Prebiotics and probiotics are both still pretty big topics that come up in the health and nutrition space. Even though they sound similar, they play very different roles for your health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics act as food for these bacteria. In this article, we will dive deeper into prebiotics, how they differ from probiotics, and we will also touch on something new, called synbiotics.
Prebiotics vs Probiotics
The lining of your gut, just like every surface of your body, is covered with tiny tiny creatures, mostly bacteria. These organisms create a micro-ecosystem known as the microbiome. Even though we can’t see our microbiome or these tiny bacteria that live on our skin and in our gut, we know that they play a role, and a big role at that, in our health and well-being.
What you feed your microbiome may have the biggest impact on its health. And the healthier it is, the healthier you are. There are two ways to maintain a balanced microbiome, the first is by helping the microbes that are already there to grow by giving them foods they like (prebiotics) and the second is by adding living microbes directly into your system (probiotics).1
Prebiotic-rich foods are high in special types of fiber that support your digestive health. They promote the increase of friendly bacteria in the gut, and help to maintain a healthy digestive system. Prebiotic foods have also been known to support a healthy metabolism and maintain overall good health.2 Prebiotics are found in lots of fruits and vegetables, especially foods that contain complex carbohydrates, like fiber and starch. These carbs aren’t digestible by your body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for your bacteria.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are different because they contain live organisms, usually specific strains of bacteria that add to the population of healthy microbes in your gut. Just like with prebiotics, you can get your probiotics “fix” through both food and supplements. Let’s take a look at some pro-and-prebiotic rich foods.
Prebiotic and Probiotic Rich Foods
Your body cannot completely break down prebiotics, so these compounds pass through the upper part of your GI tract undigested. As they pass through your small intestine and reach your colon, they are fermented by your gut microflora. This fermentation process feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut, helping them to produce essential nutrients which nourish your digestive system.3
Some prebiotic rich foods that can help to feed your good gut bacteria are: apples, garlic, asparagus, leeks, bananas, dandelion greens, onions, and jicama.
Like we mentioned above, prebiotics pass through your digestive system without being broken down by digestive enzymes, and they become an important source of fuel for the probiotics in your gut. Prebiotics and probiotics work closely together to maintain the balance in your microbiome. As a result, they can help to support important bodily functions, lower inflammation, and support healthy digestion and immune fuction.4
Some great probiotic rich foods are: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and pickles.
We didn’t forget about synbiotics! First of all…what are they? The term “synbiotics” refers to the combination of probiotics and prebiotics, working together, in synergy, to improve a person’s health via the microbiome. Studies have shown that when prebiotics are added to probiotics, there is improved viability of the probiotic. This means that if you combine probiotics with prebiotic “food,” for those probiotics, those live cells are more likely to survive and thrive in your gut.5 Synbiotic supplements make it easy to get the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics in one capsule to help feed the good bacteria and maintain bacterial balance in the microbiome.
By adding both pre and probiotic rich foods to your diet, and considering adding these as supplements to your regimen, you can help to support and repair your gut, keeping it and your health in the best shape possible.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.