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The best prebiotic supplement types can vary based on your individual gut needs.
This post is written to help you sort through all the different types of prebiotics on the market today and to help you find reputable prebiotic supplement brands.
But, prebiotics aren’t necessarily a slam dunk for gut health. So we will review the pros and cons of prebiotics in this post as well. Also, we’ll review how to take them.
Best Prebiotic Supplement Overview
Prebiotics can be helpful in managing many digestive conditions. In most cases, please start with a low dose or ¼ to ½ the recommended dose on the label. If you tolerate that after a week, increase the dose to a full dose.
Prebiotic fibers are notorious for making symptoms worse before making them better. Importantly, you should give your gut some time to adapt to a low dose. In other words, if you want a healthy digestive system, start low and go slow with prebiotics.
The exceptions to the rule are Body Bio Gut+ and Ritual Synbiotic+ because these are not fiber-based prebiotics. These brands are much easier to tolerate for most people.
Types of Prebiotics
There are many types of prebiotics on the market today. Some are sold as fiber supplements and others are sold as extracts from fiber. Yet others are blends of multiple types of prebiotic fibers.
Here are the most common types of prebiotics supplements and ingredients:
- Bacteriophages (Preforpro®)
- Inulin or chicory root fiber (Oligofructose)
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
- Resistant Starches/Dextrins including
- Wheat dextrin *not recommended
- Green banana dextrin
- Resistant potato starch
- Guar Gums and Galactomannan
- Acacia fiber
Each of these specific types of prebiotics has different actions in the body. Let’s review those actions.
Best Prebiotic Supplement Types
A type of prebiotic that is very appealing for digestive health is called Bacteriophages. Prebiotic supplements that contain the ingredient called Preforpro® are Bacteriophages. This type of prebiotic is gentle because it isn’t made from fiber at all. It is a natural prebiotic found in the soil and in fermented foods. It is made up of the DNA or RNA of organisms living there.
This type of prebiotic helps to eliminate harmful bacteria in the gut which then allows the healthy bacteria to flourish more easily. As a bonus, these prebiotics are thought to help fight otherwise difficult-to-treat infections.
The other big bonus of taking this type of prebiotic is that you need only a small amount: 15 mg compared to the other types of prebiotics on the market. Fiber-based prebiotics can take several grams or over 100-fold larger doses than bacteriophages.
It is also suitable for people who don’t tolerate FODMAP foods well such as some people with IBS and SIBO.
Inulin or Chicory Root Fiber
Inulin is a very common type of prebiotic fiber supplement on the market today. It is made from chicory root fiber and is also sold as chicory root. Rich in oligofructose, this prebiotic is known to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. As a coffee substitute, chicory root tastes a bit like coffee when it is roasted.
This type of prebiotic fiber is more likely to cause abdominal bloating and gas, which can make people feel uncomfortable.
If you do decide to take inulin or chicory root, please start with a small amount, such as ¼ the recommended dose and gradually increase it.
One of the best brands of inulin-based prebiotics is called Viteey Fiber Prebiotic Sugar Free Gummies. This gummy prebiotic doesn’t have any added sugar and nothing artificial.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are a type of prebiotic that is extracted from natural foods like onions, garlic, green bananas, artichokes, wheat, barley, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes. This type of prebiotic is common in many dietary supplements.
However, the research is mixed on whether or not it has benefits in the gut. Some research shows that it may decrease a gut-healing compound called butyrate while other research shows it helps make butyrate.
Short-term, it also increases flatulence and gut bloating, sadly. However, it probably goes away if you continue to take it.
In other words, it’s probably too early to tell if it is helpful for everyone. People are different, so it makes sense to try small doses and see how it goes. If you don’t feel well, you can opt for many of the other beneficial prebiotics listed here.
This type of fiber is more commonly found in milk, legumes, and beans. Galactooligosaccharides are notorious for giving beans “their magical fruit” status, meaning flatulence. However, low doses of less than 10 grams per day over time are probably going to minimize this side effect.
The bonus is that GOS helps to reduce symptoms of constipation and may even reduce the chances of allergic skin diseases.
Just Thrive Precision Prebiotic is one of the few prebiotics on the market today that contain GOS.
Eating foods like green bananas, cooled and reheated potatoes and rice, and oats make it easy to get prebiotics into the gut. The reason for this is that they are all rich in resistant starches which act like prebiotics in the body.
By the way, the only reason that I list MRM Green Banana powder as the best prebiotic for men is that Dr. Steven Gundry has marketed this fiber, making this a less stigmatized gut supplement for men.
I don’t recommend getting supplements with wheat dextrin-resistant starch because wheat dextrin (Benefiber), is a highly-processed fiber. It is usually a synthetic form of the carbohydrate portion of wheat that is processed to form a type of fiber.
Additionally, many people who have gluten intolerance are also intolerant of the fiber part of the grain.
Guar Gum (Galactomannan)
Guar gum is a type of prebiotic fiber guar bean seeds. Highly soluble in water, guar gum can soak up water in the gut. This is why it is beneficial for people with diarrhea symptoms.
People struggling with IBS-D have less diarrhea using guar gum and a healthier microbiome according to research. Commonly used doses are 5 grams per day.
The other reason guar gum is great is that it doesn’t seem to come with a lot of side effects, at least according to a study of 60 children with IBS or chronic abdominal pain.
Regular Girl, which is an organic powder, and is a great prebiotic with guar gum. It contains Sunfiber Guar Fiber and Bifidobacterium lactis as a probiotic too. Also good for men.
