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What are prebiotics?

Prebiotic oligosaccharides are non-digestible carbohydrates (i.e. a source of dietary fibre), which stay in the digestive tract and are not absorbed. 
What do they do?
In the large intestine, they absorb water and this has the effect of making stools softer and easier to pass.  They also stimulate the growth of “friendly” bacteria (probiotics), such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are present there.  This helps to restrict the number of potentially pathogenic bacteria which could cause infection and also ensures a more healthy gut microflora.

Where are prebiotics found?
Breastmilk contains large amounts of prebiotic oligosaccharides, including galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).  The consistency of stools of breastfed babies should be softer, thus aiding digestion. Prebiotics are also present in other foods such as asparagus, bananas, leeks, garlic and tomatoes.

Do prebiotics have a role in allergy prevention?
There is some evidence that prebiotics may play a role in the management of allergic diseases, such as eczema, but the results of the research into this are not conclusive.

Prebiotics research: