Supplementing daily with prebiotics enhances calcium absorption according to a new study out of Purdue University. Just a 5-gram serving/day of galacto-oligosacccharides (GOS), a soluble, non-digestible fiber that can be fermented by gut microflora and used for food, increased calcium absorption in a group of 31 healthy adolescent girls according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Probiotics are live microorganisms found in cultured foods such as yogurt. You can also purchase probiotics in supplement form. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a kind of “fertilizer” for probiotics and the microbes that live in your digestive tract. Prebiotics promote beneficial strains of gut microbes and are therefore great for improving digestive health. Both pro and prebiotics are in fact essential to a person’s overall health and well-being. Onions and garlic are excellent food sources of prebiotics but it may be necessary (especially if you have digestive disturbances) to supplement your diet with higher doses of prebiotics along with high doses (10 to 50 billion) of probiotics.

There are several forms of prebiotics commonly sold in health food stores or on internet sites. The most common prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose (fructooligosaccharide) from chicory root, beta-glucan from brewers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), larch arabinogalactan, and galacto-oligosaccharides. Prebiotics help to balance gut microbial populations and promote beneficial strains of bacteria such as bifidobacteria.

If you have bone loss, there is a good chance you would benefit from improved gut health. Not only will taking a small scoop of prebiotics daily improve your calcium absorption but it will also promote healthy strains of gut microbes that help to reduce excess cortisol production, promote normal sex hormone levels, and keep your cholesterol normal. For more information on the benefits of pre and probiotics go to Ray Medina is the owner and writes a very informative blog. If you have a question regarding pre or probiotics, Ray is the man to ask…he is a walking encyclopedia.

Whisner, CM et al. 2012. Galacto-oligosaccharides increase calcium absorption and gut bifidobacteria in girls: a double-blind cross-over trial. British Journal of Nutrition, March, 14:1-12.