Psyllium has a long track record as a beneficial prebiotic supplement.
Helpful for reducing the frequency of abdominal pain, psyllium also helps with diarrhea, constipation, and more.
However, like any prebiotic fiber, it can be difficult to tolerate for some people.
A highly rated psyllium prebiotic supplement is called Now Brand Psyllium Husk capsules.
Acacia fiber is also known as gum Arabic. This type of fiber is gentle yet effective.
People with IBS often feel better using acacia fiber. The bonus is that people often have fewer food cravings when they use acacia fiber.
This may result in lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and lower body weight according to some research.
A reputable supplement that contains acacia prebiotic fiber powder is Heather’s Tummy Fiber Organic Acacia Senegal for IBS. The market for this probiotic is typically for women based on the name, but there is no reason why men also can’t benefit from it.
If you are looking for healthy prebiotics, pectin is one of the best prebiotic fiber supplements.
Pectin is a special kind of prebiotic fiber that helps with many aspects of health. Foods that are rich in pectin include apples, guavas, quince, baobab, and citrus fruits.
It works to increase healthy butyrate levels, promotes the growth of probiotics, and even helps to bind and eliminate toxins and heavy metals.
A prebiotic supplement that is rich in pectin is Amy Myers MD Prebiotic Fiber Complete which is also found in the Amy Myers MD Everyday Gut Health Kit.
Related post: The Best Fiber Supplement for IBS-D
Prebiotics and Probiotics: What’s the Difference?
Simply put, prebiotics are food for probiotics.
Probiotics are live organisms that support our body’s natural immunity. In contrast, prebiotics indirectly helps probiotics to do their job by fueling the healthy microbes in the gut.
Many research studies suggest that prebiotics and probiotics work better together.
What about Postbiotics?
Postbiotics are the healthy stuff that is made by probiotics to help heal the gut and make the body and mind happy.
Examples of postbiotics are:
Supplements of postbiotics like butyrate are useful too because they can work as well or better than prebiotics at helping the body’s probiotic balance. Butyrate helps heal the gut lining. It also helps to promote a healthy microbiome and alleviate irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases according to some research.
Postbiotics do all of this while also dampening inflammation in the body.
I’m a huge fan of postbiotics and you can get a combination of prebiotics and postbiotics when you use Body Bio Gut+.
Special Prebiotic Considerations for IBS and SIBO
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is closely tied to a condition called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). SIBO happens when bacteria grow in the small intestine when they shouldn’t grow there.
The result is often pain, gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and more.
Some research shows that using guar gum is helpful. It also makes sense to try using prebiotics that are bacteriophages as reviewed above.
Other fibers can be quite irritating to the gut if you have IBS and/or SIBO. Generally speaking, it is best to try these fibers slowly or to make sure to heal your gut first before adding in fiber if you have these conditions.
If you want to learn more, you can read all about healing the gut with these conditions in my new book called Gut Fix.
Why Prebiotics Are Important
Prebiotics help probiotics thrive in the gut.
By doing so, prebiotics help to:
How Much Prebiotics Do I Need?
The amount of prebiotics you need will depend on how many prebiotics you eat in your diet.
If you eat a diet full of prebiotic-rich foods like citrus, apples, onions, garlic, and other fiber-rich foods, you may not need to add a prebiotic supplement at all to support digestive health.
However, many people really don’t eat enough of these fiber-containing foods, so a supplement can be helpful.
Additionally, Bacteriophage prebiotics may have benefits above and beyond fiber especially if you take it with a postbiotic like butyrate.
What foods are high in prebiotics?
As reviewed above, all fiber-rich foods have some prebiotics in them. Even coffee, chocolate, and tea have a small amount of prebiotics in them!
However, some are highest in prebiotic fibers such as green bananas, chicory root, avocados, onions, garlic, okra, citrus fruit, apples, peaches, legumes, guar gum, oats, baobab, and acacia.
Not all fiber is friendly to all guts, however. If you don’t tolerate a particular fiber-rich food, you should minimize or avoid the gut-triggering food.
Is honey prebiotic?
Yes. All honey, including wildflower honey, contains prebiotics in it.
What is the most effective prebiotic?
This is very different from person to person. Some people do best with Preforpro while others do best with prebiotics like acacia. It can take some trial and error to find the right prebiotic for your own specific gut needs.
Should I combine prebiotics and probiotics?
Yes, they work better together for overall digestive health. You may even want to consider postbiotics like butyrate to help heal the gut as well. A probiotic supplement may work better with a combination of probiotics, prebiotics as well as postbiotics.
How long do prebiotics take to work?
Some people notice they feel better right away while others take a few weeks to notice any benefit of taking prebiotics.
Who should avoid prebiotics?
Prebiotics can work for most people, but if you have SIBO, you should avoid irritating prebiotics such as chicory root. Instead, you may feel better if you try a prebiotic with Preforpro or guar gum. If you have negative side effects from taking prebiotics, you should reduce the dose or stop taking them.
What is the best prebiotic fiber for weight loss?
One study found that acacia fiber at 20 grams per day helped people lose weight. However, that’s a lot of fiber, so if you try adding acacia fiber, it’s best to start with 5 grams a day until your body is used to it.
Is Metamucil a prebiotic?
Yes, it is made of psyllium. I recommend using the capsules because the powdered Metamucil has artificial ingredients.
Does apple cider vinegar have prebiotics in it?
Apple cider vinegar with the mother has small amounts of prebiotics in it because it contains some apple pectin. It also contains digestive enzymes and probiotics as well as postbiotics, making it a great digestive aid.