What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Probiotics have received much attention and have grown in popularity in recent years but prebiotics, a fiber that acts as a food source for probiotics, are just as important.

IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal illnesses, with about 10 to 15 percent of Americans living with the condition. When many people think of IBS, they think of probiotics. But if you are not taking prebiotics and probiotics together, you may not get all the benefits of probiotics.

Read on to learn about the difference between prebiotics and preobiotics, how they can help balance your gut microbiome, and why taking prebiotics and probiotics together is essential.

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics

Probiotics

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain strains of live bacteria that, when taken in the correct amounts, provide a benefit to human health. These friendly microbes are found in many fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

Birds-eye-view of two yogurt bowls topped with berries and nuts to represent probiotics.

Studies have shown that probiotics can help manage IBS symptoms. To reap the benefits of probiotics, try to include probiotic-rich foods in your diet daily to increase the total count of good microbes in your gut.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are fiber-rich foods that act as food for your friendly gut microbes. Prebiotics can be used for the same reason as probiotics – to improve the balance of your gut microbes.

Some examples of prebiotic-rich foods include:

  • Asparagus
  • Banana 
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Artichokes
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Barley

Prebiotics are anti-inflammatory, which means they help keep inflammation under control. This may help with the management of IBSA single banana against a pink background to represent an example of a prebiotic.

Postbiotics

When you eat prebiotics and probiotics together, they produce unique compounds because of metabolic processes. These compounds are called postbiotics.

Some nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin K, amino acids, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and antimicrobial peptides are all postbiotics. Antimicrobial peptides help slow down the growth of harmful bacteria, while SCFAs help reduce inflammation and control immune function.

Should I Take Probiotics?

I get a lot of questions from my clients about whether to take probiotics. While probiotics can benefit your gut health, they are not a magic solution to your gut problems unless you consistently take them.

There is also a certain amount of trial and error involved with probiotics. While a specific probiotic may work for you now, that same probiotic may not work for you later in life. This is because whether a probiotic will work depends on the current state of your gut microbiome.

Another thing to consider is that if you are not taking prebiotics and probiotics together, you won’t see the full benefits of the probiotics. The probiotics you are taking need prebiotics to grow and thrive, so taking probiotics on their own can only do so much.

Several pill capsules against a white background to represent probiotics and the difference between prebiotics and probiotics.

Final Thoughts

When answering the question “what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?”, the simple answer is that prebiotics are the food that allow the live bacteria from probiotics to thrive. In other words, they have a complimentary relationship and should be taken together in order to allow gut health to flourish. It is also important to note that there isn’t one “perfect” probiotic strain for everyone as people respond differently to probiotics because everyone has a different gut microbiome. This is why it is important to obtain both probiotics and prebiotics from a range of foods in order to diversify bacteria in the gut. 

Your gut health does not depend on probiotics alone. You also need to ensure you’re making other positive changes, like improving your nutrition, increasing physical activity, managing your stress levels, reducing the toxic burden in your body and managing your blood sugar levels.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your gut health, my gut healing program provides strategies and tools that you can implement to heal your gut. Click here to get in touch and book a complimentary 15-minute health discovery call to learn how my gut healing program can help you.

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