Prebiotics and Probiotics: What’s the difference?


Probiotics are widely known as “good” bacterial cultures that occur naturally in our gut to help us maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. However, the lesser known term, “prebiotics”, play an equally important role. Do you know the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in our bodies and outside in foods, and behave as regulators of our GI tract. On the other hand, prebiotics serve as food fuel in order for probiotics to do their job. As a more concrete definition, prebiotics are relatively indigestible carbohydrates that work in partner with probiotics. While we can obtain probiotics from foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, prebiotics are predominately found in fibrous vegetables and grains. Wheats, oats, onions, and garlic are examples of prebiotic-containing foods.

When prebiotics and probiotics work together, they form what’s called a symbiotic relationship to fight back against potentially harmful microorganisms that might be inhibiting our immune and digestive systems. For many people, they specifically aid in the regulation of irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, and cold symptoms.

The effects seen from prebiotics and probiotics depend on how much of them you have. As noted before, while probiotics live in our gastrointestinal tract, we mainly obtain prebiotics through our food. By eating prebiotic rich foods, we are essentially supplementing and helping our bodies’ probiotics flourish. However, we still eat foods rich in probiotics; fermented foods like sauerkraut are a great example.

Not all probiotics and prebiotics serve the same purposes or to the same degree. For example, in the case of probiotics and yogurt, some brands may have certain live Lactobacillus cultures and not others, meaning you’re getting different probiotics depending on the type of culture used to create the yogurt.

Now that you understand the differences between probiotics and prebiotics, go out and enjoy a variety of foods in order experience the benefits that they yield. The key to achieving a well-regulated GI system is through a balanced diet.

Sources of information:

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