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The Best Prebiotics for a Healthy Gut

These supplements feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract, helping you stay healthy and avoid disease.
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While probiotics have become mainstream in recent years—evidenced by the popularity of fermented products like kimchi and kombucha—prebiotics remain a bit foreign to most people. However, the lesser-known prebiotic is just as important for our digestive system and overall health as probiotics—if not more so.

In order to unpack this statement, let’s start by defining what probiotics and prebiotics are. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), probiotics are specific live bacteria and yeast that, when consumed in certain amounts, provide health benefits to the host (your body, in this case). They exist naturally in some foods and there are many supplemental products available. Prebiotics are certain natural fibers and other substrates that cannot be digested or absorbed in the stomach or small intestine. Once prebiotics reach the colon, they are fermented by intestinal microflora (essentially, they act as food for this good bacteria). This process leads to the production of various compounds that have many health benefits.

Just as our bodies require healthy food to thrive, the good bacteria in our gut also require ‘healthy food.’ Prebiotics are the main energy source for our gut microbiome.

We’ve put together a list of our top choices for the best prebiotic supplements. We’re also going in-depth on these natural fibers to help you better understand how they function and why they are so important to your gut health and overall health. Read on for detailed info on what to look for in a quality prebiotic supplement so that you can make a smart choice about how to find the best supplement for you.

Our Picks for the Best Prebiotics:

What are Prebiotics, and Why Should I Take Them?

Prebiotics are naturally occurring fibers (and other substrates) found in many plant foods. Good food sources include raw onions, raw asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. These fibers are indigestible in the human body. Prebiotics also exist in some plant foods as resistant starch and other substrates (more on this below).

Consuming a diet with adequate prebiotic fibers and resistant starches is possible, but it can be difficult for some people. For this reason, you may want to consider adding a high-quality prebiotic supplement to your diet. In addition, consuming pre-and probiotics during and after undergoing any antibiotic treatment is important for reducing the incidence of dysbiosis (imbalance and/or disruption to microflora) and antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as well as to help repopulate the gut microflora. This is because most antibiotics don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria, and can kill your healthy gut microflora; therefore, you must actively re-populate for optimal health.

While prebiotic supplementation is quite safe, always remember that adding any supplement to your diet can have unintended, negative consequences. For this reason, we recommend that you work with a qualified medical professional before making any changes.

Why Prebiotics Are Important for Our Health

As stated earlier, prebiotics are the main food source for the good bacteria in our gut. This good bacteria requires adequate energy to perform many important roles in our body, including producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), such as butyric acid, that play many roles in our gut and overall health.

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria, also known as our gut microbiome, is one of the most important things we can do to improve health and avoid disease, as described by the Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. An unhealthy gut microbiome can be a major factor in developing many chronic diseases and can even affect our mental health. Believe it or not, if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, your gut health may be one contributing factor.

Nurturing our gut microbiome has the potential to:

Types of Prebiotics

The chemistry behind prebiotics can get a bit overwhelming, so this fact from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) is helpful to remember: “Most prebiotics are dietary fibers, but not all dietary fibers are prebiotics.” This is because not all dietary fibers have prebiotic functions in the digestive tract.

The ISAPP provides further details on the chemistry behind prebiotics: most prebiotics are types of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. These are chains of simple sugars that the human digestive tract cannot effectively break down. Oligosaccharides may be divided further into fructooligosaccharides (FOS), where the simple sugars are from fructose, and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), where the simple sugars are from galactose. Inulin, frequently derived from chicory root, is a type of FOS and is a very common prebiotic found in many supplements.

While these plant fibers make up a major portion of prebiotics, resistant starch is an equally important source of prebiotics, according to Miles Nichols, DAOM, MSOM, LAc and Diane Mueller, ND, DAOM, LAc. Like prebiotics from plant fibers, the human body cannot break down resistant starches. Resistant starches occur naturally in some plant foods like green bananas and oats, and can also be ‘created’ through a process of cooking and cooling rice, potatoes, and other carbohydrates. In supplements, resistant starch may appear as potato starch.

