What is the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics

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Many individuals mistake probiotics and prebiotics for one and the same due to their similar-sounding names, however, there is a slight distinction between the two.

So, knowing the difference between probiotics and prebiotics will help you better decide on the brand of supplements you wish to purchase to ease your health condition or provide additional health benefits.

The first relates to the helpful gut bacteria themselves, while the second refers to the food that they require to survive.

Most people know about probiotics and they’re aware that they can be good for your health. But do you really understand how these supplements work, or why it’s important to take them on a regular basis?

It turns out that there is quite a difference between prebiotics and probiotics. While both of these supplement types are beneficial to our digestive system, each one performs different functions in the body.

Probiotics are good bacteria

Probiotics are proxies for the ‘friendly’ microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract – live bacteria and yeasts – and can help maintain digestive system health.

More than 1,000 different species/strains of bacteria have been detected with enough frequency to be termed a ‘typical’ part of the human microbiome, and the gut microbiome is a highly complex and dynamic community of microorganisms, the majority of which are bacteria.

Although the microbiome’s overall association with human bodies is positive and useful, particular species and strains may have harmful characteristics in certain situations.

These organisms are capable of producing poisons and acting as opportunistic pathogens.

One of our beneficial bacteria’s key jobs is to assist exclude and/or inhibiting harmful ones from causing harm.

Maintaining a favorable balance of all bacteria species is critical for maintaining the microbiome’s health and preventing the proliferation of potentially harmful bacteria strains.

Dysbiosis is a bacterial imbalance that can cause symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation.

What is the best way for me to consume probiotics?

Probiotics can be consumed as a supplement or as part of a healthy diet.

Live yogurt, sourdough bread, and fermented foods like kimchi, kefir (milk or water), sauerkraut, and kombucha are all high in probiotics.

Look for the word “raw” on the label, as any pasteurization will kill the microorganisms.

We can help enhance the number of friendly bacteria in our stomachs by consuming a couple of spoonfuls or half a glass each day.

If you’re new to fermented foods but want to give them a try, we recommend starting with a teaspoon each day and gradually increasing the amount.

If you don’t want to eat fermented foods, supplements can be beneficial. Look for a multi-strain-friendly bacteria supplement with a high number of commensal bacteria strains that are naturally found in the human gut and are backed by research.

Bottles with probiotics and prebiotics dairy drink on light blue background.
Bottles with probiotics and prebiotics dairy drink on light blue background.

What are prebiotics and what do they do?

Prebiotics are the bacteria’s diet, while probiotics are the bacteria themselves. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and inulin are the three types.

In addition, resistant starch, a form of starch that is resistant to digestion in the upper section of the digestive tract, is classified as a prebiotic.

  • FOS is a type of carbohydrate derived from plants that are indigestible to humans. As a result, they move through our digestive tract and into the large intestine, where they feed probiotic bacteria. Because FOS is derived from plants rather than lactose (see GOS below), it is a good prebiotic for people who are lactose intolerant.
  • GOS is found in breast milk and is hypothesized to aid in the formation of the baby’s microbiome by feeding beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Lactose in milk can also be used to make GOS. GOS has been demonstrated to have a prebiotic effect even at moderate doses, making it ideal for people with IBS who are concerned about bloating caused by large prebiotic doses.
  • Inulin is a natural polysaccharide (a collection of simple sugars linked together) found in the roots and tubers of plants like chicory.

Regularly consuming prebiotics, such as those found in foods high in FOS, GOS, or inulin, helps to increase the number and diversity of our microbiota.

When beneficial bacteria eat prebiotics, they produce by-products like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have been demonstrated to improve our health. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

What foods are the best prebiotics?

Chicory, garlic, leeks, onions, green bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, and asparagus are all high in prebiotic fiber. High quantities of butyrate, a kind of SCFA, are produced by resistant starch, which can be found in cooked and cooled pasta, rice, and potatoes.

If these items aren’t a regular part of your diet, you can also take a supplement containing FOS or GOS to keep your gut bacteria happy.

In conclusion

Difference between probiotics and prebiotics

As a result, it’s important to include probiotics and prebiotics (or a supplement) in your diet on a daily basis.

Whilst it appears to be a minor difference between probiotics and prebiotics, they both work together to keep the gut microbiome healthy.

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