Why I Don’t Recommend the Use of FOS’s for Improving Gut Health

Why I Don't Recommend the Use of FOS's for Improving Gut Health

Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients or supplements that stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria and may also help improve your immune system. 1 Feeding probiotics in the hope that they naturally populate your large intestine should be done with the upmost caution. You do not want their numbers to increase so greatly that they become opportunistic, and SIBO occurs. 2

The use of prebiotics is not always beneficial in people with digestive issues. If prebiotics are incorrectly supplemented as probiotics sometimes are, they may cause you to either develop SIBO or worsen your digestive ailments. In people with SIBO, most prebiotics will ferment and create more gas that will cause your symptoms to worsen. 3

The Problems With the Overuse of Inulin and Other FOS’s

Inulin is a group of natural polysaccharides. Inulin is found in a lot of different plants and belongs to a dietary class known as fructans. Foods that naturally contain inulin are chicory, onion, bananas, garlic, asparagus, wheat, tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichoke. Inulin is fermentable in the intestines and helps provide “food” for bacteria to reproduce. 4

Remember the link that I mentioned between prebiotics and SIBO? If you research fructans and many of the different foods that were listed earlier, you will eventually find information that point you to FODMAP’s. FODMAP’s are fermentable foodstuff that are known to contribute to SIBO symptoms and increase abdominal gas in certain people. 5

Most people with SIBO go on an anti-FODMAP diet to help eliminate the excess bacteria they have in their small intestine. Fructans (inulin, FOS) are considered the greatest contributor to SIBO in most people and, therefore, should be avoided in people with SIBO. 6

Fructooligosaccharides are oligosaccharide fructans that are either sourced from different foods containing inulin or are made from the yeast Aspergillus niger reacting to fructose. 7

FOS’s are also fermentable in the gut like inulin and provide nutrients for bacteria to reproduce. 8

FOS’s and inulin both feed probiotic bacteria and opportunistic bacteria in the gut. They have been found to feed the probiotic bacterial genus Bifidobacteria. Though increasing Bifidobacteria in the colon may be healthy, overpopulation of the bacteria may lead to SIBO. Also, both prebiotics have been found to feed different potential opportunistic organisms including Candida, Klebsiella, and Salmonella. Increased populations of Klebsiella in the intestines have been linked to intestinal permeability (leaky gut.) FOS, and inulin can also feed yeast like Candida, so people with active yeast infections should also limit their intake. 9

If you choose to use either FOS’s or inulin as your prebiotic, I recommend only to use it for a very short period, and if you develop SIBO follow the outlined SIBO protocol in Fix Your Gut to help relieve it.

  1. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/prebiotics/
  2. Lee, Yuan, Salminen, Seppo. Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, Wiley, December 2008.
  3. Lee, Yuan, Salminen, Seppo. Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, Wiley, December 2008.
  4. Lee, Yuan, Salminen, Seppo. Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, Wiley, December 2008.
  5. http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/knowledge_base/detail/inulin/
  6. http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/knowledge_base/detail/inulin/
  7. Lee, Yuan, Salminen, Seppo. Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, Wiley, December 2008.
  8. Lee, Yuan, Salminen, Seppo. Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, Wiley, December 2008.
  9. http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/knowledge_base/detail/inulin/
22 Comments
  1. Sorry, but we’re not all expert in this area and the use of undefined acronyms does not help. FOS? SIBA? FODMAPS? It’s standard practice to give the complete name initially and then use the acronym.

    • FOS – fructooligosaccharide, SIBO – small intestine bacterial overgrowth, FODMAP – fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols.

  2. In terms of chain length, I can tolerate all inulin food sources and chicory root powder except for Jerusalem Artichokes, but labelled FOS will bring on excessive and foul flatulence! I have read that the processed ones are usually shorter and fermented faster. Btw I also cannot tolerate potato starch, guar gum, baobab powder, figs, apricots or sugar alcohols. I can’t figure out a common fiber or sugar between these–anyone know which species consume them? My UBiome shows no enteric pathogens present. Also no Bifidos or Lactos despite probiotics and prebiotic diet. Main issue is high number of Desulfovibrio bacteria (SRB) so I can only figure they are consuming Hydrogen produced from beneficial fermentation in combo with sulfur.

