Are prebiotics doing more harm than good? | Integrative functional medicine blog

"Any fool can Know. The point is to understand" - Albert Einstein

Are prebiotics doing more harm than good?

Are Prebiotics doing you more harm than good?

I’d like to start out by saying, I love what I do and Functional medicine is absolutely the future of medicine and healthcare, healthcare, not sick care. Our world is sick and getting sicker and functional medicine doctors are the only ones that I believe can truly help.

So today we are doing a little quick post on an issue having to do with digestive health.


First I’d like to point out that most people are going about restoring their digestive health all wrong. The think if they take this or that supplement or pill that it will fix their digestive problems.
Unfortunately its not as easy or simple as taking a magic pill. There is no magic “anything”. It takes a systematic approach. You cant jump to step 4 before you get through steps 1 - 3.
If you'd like to find out more I do seminars, workshops or whatever you want to call it where we discuss this.

Anyway…Moving on.

So today we are talking about prebiotics - That is with a p.r.e, not an o

To break it down simply is that probiotics are the good bacteria in our intestines. prebiotics are the food for the probiotics. They are also often called Fructooligosaccharides, or FOS for short. Some really good sources of FOS foods include bananas, garlic, onions, chicory, asparagus, artichoke and some grains like wheat and barley, but lets not even get into the whole wheat thing right now. Thats opening an entirely different can of worms.

Interesting tid bit - It’s been estimated that there are more bacteria in our intestines that cells in our body. Some have estimated a 10 to 1 ratio, other more a 1 to 1 ratio. Regardless, its easy to see how types and levels of bacteria can have such an effect on your health. Some joke, are we humans hosting bacteria, or bacteria hosting humans. And to throw another wrench in the works, what about all the antibiotics and antibacterial products everyone uses now. Think that has an effect on your health? Food for thought?

Ok, So there are also lot of different FOS or prebiotic supplements that are available, such as those listed at the bottom of the page. In addition many probiotics include prebiotics with good intentions. But, they may not be right for everyone.

So? Whats the problem with everyone just taking prebiotics all willy nilly like its nothing. Shouldn't it be good for everyone?

Im so glad you asked.

Ill make it short and simple. If you have digestive issues which include belching, farting, bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, heart burn, Irritable bowel syndrome or disease, crohns, ulcerative colitis, or whatever undiagnosed issue you might have, I can pretty much guarantee that you have some level of dysbiosis.

Say what?

Dysbiosis - It basically means that you have too many bad bugs and not enough good bugs in your intestines. The only way to either verify and or confirm this is through running a stool analysis. Not to see is not to know.

Sometime dysbiosis can be a little like the chicken of or the egg. Which can first? Well, in this case it doesn't really matter, because you probably have it.

So most people take prebiotics because they has some sort of digestive issue right? We have already established that most likely they have dysbiosis either causing or contributing to it.

So whats the problem?

Well…lets think about this…If we have more bad bacteria than good bacteria and we are giving bacteria food, aren't we feeding the bad bacteria also?

YES and No. but thats a small no.

Now the research suggests that prebiotics and FOS’s primarily feed the good bacteria more…but….they also feed the bad. The bad bacteria tends to be partial to sugars and carbohydrates but I find that its not really too particular in what you feed it. So what you are doing is very possibly making things worse, leading to more dysbiosis or you might even over do it and give yourself SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Which is basically to much bacteria in the small intestines. Not a fun thing to deal with.

I have had a lot of patients note that probiotics and prebiotics make their symptoms worse, or they initially feel better for a couple of weeks after starting them and then things take a turn for the worse and they wish their friend had never suggested they try their miracle cure they heard about from a brothers wifes second cousins kid they swear worked. Or google MD right? Doctor google told me so!

I use prebiotics and FOS’s ALL the time in my practice. If fact, almost every patient will be on prebiotics at some point.


In my training and experience, using prebiotics all comes down to timing. Its not necessarily “if” you use them, although some wont ever use them, its more of a matter of “when” to use them. Timing is everything.

So here is a little teaser….Its step 3.

So sign up for our newsletter for more great health tips or Give us a call to become a patient.

Until next time
Im Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy

Common PRObiotics I use:

Common PREbiotics I use:

And, finally a great Pro/prebiotic I often use. When called for.

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