To put it simply, I adore prebiotics because they literally saved my life. They cured my migraines, reduced my overall inflammation, got rid of my brain fog and insomnia, improved my sleep and blood sugar metabolism, and generally peeled me off the floor so I could stand upright again, engage with my son and husband, and hold a job again.
If this is what carbs and sugars (specifically, fructo-oligosaccharides) can do for me, I can’t help but adore them. The potato, being the first prebiotic I consciously ate knowing its properties, deserves a rightful place on my altar. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I bow down to the potato (and the carrot, and the radish) in humble appreciation.
Why did it take me so long to find out about prebiotics? Why did none of the practitioners who I saw know or tell me about the miraculous properties of these humble starches? Could it be that, unlike the glorified probiotics, prebiotics aren’t as popular because they can’t be packaged and sold at such a great profit? Have prebiotics been needlessly vilified because of people’s aversion to carbs and sugars? Could it be that many people suffering from digestive issues triggered by carbs actually really need them? Yes. Chris Kesser agrees.
Prebiotics are foods that feed friendly bacteria in our colon (as compared to probiotics, which introduce friendly flora. Many probiotic supplements and foods will cause migraines for people with histamine intolerance, because they are made through a fermentation process and contain tyramines). There are numerous kinds of prebiotics, including FOS (fructo oligosaccharides), GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides), arabinogalactans, inulin and resistant starch. The SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol focuses on the use of inulin, arabinogalactans, and resistant starch.
Initially, the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol only utilized resistant starch as prebiotics. It then dawned on me that if I wanted to feed as diverse an array of healthy bacteria in my colon, it would probably be beneficial to diversify my sources of prebiotics. Which is when I started to include inulin and pectin (with the Garden of Life brand of prebiotics). Arabinogalactans were featured already in my protocol before I even knew about them, as I had through chance chosen two foods that are highest in arabinogalactans: carrots and radishes.
Below are some notes I’ve taken on each of my favorite prebiotics. As I avoid dairy animal products, GOS (Galacto-oligosaccharides) are not included in this list.
(This info was adapted from an article in Mark’s Daily Apple called “The Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch”).
>> Resistant starch is “the sum of starch and products of starch degradation not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals.” So, resistant starch remains intact until it reaches the colon, where gut flora there metabolize it and convert it into short chain fatty acids. Actually, the word ※starch§ is misleading because resistant starch is actually a type of fiber.
>> There are four types of resistant starch. RS Type 1 〝 Starch bound by indigestible plant cell walls; found in many beans, grains, and seeds; RS Type 2 〝 Starch that is intrinsically indigestible in the raw state due to its high amylose content; found in potatoes, bananas, plantains. (Type 2 RS changes its starch structure upon heating and at that point is digestible in the small intestine. Since we want to be feeding the colonic bacteria, and not the bacteria in the small intestine, cooking these foods will diminish the therapeutic effect since it converts the starch type to non-resistant starch with heat); RS Type 3 〝 Retrograded starch. This includes cooked and then cooled potatoes, rice, and beans. While cooking Type 2 starches and eating them hot removes the resistant starch, this third type of resistant starch will develop once the food has cooled and provide benefit if the food is eaten cold and not reheated; RS Type 4 〝 Industrial resistant starch; type 4 RS doesn’t occur naturally and has been chemically modified; commonly found in “hi-maize resistant starch.” This is generally not used as a form of resistant starch by those seeking the benefits of resistant starch.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently, we do not know if RS2 or RS3 is more effective at reducing migraines, whether both are equally effective or if RS2 is more effective. We’ve definitely seen people using RS2 (raw starch) recover. Those who have been relying on RS3 (cooked and then cooled starch) are not seeing the same benefit but those who have been relying on that form so far have been on more medications.)
>> For the purposes of healing the colon, RS types 2 and 3 are relevant. The best fresh food sources are raw potatoes, green bananas, tiger nuts, plantains, cooked-and-cooled potatoes, cooked-and-cooled-rice, parboiled rice, cooked-and-cooled legumes. Resistant starch is also available in the form of dry powders and flours, including raw potato starch, plantain flour, tiger nut flour, green banana flour, and cassava/tapioca starch. These starches can be added to juice or into smoothies for a quick and easy dose of resistant starch.
>> RS Preferentially feeds “good” bacteria responsible for butyrate production. Once the bacteria in our colon eat the resistant starch, they produce butyrate as a byproduct. Butyrate is the prime energy source of our colonic cells. Resistant starch promotes more butyrate production than other prebiotics. However, the amount of butyrate produced will depend on which kind of gut flora live in your colon when you introduce the starch, so it varies from person to person. Presumably, people who have received antibiotics will have smaller populations of beneficial bacteria, so a gradual process of repopulation will occur with the introduction of resistant starch.
>> RS Improves gut function and integrity. Resistant starch basically improves the functionality of the gut by increasing colonic hypertrophy. Because it reduces leaky gut, RS also helps to prevent endotoxins from getting into your blood circulation. And thanks to this improved gut integrity, RS also helps to increases magnesium absorption (and by extension, probably other essential minerals and vitamins as well).
