Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: Understanding the Difference

14 April 2019  |  Editor


Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in certain foods and supplements. These microorganisms, usually bacteria or yeasts, can benefit our health when consumed in adequate amounts. Probiotics are commonly found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, as well as in probiotic supplements.

Probiotics work by colonizing the gut with beneficial bacteria that can help to support digestive health. They can help to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria, which can be disrupted by factors such as poor diet, antibiotics, and stress. Probiotics have been shown to have a range of health benefits, including improving digestion, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of dietary fibre that are found in certain foods. Prebiotics are not digested by the body, but instead, they pass through the digestive system and are fermented by gut bacteria. This fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids, which help to nourish and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Prebiotics are commonly found in foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, and asparagus. They can also be found in some supplements, such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

How Probiotics and Prebiotics Work Together

Probiotics and prebiotics work together to support gut health. Probiotics help to colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics provide the fuel that these bacteria need to thrive.

In addition to their individual benefits, probiotics and prebiotics can work synergistically to support digestive health. A 2018 study found that taking probiotics and prebiotics together had a greater effect on gut health than taking either one alone. The study also found that the combination of probiotics and prebiotics was more effective at reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) than probiotics alone.

Probiotics and prebiotics can also help to support the immune system. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for a strong immune system, and both probiotics and prebiotics can help to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

How to Get Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics can be found in certain foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They can also be found in probiotic supplements, which are available in capsule, tablet, and powder form. When choosing a probiotic supplement, it is important to look for one that contains a variety of strains and has a high number of colony-forming units (CFUs).

Prebiotics can be found in a variety of foods, including onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, and whole grains. Prebiotic supplements, such as inulin and FOS, are also available.


Probiotics and prebiotics are both important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help to colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that provide the fuel that these bacteria need to thrive. When used together, probiotics and prebiotics can have a synergistic effect and support overall digestive and immune health.

When it comes to getting probiotics and prebiotics, it is best to focus on consuming a varied and balanced diet that includes plenty of whole, plant-based foods. In addition, probiotic and prebiotic supplements can be used to supplement the diet as needed. However, it is important to choose high-quality supplements from reputable brands and to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

In summary, probiotics and prebiotics are two distinct but complementary components of a healthy gut microbiome. By understanding the differences between these two types of gut-healthy substances, we can make informed decisions about how to support our digestive and immune health.


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