Prebiotics and Probiotics: What They Are and the Difference between Them

Prebiotic and Probiotic both are essential for your gut health. (Image by Alexander Mils / Pexels)
Prebiotic and Probiotic both are essential for your gut health. (Image by Alexander Mils / Pexels)

There are all kinds of things that can go wrong with your tummy, but the good news is that there are things you can do to keep it happy and healthy. Prebiotics and probiotics are two of the main bacteria and you probably have heard about them often, but they’re often confused for one another.

Let’s clear up any confusion by talking about what each one is and what role it plays in maintaining a happy gut.

What is prebiotic and probiotic?

Prebiotics are basically like fertilizers for your gut bacteria. These are certain types of fiber that feed good bacteria in your intestines and help them grow and multiply. This is important because your gut is home to good bacteria that help keep you healthy.

Probiotics, on the other hand, contain live strains of good bacteria that help increase the number of beneficial microorganisms in your digestive tract, which can improve your digestion, support immunity, and help in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from meals.

The difference between prebiotics and probiotics lies in the way they work together. Prebiotics serve as fuel for probiotic bacteria, helping them grow and flourish within your body so that they can do their job of keeping your gut healthy—that’s why, for optimal gut health, it’s best to maintain a balance between them.

Why Gut Health is important?

The trillions of bacteria that live all over your body help protect you from harmful bacteria and fungi by competing with them for resources and space. This allows the good bugs to battle the bad guys before they can cause you any harm. Your body's bacteria also support immune system functions, helping you fight off viruses and other illnesses.

The bacteria in your gut may have a significant impact on your mental health, reducing stress levels and even affecting how you feel about yourself.

The good bacteria that live inside your colon also create some helpful vitamins, including vitamin K, which supports blood clotting and bone health. These bacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids, which fuel the growth of cells that line the colon. This helps build a strong barrier between the gut and the rest of the organs.

Which foods are prebiotic?

Before you run to the supplement store, remember that many foods naturally contain prebiotic fiber.

Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and beans. Your gut bacteria breaks down these fibers into short-chain fatty acids, nutrients your body needs to maintain a healthy gut.

Here are some foods that contain prebiotic fiber:

  • Beans
  • Dandelion greens
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Oats.

Which foods are probiotic?

One of the easiest ways to increase your intake of probiotic bacteria is to eat more yogurt. A plain, organic, low-fat yogurt can provide your digestive system with a boost to healthy bacteria.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir can also help with digestion because they contain good bacteria that thrive on naturally occurring sugars or fibers in the foods. Other types of fermented preserved vegetables like pickles and pickled vegetables can also be healthy.


#1 Benefits of prebiotics

Prebiotics are foods that contain a type of carbohydrate that can only be digested by certain bacteria in your gut. When these bacteria digest prebiotics, they release a variety of nutrients and compounds that can benefit your health

  • Mineral absorption is improved, and that may have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and other immune-boosting qualities.
  • Prebiotics may help people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
  • Prebiotic meals enhance satiety, which helps to avoid obesity and encourage weight loss.
  • Prebiotics promote in the absorption of minerals in the body, such as magnesium, iron, and calcium, all of which are essential for strong bones.

#2 Benefit of Probitoics

Probiotics are known to help with a wide range of health problems, from gut health to mental health.

  • They improve gut health, they help you stay regular, and they reduce diarrhea.
  • They also help boost your immune system against invaders such as bad bacteria, yeast overgrowth, fungi, and viruses.
  • And finally, if your gut is sometimes called your “second brain,” its the balance of bacteria that directly affects your mental health.

Should you be taking prebiotic and probitoic together?

To keep your body performing at its best, it’s vital to maintain the right balance of bacteria in your gut.

Your gut health depends on the delicate balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. Calling this microbe population “flora” or “microbiota” is just one way to describe it. Good bacteria help ward off inflammation, keep harmful infections and diseases at bay, and perform other biological functions.

Key Takeaway

While both prebiotics and probiotics are important to keep your gut healthy, they serve different purposes.

Prebiotics are food for good bacteria already naturally in your gut, while probiotics add to that population of good bacteria.

That said, you can get extra probiotic foods as well for an extra boost of good bacteria. No matter how you slice it, your gut health is important.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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