold but also to kick-start your immunity back into gear.
Taken daily, Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi’s probiotic-cultivated vitamins and minerals are the perfect complement to Prebiotic’s inulin-FOS soluble fibers.
How Prebiotics Benefit Your Immune System
Through various direct and indirect bio-pathways, prebiotic fibers may significantly boost your immune system and many other health systems in the body. With the gut biome and the gut-brain axis in mind, a few of the key immune-boosting benefits of prebiotics include:
- Pathogen Resistance: by strengthening the intestinal lining, prebiotics help bolster the body’s primary barrier against pathogen exposure.
- Immune Cells: by enhancing the synthesis of immune cells lymphocytes and macrophages, prebiotics promote healthy immune performance.
- Nutrient Absorption: prebiotics encourage the digestion and absorption of life-essential micronutrients required for healthy immune function.
- Gut-Brain Optimization: by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, prebiotics may help improve cognitive health, which in turn encourages healthy immunity and stress responses.
And more. Really, considering the fundamental importance of a healthy gut biome, the cascading benefits of prebiotic-enhanced gut health are innumerable. Especially with a safe and effective prebiotic supplement such as:
Performance Lab® Prebiotic
The best all-in-one prebiotic supplement, Performance Lab® Prebiotic is powered by Orafti® Synergy1 Inulin-FOS soluble fibers. Delivered in prebiotic-infused NutriCaps®, a capsule constructed out of fermented tapioca (pullulan), Prebiotic is truly prebiotic through-and-through, making it the gut-healthiest prebiotic stack on the market.
Performance Lab® Prebiotic works by:
- Supporting digestive performance and regularity for optimal nutrient absorption, gut comfort, metabolite production, and bowel movements.
- Selective nourishing Bifidobacteria, the best probiotic for metabolically out-competing “bad” bacterial growth for an all-around healthier gut biome.
- Promoting healthy immune function by increasing resistance to pathogens in the gut and enhancing immune cell response.
- Encouraging healthy weight loss and appetite control by combating excess food cravings and reducing food caloric density.
Compared to fragile probiotic supplements, which supply live cultures of bacteria that may or may not come dead on arrival, Prebiotic’s inulin-FOS fibers are more resilient and universally effective—not to mention more cost effective.
By nourishing the beneficial bacteria already present in your gut, as opposed to overloading you with billions of live cultured bacteria, Performance Lab® Prebiotic does a better job at working with your particular gut biome composition.
However, what sets Performance Lab® Prebiotic apart from other prebiotic supplements is how clean this formula is. Altogether, Prebiotic is:
- All Natural: no artificial additives, synthetics, colorants, GMOs, etc.
- Vegan-Friendly: a prebiotic for users of all dietary lifestyles.
- Eco-Friendly: safe for the stomach and for the environment.
Here, you’ll find no unnecessary synthetics and gut-wrenching additives that counter-productively harm your gut biome. Instead, you’ll only find pure, potent prebiotic fibers delivered in pure, prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® capsules—nothing more, nothing less to achieve a healthier, happier gut.
Supplement Facts: Orafti® Synergy1 (Inulin-FOS) (FructoOligoSaccharides from Chicory Root [Cichorium intybus]), NutriCaps® Pullulan Capsule, NuFlow® Rice Concentrate
Though a powerful defense against various pathogens and all that scary microbial stuff lingering in our environments at all times, the immune system is not infallible. In fact, many things may drastically impair your immunity, including the status of your gut microbiome.
This is why Performance Lab® Prebiotic is much more than simply a “gut support” supplement. Rather it is an “everything” supplement, because a healthy gut biome improved nearly every aspect of your health and performance, from your immunity to your body composition to your mental wellbeing.
Taken daily and consistently, Performance Lab® Prebiotic may go a long way in helping you achieve your health and fitness goals, whether you’re looking to burn more fat, build more muscle—or to simply stop feeling so bloated and blehck all the time.
Prebiotic is the ultimate all-in-one body booster for bodies of all types.
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