Yet another category of prebiotics comes from non-starch polysaccharides, also naturally occurring in many plant foods. Pectin, found mainly in apples, pears, guava, plums, citrus fruit, and beta-glucans, found in oats and barley, are examples of this type of prebiotic.

It is important to note that each type of prebiotic has a different action in the gut, as supported by a 2017 study in the National Library of Medicine, showing that “different prebiotics will stimulate the growth of different indigenous gut bacteria.” Therefore, it may be beneficial to work with a qualified medical professional to help you identify specific prebiotics that will help you target specific actions in the gut for your individual health needs. Also, consuming a diverse variety of prebiotics will help support the health of the entire microflora.

Prebiotics and Probiotics in Harmony

Prebiotics and probiotics have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they both depend on each other to flourish. While we have discussed how prebiotics act as the primary food source for probiotics, we have not yet touched on the other side of the relationship.

Prebiotics help probiotics by slowing down their transit through the digestive tract, which increases their absorption and increases the chance for probiotic diversity in the gut. According to the British Medical Journal, lack of probiotic diversity is directly tied to an increased risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut health issues, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, obesity, and many other diseases and health concerns.

Additionally, pre-and probiotics work together to alter the composition and activity of the entire gastrointestinal tract, helping to bring balance to a highly complicated system.

How to Take Prebiotics

Prebiotic supplementation is generally very safe. However, significantly increasing fiber intake or increasing it too rapidly may contribute to abdominal pain, bloating, gas or diarrhea. For this reason, consider adding prebiotics slowly, then gradually increasing your dose to the recommended amount (per the instructions on your product packaging). Speak with your doctor or a qualified medical professional to learn more about how to incorporate prebiotics into your diet.

Also, those with certain gut disorders, such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), IBS, or FODMAPs intolerance, may experience negative symptoms from prebiotics. For this reason, you should always consult with a qualified medical professional before supplementation to avoid any unwanted side effects.

For better assimilation into the gut, you should take prebiotics with food. Prebiotics can (and should) be taken simultaneously with probiotics and are safe to take with other supplements. As with any fiber in the diet, be sure that you are getting adequate water to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Daily Dose

There is no clear-cut answer on the quantity of prebiotics we should be consuming on a daily basis. Since many of us consume naturally occurring prebiotics in the foods we are already eating, it’s difficult to put a number on how much a dietary supplement should supply. That being said, various international regulatory and scientific groups do provide some guidance for your total daily intake.

  • Dietary Fiber: 21-26g per day for adult women and 30-38g per day for adult men (RDA)
  • Prebiotic Fiber: 3-5g per day FOS and GOS (ISAPP)
  • Resistant Starch: 15-20g per day (CSIRO)

What to Look for in a Prebiotic

Since each of the different types of prebiotics has different benefits to different gut bacteria, it is a good idea to get a diverse variety of prebiotics. If you are supplementing, choose a product with a few different sources, or choose a product that fills in where your diet may be lacking.

In addition, prebiotics from oligosaccharides, such as inulin, should be raw and unprocessed because, according to a study by European Food Research and Technology, heating inulin may alter it in a way that reduces its functionality.

As the heating (or cooking) of many vitamins and probiotics has the same detrimental effect, it is advisable to avoid any pre- or probiotics in a gummy form. As with all supplements, look for a product that contains no unnecessary additives, fillers, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, as all of these have potentially detrimental health effects.

Our Picks for the Best Prebiotic Supplements:

Best Prebiotic + Superfood Powder: Athletic Greens

This powerhouse powder isn’t advertised as a prebiotic, but the makers did include a good amount of raw plant foods containing prebiotics — namely, raw whole dandelion plants, artichoke and burdock root powder. Athletic Greens packs 7388mg per serving of raw, plant-based superfoods into its daily powder. In addition, the company has added inulin, a FOS prebiotic. To aid your gut health, it also includes a digestive enzyme complex and 38mg of dairy-free probiotics.

