Beyond Glucose – How We Get Energy from Prebiotic Dietary Fibre
Most of the carbohydrates we eat are digested in the stomach and small intestine, where they are carved up into glucose and absorbed by the blood stream. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, glucose is easily transported around the body and many tissues actually prefer to use glucose as an energy source, including the brain. That said, the consumption of glucose-rich foods will trigger a large release of insulin, a process that the body can become resistant to over time. This can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes and other complications.
Blood glucose highs and lows aren’t unique to people with diabetes – they occur in otherwise healthy people. Levels rise following a meal, snack, or beverage containing simple starches or sugar as your body responds by increasing the release of insulin. In time, your body responds to insulin elevation by taking excess glucose from the blood and storing it in muscle or fat cells. Once levels decrease and glucose absorption from the food is complete, the body then begins the process of producing its own glucose, an event that largely takes place in the liver. This cycle continues, often associated with perceived ‘high’ and ‘low’ energy periods, throughout our day.
However, glucose isn’t the only source of energy we obtain from our diets. An often overlooked source of energy comes from our dietary fibre, sometimes referred to as prebiotics. These are complex carbohydrates that resist digestion in the stomach and small intestine, and are fermented by healthy bacteria in our colon. Here, they provide many benefits, including the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Importantly, SCFAs are similar to glucose in that they can be transported throughout the body and used as an energy source by a number of cells.
Why should you care about dietary fibre, healthy bacteria, and SCFAs? Fermentation of prebiotic dietary fibre by healthy bacteria is a gradual process, allowing SCFAs to slowly enter the system. This continuous process acts over long periods of time and occurs independent of insulin signaling, avoiding blood sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. In other words, the healthy bacteria in your gut reward you with additional energy when you feed them prebiotics.
So consider increasing your dietary fibre by adding a prebiotic to your diet. It’s hard to imagine someone who couldn’t benefit from adding a sustained energy boost to their day, whether it be elite athletes or young parents just trying to make it through the day until their children’s bed times. And you can feel comfortable knowing that your increased energy is coming from a natural, healthy source.