Prebiotics - A History and the Benefits of Use
The History of Prebiotics
In 1995, prebiotics were first defined as “non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improving host health.”
Ingredients can be classified as prebiotics if they fit the following criteria:
1) resist gastric acidity (Stomach acid), hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes (breakdown by enzymes), and gastrointestinal absorption;
2) are fermented by the intestinal microbiota; and
3) stimulate selectively the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria associated with health and wellbeing (Gibson et al., 2004).
The term prebiotic was further redefined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus panel as “a substrate that is selectively utilized by the host microorganisms (in this case pets) conferring a health benefit” (Gibson et al., 2017).
Dietary fibers and prebiotics play an important role in the health of companion animals by modulating bowel movement, influencing immune function and gut microbiota profile, diluting caloric density, contributing to weight loss and, indirectly, ameliorating the incidence of obesity and diabetes in the pet population (de Godoy et al., 2013).
Why We Added Prebiotics to Profauna Pet Probiotics
Prebiotics are selectively fermentable dietary compounds that result in changes in the composition and/or activity of the intestinal microbiota, thus conferring benefits upon pet health. In veterinary medicine, commercially available products containing prebiotics have limited data supporting the changes they trigger on the composition of the gut microbiota.
Upon consumption and after traveling throughout the small intestine, some types of these non-digestible fibers (e.g., fructo-oligosaccharides) are fermented by the bacterial microbiota in the colon thus exerting a positive effect on the abundance of beneficial bacterial groups (e.g., Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium), intestinal motility, epithelial cellular integrity, and microbial biochemical networks (Scott et al., 2015). Interestingly, prebiotics appear to also influence distant sites such as bones and skin, apparently through an increase of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and derived fermentation products from this increase reaching target cells (Collins & Reid, 2016). Several research studies have shown beneficial effects associated with the consumption of fiber on gut microbiota and overall health (e.g., improvement of gut barrier integrity) in humans and other vertebrates (Montalban-Arques et al., 2015).
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin that are currently added to several commercial foods for cats and dogs. Studies have shown an effect of these ingredients on fecal microbial composition, nutrient digestibility, and short-chain fatty acid concentrations, particularly in dogs (Patra, 2011; Schmitz & Suchodolski, 2016; De Godoy, Kerr & Fahey, 2013). Domestic cats are obligate carnivores but several studies support the hypothesis that microbial fermentation inside the distal gut is significant and beneficial to the host (Rochus, Janssens & Hesta, 2014). However, most of the published studies have researched the effect of natural prebiotics (with and without processing, e.g., potato fiber, see Panasevich et al., 2015) as opposed to commercial preparations containing these ingredients. This generates an important gap in the prebiotic literature because commercial prebiotic preparations are sold all over the world, thus exposing cats and dogs of all ages and with various clinical conditions to its potential effects on gut microbial ecology and health. Moreover, prebiotics should theoretically increase the abundance of certain bacterial groups (e.g., Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) in the gut in order to be considered a prebiotic.
What are prebiotics and how do they help my dog?
Many dogs have gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as soft or runny poo, and occasional constipation, most of the time we do not seek help from our vets as the issue is “not that bad.” However, there may be an easy fix to help your dog’s poop.
Often times (especially when your dog has had an issue most of its life) the non-perfect poo can be due to a weak or compromised Microbiome. The microbiome refers to the microorganisms in a particular environment (in this case the GI tract) meaning, all the living organisms in your dog’s GI tract, the good bacteria, good yeasts, good viruses and other good microorganisms that make it healthy.
So, if your fur baby is having GI issues or you think his or her Microbiome needs a boost, consider a probiotic with a PREBIOTIC. Prebiotics can really boost the effect of a probiotic by adding extra nutrients for the ‘microbiome’ to feed on, thereby ensuring the growth and colonization of the probiotic bacteria. Look for products with inulin a preferred choice by premium probiotic manufacturers.
Why Inulin as a Prebiotic?
Inulin is a dietary fiber, a probiotic fiber. Scientific research has linked inulin to health benefits in humans and animals. For example: Inulin may help improve your pet’s digestive health, help pets with diabetes (fiber helps manage blood sugar levels), and aiding weight loss (great to add to food if your pet needs to lose weight).
Plants naturally contain inulin, like Jerusalem artichoke (Flowers above) and therefore some probiotic manufacturers add it to products to improve digestive health.
The Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple, is a species of sunflower native to central North America. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber (photo below), which is used as a root vegetable.
Products containing ingredients from the USA are supporting our economy in these unusual and uncertain times, so try and choose ingredients grown here!