Probiotics vs Prebiotics - What's the Difference?
These are live microorganisms isolated from humans and then cultured in a lab to be used as a supplement. When we ingest them (whether in food or supplement form), they survive in the gut and provide benefits to us like the good bacteria that we naturally have.
This is a food source for the friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract. Our digestive system can’t break down prebiotics, so they survive the journey through the digestive tract. They eventually reach the part of the colon where the friendly bacteria hang out. The bacteria have the chops to break down the prebiotics into nutrition that helps them grow and thrive.
Probiotics are the health-promoting gut bacteria you’ve been hearing about for years. They’re found in fermented food products like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, and many types of probiotics are similar to the bacteria naturally residing in our guts. Probiotics swing your overall bacterial balance toward “good,” preventing harmful bacteria from overpowering your system and creating issues like inflammation, infection, or gastrointestinal symptoms linked to diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are entirely different. Unlike probiotics, they’re not living organisms. Prebiotics are soluble, fermentable fibers that we’re unable to digest in our stomachs. This allows them to progress to our intestines, where they get gobbled up by probiotics and fermented into short-chain fatty acids. It’s these fatty acids that provide all the good-for-you benefits that keep us healthy long after we’ve eaten our last spoonful of Greek yogurt.
In addition to feeding your good gut bacteria, prebiotics can:
- Help you absorb calcium
- Change the rate at which foods cause spikes in blood sugar (the glycemic index)
- Ferment foods faster, so they spend less time in your digestive system and you stay regular
- Keep the cells that line your gut healthy
Probiotic & Prebiotic Food Sources
You’ll find prebiotics in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like:
- Green vegetables
- Legumes (peas and beans)
Some products have added prebiotics. You might hear this called fortified. They include:
When you’re shopping for these products, you probably won’t see the word prebiotic won’t on the label. Instead, look for terms like:
- Chicory fiber
For more information on Probiotics & Prebiotics, check out the articles below!