Despite all of this raw plant-based powder, Athletic Greens only supplies 2g of dietary fiber per serving. The quantity of prebiotic inulin is not displayed on the label nor their website. However, this powder still serves an impressive array of uber-healthy ingredients, including a mushroom complex to boost immune health and a dose of herbs and antioxidants for overall wellness.

This comprehensive blend of vitamins, minerals, superfoods, antioxidants, enzymes, therapeutic mushrooms, pre- and probiotics is designed to be taken daily. Because it touts so many high-quality ingredients, it may replace your daily multivitamin, your daily probiotic, and possibly other supplements. Athletic Greens is a good product for anyone looking to increase their daily intake of healthy plant foods and improve gut health (and let’s face it, who isn’t?).

The purchase option for these products is divided into either a one-time purchase or a subscription purchase. A one-time purchase is $99 for 30 servings. Subscriptions are divided into two options: Single Subscription or Double Subscription. The Single Subscription is $79 per month and consists of 30 servings, a free starter kit consisting of a storage jar and shaker, plus five free travel packs. The Double Subscription consists of 60 servings, a free starter kit consisting of a storage jar and shaker, free Vitamin D3+K2, and five free travel packs. Both subscriptions are delivered monthly and can be canceled at any time.

Cost: $79 to $99 per 30-day serving pouch, depending on package/subscription level ($2.48 to $3.30 per serving)

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Best Whole-Food Prebiotic: Daily Uplifter Digestive + Mood Organic Plant-Based Prebiotic Fiber

Daily Uplifter was created by an accredited dietitian and nutritionist who works with the Global Prebiotic Association, whose mission is to raise awareness about the benefits of prebiotics. This powder offers a true prebiotic variety from whole food sources. It includes soluble tapioca fiber, green banana flour, and resistant potato starch, all of which are highly desirable whole-food prebiotics. In addition, the powder contains xylooligosaccharides (XOS), another form of prebiotic oligosaccharides.

The creator has also included two probiotics that are key components to improving the gut microbiome as it affects mood and other synergistic ingredients to help improve health. This product comes in an unflavored version and a vanilla version, both of which can be blended into smoothies, sprinkled over yogurts or added to other recipes. With the variety and quantity of prebiotics from whole-food sources, this product is a top choice.

When purchasing this product, you can select a one-time purchase of $29.99 for one bag (14 servings) or a subscription option for $26.99 that saves 10% off of each order.

Cost: $26.99 to $29.99 for one-14 serving bag, depending on the subscription ($1.92 to $2.14 per serving)

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Best Delayed-Release Formula: Olympian Labs Lean & Pure

Olympian Labs Lean & Pure is a pre- and probiotic combo. The formula supplies six different probiotics and prebiotics from fructooligosaccharides. What makes this product special is the delayed-release capsules, which protect the probiotics from getting broken down during digestion by stomach acid and other digestive juices. Because the probiotics are protected through this process, they can arrive at the colon largely unchanged and are more effective. Because of the delayed release capsule, this pre- and probiotic combo is an effective measure for better gut health.

Cost: $36.50 for 30 capsules ($1.21 per serving)

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Dr. Tobias	Deep Immune Probiotics & Prebiotics for Women & Men

Best Formula for Anyone with IBS, SIBO, or Other Gut-Health Issues: Dr. Tobias Deep Immune Probiotics & Prebiotics for Women & Men

This product is free from fibers and starches, which means that it may be a good option for those dealing with IBS, SIBO, FODMAPS intolerance, or anyone who may experience gas or bloating with extra dietary fiber.

This formula contains a healthy dose of 4 different probiotics, including DE111 (Bacillus subtilis), a spore-forming probiotic strain. Spore-based probiotics are unique in that they can survive the transit through stomach acid and other digestive juices at a much higher rate than non-spore-based probiotics, making them much more effective once they reach the colon.

The subscription services can be purchased in 30, 60, or 90-day supplies and save you 10% of the regular purchase price.

