Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

​​When your gut bacteria become imbalanced, often due to lack of good bacteria or an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you can see side effects like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas and more. Balancing out your gut bacteria starts with prebiotics and probiotics. In this article we take a closer look at both of them, highlighting the key differences but also show how prebiotics and probiotics interact with each other.

Prebiotics

What are Prebiotics?

“Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that bypass the small intestine, down to the colon where they are fermented by Probiotics or the “good” bacteria that colonizes the gut”, says Dr. Vincent Pedre, author of the Happy GutIn other words, Prebiotics are the main fuel source that Probiotics utilize to maintain a well functioning gut. 

Prebiotics can either be consumed from certain foods or through supplemental use. More on this below.

What are the benefits of Prebiotics?

Research suggests that Prebiotics may benefit the body by:

  • Increasing the number of gut friendly bacteria in the gut
  • Helping to prevent and to relieve various digestive problems
  • Helping to boost the immune system
  • Increasing calcium and magnesium absorption for stronger bones

What foods have Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are naturally found in the following foods:

  • Onions,Garlic, Leeks
  • Soybeans
  • Chicory Root
  • Raw Honey, Bananas
  • Jerusalem Artichoke

Alternatively Prebiotics can be taken in supplement form. For example, My Source’s Fiber G is a great all around gut health product.

One serving of Fiber G contains 7g of the following Prebiotic Fiber Blend: Oat fiber, Apple Pectin Powder, Psyllium Husk, FOS from Chicory Root & Fibersol-2.

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Probiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast present in the gut microbiome that help the intestines break down food. Probiotics are labeled as the “good” or “healthy” bacteria because they help to fight off pathogens and keep the gut function optimally. Moreover, there are a variety of probiotics strains including lactic acid producing bacteria, non-lactic acid producing bacteria, and different types of yeast. Each of these probiotic strains can have different functions and effects on the body. The two most common and studied strains are known as:

  1. Lactobacillus: This may be the most common probiotic and is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Lactobacillus strains may help to inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, as well as, may help improve common digestive conditions and diseases. Studies also indicate that this strain in particular may benefit individuals who have a hard time digesting lactose.
  2. Bifidobacterium: commonly found in dairy products and fermented foods. May help with certain digestive conditions, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This strain in particular has been shown to survive in the challenging conditions of the digestive tract making it effective to consume as an oral supplement. Bifidobacterium is effective in treating constipation, as well as, diarrhea and has been shown to relieve inflammation in the gut and skin.

What are the benefits of Probiotics?

Research suggests that Prebiotics may benefit the body by:

  • Helping your intestines to break down and digest food
  • Restoring the good gut bacteria during or after antibiotic use
  • Helping to support overall gut health and immune function
  • Playing a vital role in the production and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters

What foods have Probiotics?

Probiotics are naturally found in the following foods:

  • Yogurt, Kefir, Cottage Cheese, Cheddar Cheese
  • Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Pickled Vegetables
  • Kombucha
  • Miso, Tempeh 

Alternatively Probiotics  can be taken in supplement form. For example, My Source’s Fiber G is a great all around gut health product.

One serving of Fiber G contains 40 Billion CFU of Lactic Acid Bacteria.*

Summary

You need both prebiotics and probiotics. It’s a synergistic relationship. Without prebiotics as fuel, probiotics would starve — leaving you open to a host of problems, such as leaky gut, a compromised immune system, and constipation. And with no probiotics around to eat them, prebiotics would be of little value to your gut.

Keeping your gut bacteria balanced is important to maintain overall health. To do this, either start incorporating both prebiotic and probiotic rich foods as mentioned above or consider implementing a supplement to your daily regimen.

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About the author

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Chiara Ghanem