Let’s talk about Fructooligosaccharides. Fortunately, to be healthy, you do not need to know how to pronounce it, but you do need to understand its meaning and significance. Fructooligosaccharides are medium and short chain sugar molecules that our bodies cannot digest. Instead, they make their way through our stomach and to our intestines where probiotics (the beneficial bacterial microogranisms living in our gut) feed on them.
In essence, Fructooligosaccharides (I will refer to them as FOS from here on out to save us all a headache) are prebiotics – the healthy food on which probiotics need to feed in order to survive and thrive. You can think of it like this: if we eat animals who consume antibiotics and unhealthy corn feed, those are the toxic substances that we, humans, are also being fueled (or not fueled) by. Similarly, we should aim to feed the microorganisms within us healthy food (FOS) so that they can help to fuel us in the most effective way possible.
Scientists are conducting more and more research on the possible benefits that a healthy composition of FOS can provide and, so far, the list of positives is long. As I mentioned, FOS can encourage the development of beneficial microflora and yeast in the gut. As a result, that leads to improved digestion. FOS can also help to increase your dietary fiber intake, which is also really important for overall digestive health as well as feeling satiated longer. FOS have also been known to aid in magnesium absorption, which is crucial since most people do not get enough magnesium in their diets.
An appropriate level of FOS can also aid in constipation and irritable bowel relief and prevention. On an even more significant level, FOS can help to protect your body from various diseases. As they foster the growth of important microorganisms like bifidobacteria, they also suppress the growth of harmful species like Clostridium perfringens – the bacteria responsible for most food poisoning. Similarly, diets high in FOS have proved to decrease the chances of salmonella poisoning in mice. The research on FOS is still relatively new, but in animal models, FOS have even been shown to reduce colon tumor development and a recent review indicated that FOS have been able to reduce cholesterol levels in animal studies. There is even hope that FOS could be good news for people with diabetes since yet another review showed a positive correlation between FOS intake and lowered blood glucose levels! So, this is pretty significant stuff.
If it sounds like it would be difficult to remain healthy with an imbalance or limited supply of FOS, that is because it would be! So many of my clients come to me with years’ and years’ worth of bowel or digestive issues behind them and they have just accepted that as the norm for themselves. But, that is not true! Digestive problems, or any kinds of health problems for that matter, should never be considered normal. Often times, my clients’ health practitioners have failed to examine their gut health. Other clients are at least taking a probiotic supplement, but do not realize that the bacteria within the supplement need a healthy diet of their own to work properly. I will tell you what I tell them: if you want to feel better, it is essential to make sure your intestinal microflora ecosystem is in good shape, and a key part of that is the FOS that the bacteria consume.
So, where on earth can you find the right food for your gut bacteria to snack on? Luckily, it is readily available in a variety of plant sources! Foods with high levels of FOS include bananas, wheat, barley, artichokes, onions, chicory root, asparagus, garlic, asparagus, yacon root, leeks and blue agave. If you are having issues with pathogenic yeast like candida, I recommend staying away from bananas, wheat and barley since those foods can feed the harmful yeast.
As FOS become better understood and more readily available to the public in supplement or fortified form, I urge you to be conscious of the quality of the source you are getting them from. Watch out for brands trying to sell you yogurts or “nutrition” bars with FOS if they are high in sugar or fillers. The same goes for supplements – you should always avoid supplements with unnecessary ingredients or sweeteners.
If you are looking for a different kind of prebiotic to aid with probiotic growth, I really recommend Seed Synbiotic. While this company’s prebiotics are not composed of FOS, they boast similar results and also offer a prebiotic-probiotic blended supplement. Wherever you decide to get your prebiotics, just make sure that they are high quality! Your gut will thank you.