Cost: $27 per 60-capsules with discounts for larger pack sizes and subscription service ($1.11 per 2-capsule serving)

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Best Pure Prebiotic Powder: Bulletproof Innerfuel Prebiotic Fiber Powder

If you’re familiar with the Keto diet, you may have heard of the Bulletproof line of supplements. Like bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with butter or coconut oil), these supplements support the Keto lifestyle, which can be restrictive for overall vegetable and starch intake, as these are sources of unwanted carbohydrates. Bulletproof Prebiotic Fiber contains a mix of three keto-friendly prebiotics and nothing else. One of the prebiotics is Larch Arabinogalactan from the bark and heartwood of the Larch tree.

According to Bulletproof, this prebiotic contains a high amount of “free-radical fighting polyphenols” for extra immune support. This product is also a good source of dietary fiber (6g) and contains zero sugar. According to the makers, it is flavorless and easily dissolves in water, making it suitable to add to your coffee, smoothies, or any other beverage. Unfortunately, this product does not contain any probiotics, so you’ll need to supplement those through probiotic foods or supplements.

Cost: $29.96 to $39.95 per 13.4oz, depending on subscription service ($1.49 to $1.99 per serving)

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Best Variety of Prebiotics in One Powder: Klaire Labs Biotagen

Klaire Labs is a leader in gastrointestinal support products, offering a comprehensive line-up of probiotics to suit various needs, compounds to improve the health of the gut lining and prebiotic formulas. Biotagen contains prebiotics from chicory-derived inulin, arabinogalactan from the Larch Tree and beta-glucan. Inulin is one of the most widely used prebiotics because it is known to support the growth of key gut bacteria that are highly supportive of health, including for their regulation of lipid levels and support of the gut-lining.

Arabinogalactan supplies antioxidants and, according to Klaire Labs, “enhances immune function by promoting cytokine production and increasing the number of natural killer cells.” With the addition of beta-glucan prebiotics, which also enhance immune response, this formula supplies one of the widest arrays of prebiotics to feed beneficial gut bacteria for optimal wellness support. This product does not contain any probiotics or any other ingredients, so you will have to supplement those for the best results.

Cost: $28.99 for 5.3oz powder or $34.99 for 120 capsules ($0.96 to $1.16 per serving)

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Best Immune-Boosting Prebiotic: Now AlliBiotic CF

Understanding that gut health is in part responsible for immune health, the makers of Now have formulated a total immune support formula. The brand has included 10mg of Arabinogalactan prebiotic from the Larch Tree. Prebiotics from the Larch tree supplies a good amount of antioxidant-rich polyphenols. On top of that, they’ve included 50mg Elderberry concentrate, 40mg olive leaf extract, 40mg garlic extract and 40mg oregano oil. Elderberry is well known for its immune-boosting abilities. Olive leaf extract is antimicrobial and has health benefits for the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Garlic and oregano extracts are powerful anti-virals.

Unfortunately, this product does not contain any probiotics to help in the functionality of the prebiotics, so you’ll have to supplement. But, if you are looking to support your immune system and boost gut health, AlliBiotic CF is our pick for best prebiotic supplement. And at only 36 cents per serving, this product does deliver a lot of benefits without breaking the bank.

Cost: $21.99 for 60 softgels ($0.36 per serving)

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Prebiotic FAQs

Can I take a prebiotic and probiotic at the same time?

Yes, you can take both prebiotics and probiotics at the same time. Taking a prebiotic with a probiotic can actually boost the effectiveness of the probiotic. There's even a name for pairing these two supplements: microbiome therapy.

How long do prebiotics take to work?

Everyone's gut health is different when they start prebiotics, so the timing of results will vary from person-to-person. The average consumer reports noticing changes in their symptoms within one to three weeks.

What is the best time of day to take prebiotics?

You can take prebiotics at any time of day, but they're best paired with a meal. If you take other supplements or medications with breakfast, that could a good time to take your prebiotic, too. 

The Takeaway

If you are serious about optimizing your overall health, gut health must be a priority. Prebiotics are one of the more important keys to creating a healthy gut microbiome and supplementing prebiotics in the diet is a good way to ensure that you are consuming enough of these special fibers and starches. Remember to consult with a qualified medical professional for the best results, especially if you currently have any gut-related health issues. 

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.