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There are various benefits associated with the consumption of prebiotics, however, a small minority of people do find that they could cause bloating or flatulence.
With that being said, these symptoms usually disappear within a few days. This makes you wonder why gas is produced in the first place, and why it then disappears. Is the body adapting to the prebiotics?
Because the homeostasis of intestinal gas isn’t well understood, it’s difficult to link its function and role in understanding the effect in gut disorders1.
Which brings me to this new clinical trial - small but intriguing - which looked into the mechanisms that take place in the microbiota (see Probiotics Learning Lab for definition) that causes the increase, and subsequent decrease in gas production after taking prebiotics.
This trial involved the administration of a prebiotic called Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) to 10 healthy subjects. Intestinal/endogenous gas production (gases produced by colonic bacteria), were measured before, at the beginning, and after 2 weeks of administering the prebiotic. The aim of this trial was to monitor how the microbiota (our gut bacteria) adapts to the introduction of prebiotics2.
They found that the volume of intestinal gas increased by 37% when the prebiotic was first administered. However, the measurements recorded 2 weeks later found intestinal gas production reduced back down to the pre-administration levels.
The results showed that the decrease in gas production was simply caused by a reduction in the production of intestinal gases by resident bacteria. The microbiota adapts and shifts to a low gas producing pathway. This means less gas is produced, and a relatively minute amount is eliminated by way of flatulence as a higher proportion is metabolised.
This research shows, regular consumption of prebiotics could actually help to regulate intestinal gas metabolism. This could go a long way in helping with reducing bloating and excess gas in many people. So, there’s no need to fear prebiotics, sometimes we just need to give our microbiota some time to adjust and adapt to it!
Found this research interesting? Then do take a look at our other interesting blogs and links about prebiotics in the Probiotics Learning Lab:
The Uses of Prebiotics (by Dr Georges Mouton)