>> RS improves insulin sensitivity, even in people with metabolic syndrome. RS also lowers the post-prandial blood glucose spike, which may also extend to subsequent meals. RS also reduces fasting blood sugar.
>> RS increases satiety, making it easier to maintain other healthy eating habits and avoid snacking on junk food.
>> RS may preferentially bind to and expel ※bad§ bacteria. This is only preliminary, but there’s evidence that resistant starch may actually treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth by “flushing” the pathogenic bacteria out in the feces. It’s also been found to be an effective treatment for cholera when added to the rehydration formula given to patients; the cholera bacteria attach themselves to the RS granules almost immediately for expulsion.
>> Anecdotal reports also confirm that regular RS intake may be associated with better sleep, lower body fat and increased lean mass, improved thyroid function and mental calm.
>> Due to all of these benefits, many people take too much RS too fast and get gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation. These side-effects are a result of the population of bacteria in the gut changing from “bad” bacteria over to beneficial bacteria. Going gradual and slow seems to work best (especially if you have SIBO). Butyrate production usually increases at three weeks, when most people will experience some degree of gas and bloating, which usually subsides. More episodes of gas and bloating may occur as the intake is increased. These side effects usually stabilize and diminish in a few days.
>> The average intake of RS in China is 14.9 g/day from wheat, rice and starch products; compared with average USA 3-8 g/day intake.
>> One medium organic potato, juiced, yields one tablespoon of resistant starch.
>> Organic tiger nut flour is one good source of RS and is available through Organic Gemini brand but is more expensive than organic potato starch. 8 Tablespoons of tigernut flour are needed to get 3 tablespoons of starch.
>> Inulin is a heterogeneous mixture of fructose polymers found in nature as plant repository carbohydrates.
>> The best natural food sources of inulin include bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, dandelion greens, stevia, and dandelion root.
>> Being a prebiotic, inulin confers many of the same benefits that resistant starch does mentioned above. It creates greater diversity of beneficial gut flora in the colon, increases butyrate production, supports healthy blood sugar and bowel regularity, improves cardiovascular health, increases nutrient absorption and boosts immune function.
>> Inulin helps to decrease serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
>> Those who have taken antibiotics may need more inulin. Those who eat a lot of sugary foods, alcohol, and processed foods benefit more from inulin, since these foods deplete our body of healthy bacteria.
>> Daily intake of inulin significantly decreases disease activity and significantly increases the amount of IL-10-positive mucosal dendritic cells and toll-like receptors 2 and 4 of these cells in those with Crohn’s disease.
>> Inulin is used for rehydration and remineralization after loss of water from diarrhea and diaphoresis.
>> Arabinogalactans are present in carrots, radishes, coconut meat and milk, echinacea, astragalus, shitake mushroom, black gram beans, pears, maize, red wine, rye, tomatoes, sorghum, bamboo grass, and larch fiber.
>> Like all prebiotics, arabinogalactans help feed healthy bacteria in the colon which produce butyrate; they help improve insulin sensitivity, sleep, and nutrient absorption.
>> They function as immune activity normalizers. If your body is battling an infection, arabinogalactans power up the attack against the invading organism or virus. If your immune system is too revved up, arabinogalactans can help suppress this over activity.
>> Arabinogalactans inhibit the ability of toxic bacteria to adhere to the intestinal wall, thereby preventing infection.
>> They boost the activity of natural killer cells, which attack tumors.
>> In animal studies, arabinogalactans have reduced the spread of tumors to the liver by coating the binding sites that cancer cells would otherwise attach to.
>> Pectin is found in higher amounts in the rinds and peels of some fruit, which is why you will sometimes see orange or apple peel listed in the ingredients of prebiotic products.
>> Pectin can help to lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL) particles which gets converted into low-density lipoprotein (‘bad’ cholesterol) in the blood.
>> Pectin from citrus is also capable of turning inflammatory immune cells into anti-inflammatory, healing cells, which helps in recovery from infection.
> pectin has been shown to reduce levels of pathogenic bacteria and support higher amounts of friendly bacteria in the gut.
>> Kiwifruit pectin has been shown to help Lactobacillus rhamnosus adhere better to intestinal cells than inulin, while reducing the adhesion of undesirable bacterium Salmonella typhimurium.
Want to Make Your Own DIY Prebiotic Mix?
Here are some good sources for raw ingredients.
- Organic Potato Starch Unmodified (5 Pounds) by Anthony’s, Certified Gluten-Free & Non-GMO
- Organic Tapioca Flour / Starch (2.5lbs) by Anthony’s, Certified Gluten-Free & Non-GMO
- Orange Peel Powder Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)
- Chicory root inulin powder (FOS), soluble organic inulin fiber
- Now Foods Guar Gum Powder
- Now Foods Fiber Powder, Organic Acacia
- Organic Traditions – Apple Peel Powder
- Agave Inulin Powder – Organic
- Virgin Extracts (TM) Pure Premium Organic Cranberry Powder Extract