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Planning a Trip? Be Sure to Pack a Prebiotic Supplement

Prebiotics help your body produce beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Maintaining a healthy level of these "good bacteria" is essential for digestive health and immune system function.

The findings of a study published in the September 2009 issue of The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that prebiotics may significantly reduce the likelihood of travelers’ diarrhea.

For the study, researchers from the Department of Food Biosciences at the University of Reading, England recruited 159 healthy volunteers traveling to a country with high risk for traveler's diarrhea.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive a prebiotic supplement or a placebo for one week prior to their vacation until the end of their holiday.

The participants completed a questionnaire before and after their vacation to measure their bowel habits and occurrence of abdominal discomfort, flatulence, bloating or vomiting.

37% of the participants taking the placebo experienced traveler's diarrhea compared to only 24% of the participants who took the prebiotics. Furthermore, the duration of diarrhea was reduced in the prebiotic group, lasting an average of 2.4 days, compared to 4.6 days in the placebo group.

The participants who took the prebiotic supplements also experienced much less abdominal pain, with an average of 2 days over the course of their vacation compared to nearly 4 days for the placebo group.

The researchers believe this study may also have implications for non-travelers, due to the fact that alcohol use, stress, disease and diet can cause bacteria in your bowels to get out of balance.

As good bacteria in your gut decreases in number, bad bacteria thrive. This can be have an adverse effect on your immune system and possibly lead to weight gain.

Maintaining a balanced level of bacteria is especially an issue for people over the age of 60, who tend to have a significantly reduced number of friendly bacteria available to aid digestion.

To increase prebiotic levels you can try eating more of the many foods that contain prebiotics such as asparagus, garlic, onions and whole grains.

A high quality supplement is also an effective way to boost prebiotic levels.

The best supplements contain several different bacteria strains (different strains have different benefits) and several billion bacteria cells. It is important to ensure they are packaged to block light, air, and moisture, which will easily kill prebiotics.

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