    I’m going to try pepto bismol to lower SRB’s and will try GOS and arabinogalactans as alternate fibers to feed the beneficials.

  3. What about doing colon reflorastation using probiotic with fos if you have Sibo? I understand from Dr. Siebecker that there are 6 studies that indicate using probiotics are just as effective as antibiotics. If we use the probiotic in the colon wouldn’t that be better than swallowing them?

    Thank you.

  4. I have a severe case of C-Diff caused by an antibiotic. I am taking VSL-3 along with Dificid (second time round). Will the prebiotic supplements feed the bad bacteria as well as the good bacteria?

  5. I am so very confused now about FOS. I was reading earlier that they provide a food source for beneficial bacteria and yet now I am reading here that they also feed the wrong kind of bacteria? I am incredibly lost. I am looking for a probiotic for my 6yr old son who suffers from thrush (mainly oral). I will be starting him on a course of grapefruit seed extract which kills good and bad bacteria in the gut and so need a good, ‘safe’ probiotic to repopulate his gut, preferably free from sugar, sucrose, colours, flavours etc!!

    Any recommendations/advice would be much, much appreciated please!! Thanks

    • Hi that the problem trying to kill something you can’t your body have to do it. Grapefruit extract would just make it worse you got a lot to learn

    • Fighting candida and thrush currently, Ive had thrush for over 10 years. I can say with the utmost certainty that currently I am beating my thrush for the first time. The mixture I use is brush well, pull oil through your mouth for 10 to 15 afterword, and finish rinsing with salt water.
      Important part is the coconut oil pulling, this is a natural antifungal. It is necessary to spit oil out afterward because it is full of toxins.

      Good luck on your journey.

  6. Good advice. I had a Doctor’s Data test done through a professional naturopathic physician. I was found to have a pathogenic amount of Citrobacter freundii, which feeds on fructooligosaccharides. I am going on a low-FOS diet with some targeted antimicrobials and antifungals to rebalance. I’m glad I didn’t take an inulin and FOS supplement before, it just would have made symptoms worse.

    • I had the same results from dr data. What supps are u taking and are u taking an antibiotic? My good bacteria was.low also. Dont feel well on probiotics. Dont know what to do

    • did ou get rid of citrobacter freundii? i felt a lot worst having loads veg now i know why

      thanks

  7. As I am searching for supplementing my diet with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, though am not keen on ingesting FOS as it might be linked to increasing the gut population of Klebsiella, I am looking for an alternative to ingest these micro-organisms without being supplemented with FOS. Do you have any idea of such a product existing?

  8. I think you miss the point with SIBO. It is not caused by prebiotics or by FODMAPs. There is enough evidence right now to know that it is caused by food poisoning which damages the gut nerves. If we’re talking about people whi have it, and what to prevent reccurence, than yes, maybe it is wise to avoid, but I would probably go prokinetic route instead, and try to go back to normal diet.

    • If your diet is rich in prebiotics and FODMAPs it could cause an increase of probiotic bacteria that spill over into the small intestine. This however is not the only cause of SIBO. Gastroparesis and slow intestinal emptying can cause SIBO, by causing more matter to be able to ferment in the large intestine and cause the same reaction to happen and I mention it in my book and on my website.

      Food poisoning, can contribute to developing SIBO if the use of antibiotics occurs. Most of the time the illness we call “food poisoning” actually occurs from ingesting the toxins that the bacteria produce, which is what makes us ill, and not the actual bacteria themselves. Foodborne intestinal infections can occur, but they are much rarer.

      Also, for your reference, http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=SIBO+and+foodborne+infections&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C34&as_sdtp=, there have been no studies done to prove your theory.

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