What’s The Difference Between Prebiotics & Probiotics?

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, exactly?’ This has to be one of the most common questions we hear about probiotics.

After all, probiotics tend to steal the spotlight from time to time, especially due to the wide range of benefits they offer. Though, unfortunately, this also means that prebiotics are pushed aside and ignored - which is a shame, especially considering they have the potential to improve gut health in completely different ways to probiotics. 

Let’s shed a little light on both prebiotics and probiotics. 

If you’re wondering ‘what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics’, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ve covered everything you need to know about prebiotics and probiotics. Find out more below.

What Are Prebiotics?

Let’s start off with prebiotics - what are they and how do they work?

Prebiotics are unique plant fibres, found in food, that encourage the growth of good gut bacteria in the microbiome. In other words, they’re essentially a food source for this bacteria, helping it to spread and support the function of the gut. 

Since these carbs cannot be digested by the body, they pass through the digestive tract and reach the intestines to feed the bacteria. 

Prebiotics are most commonly found in foods such as apples, berries, bananas, greens, legumes, wheat, garlic, and more. Though, they can also be taken as a supplement if necessary. 

The Benefits Of Prebiotics 

At this point, you might be wondering - what are the benefits of prebiotics for gut health? 

The core purpose of prebiotics is to act as a food source for the microorganisms found in your intestines. They feed these good bacteria to stimulate their growth - which in turn allows these microorganisms to spread and balance the microbiome. As a result, this allows the gut to function optimally which improves general health and well-being. 

So, by indirectly supporting the positive balance of good bacteria, prebiotics can help to rebalance to rejuvenate the gut.

What Are Probiotics?

Now that we’ve covered prebiotics, let’s move on to probiotics - what are they and how do they impact the gut?

The gut itself is home to a comprehensive network of live bacteria, fungi, and other microbes - otherwise known as the microbiome. This system is evenly balanced with both good and bad bacteria. Though these delicate scales can tip in favour of bad bacteria in several circumstances - whether it’s due to illness, medication, lifestyle habits, and more. 

A poorly balanced microbiome will have a poor impact on our general health and well-being, leading to poor gut function, gastrointestinal discomfort, and more. Fortunately, this is where probiotics come into the picture. 

Probiotics help by repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria and maintaining this positive balance over time to ensure the microbiome is working as it should be. Many different strains can be found across various probiotic supplements, though the most common ones include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

Probiotics can be found in foods such as yoghurt, kefir, pickles, miso, and more. Probiotic supplements are also available with a larger dosage of bacteria and often come in the form of capsules and drinks. 

The Benefits Of Probiotics 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of probiotics, let’s dive into the nitty gritty - what are their benefits? We’ve covered this below. 

Balances The Microbiome 

One of the most important benefits of probiotics is that they help to rebalance and repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria. When the microbiome becomes negatively balanced with too much bad bacteria, we tend to experience gastrointestinal discomforts such as bloating and gas.

Not only do probiotics help to keep the microbiome positively balanced, but they can also support the function of this system and ensure it’s working how it should be. 

Support General Health 

By balancing the microbiome, probiotics can indirectly support many aspects of our general health, including our heart health and brain health. Though, most notably, probiotics can also help maintain the function of our immune system. 

Ross Barnard’s in-depth analysis of the probiotics lactobacillus casei and bifidobacterium explores the scientific evidence here. Essentially, it’s suggested that probiotics might be able to help with immune function by supporting the production of antibodies and sustaining vital immune cells. 

What’s The Difference Between Prebiotics & Probiotics?

So, what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Let’s answer this popular question.

Though they might sound similar, prebiotics and probiotics both nourish the microbiome in very different ways. Prebiotics support the growth of good gut bacteria by acting as a food source and allowing them to spread and grow. Probiotics are the live bacteria we ingest to repopulate and rebalance the microbiome. 

Because of the crucial roles they play in gut health, both prebiotics and probiotics are vital components of a healthy gut and microbiome. 

*The information in this article should be considered as advice only. Before using probiotics or implementing any of the information above, speak with a healthcare professional. 

March 01, 2024