Many people are beginning to realize the importance to their health of taking probiotics supplements. Probiotics are the beneficial microorganisms living in our intestines that help us digest food. Probiotics benefit us by preventing diarrhea and constipation, calming irritable bowel syndrome, and helping our bodies fight infection. It has even been shown that a healthy population of probiotics in our gut can elevate our mood by producing serotonin, one of the body’s “happy hormones.”
If you are taking a probiotics supplement, one of the best ways to ensure that your probiotics stay healthy is by feeding them what they need. Probiotics respond particularly well to the addition of what are known as prebiotics. Prebiotics are a unique source of food specific for probiotics to help them grow, multiply and survive in the gut. Probably the most researched of the prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharides, abbreviated as FOS. FOS are water soluble starches composed of linear chains of fructose units that probiotics crave. FOS are perfectly safe for human consumption but the human body cannot fully digest FOS.
Because FOS are not digestible by humans but digestible by probiotics, it helps our digestive system in two major ways. FOS act as nutrition for the probiotics in our gut and act as a water-soluble fiber to assist us with regularity for any left over FOS that are not consumed by probiotics.
FOS have other potential benefits that scientists are just beginning to realize.
- Supplementation with FOS have been shown to reduce concentrations of many harmful bacteria in the colon, making more room for the helpful probiotic bacteria.
- FOS may benefit people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome by helping to restore order in the bowel and control symptoms, especially when taken in conjunction with a probiotics supplement.
- Some researchers believe long-term consumption of FOS may produce modest but beneficial changes in cholesterol levels.
- Preliminary studies in mice have shown that FOS have the potential for reducing the incidence of colon tumors.
FOS are found in high concentrations of asparagus, bananas, barley, garlic, leeks, onions, tomatoes, and wheat. FOS are also available in supplement form. In fact, most high quality probiotic supplements include FOS in the formulation to ensure a healthy probiotic population.
If you take your health seriously, you need to take your probiotics supplement seriously. FOS should be part of the probiotic supplement you take so you know that your probiotics have the proper nutrition to grow, multiply, and thrive.