What are prebiotic really? Are they a food fad? While people were just about warming up to the concept of probiotics, there suddenly came in prebiotics claiming to be better than the other. Gut bacteria or probiotics need to feed on certain fibers in order to perform better and help improve your gut environment so as various metabolic processes can be carried out efficiently by the body. But the acidic content of our stomach most often hampers the growth of these microorganisms, along with our habits such as drinking hot tea. Prebiotics are basically non digestible food ingredients (such as the fibers found in many plant sources like asparagus, oatmeal, and legumes as well as in breast milk ) that are selectively metabolised by colonic bacteria which have the capacity to improve our gut environment. Unlike probiotics, they can be added to many ingredients and heated too.
While the beneficial role of prebiotics in helping the gut bacteria are being raved about, a recent study shows that eating prebiotics can restore healthy sleep patterns after a stressful event. The study was conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, and published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
The findings showed that stress could upset the gut’s microbiome, as well as restful sleep – essential elements for a healthy life. A diet rich in prebiotics was found to increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. In addition prebiotics also lead to the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.
“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome,” said Agnieszka Mika, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the US. “So far no adverse effects from prebiotics have been reported,” Mika added.
For the study, the team tested rats that received prebiotic diets for several weeks prior to a stressful test condition and compared with control rats that did not receive the prebiotic-enriched diet. The rats that ate prebiotics prior to the stressful event did not experience stress-induced disruption in their gut microbiota and also recovered healthier sleep patterns sooner than controls, the researchers said.
As the stressor that the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful episode for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one, the results may be relevant in humans, noted Robert S. Thompson from the University of Colorado Boulder.