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Probiotics vs Prebiotics: What You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 11, 2023


Maintaining good gut health has become the talk of the town recently. Touted by everyone from our neighbors to the medical experts as the ‘end all-be all’ to good health. While we’ve heard about probiotics and prebiotics a thousand times by now, do we really understand the difference and their role in keeping our bodies healthy? Both Probiotics and Prebiotics are good for us, they just help in different ways.


Probiotics

No all bacteria are unhealthy-our bodies are made up of both unhealthy and healthy bacteria. Probiotics refer to living bacteria organisms that when consumed, add to the already good bacteria in our gut. Examples of probiotics are:

-fermented foods

-yogurt

-Kombucha (a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast)

-Tempeh

-sauerkraut

-kefir


Benefits of Probiotics

The main benefit of consuming probiotics are that they help keep our bodies neutral by balancing out the bad bacteria with good. Other benefits include of probiotics include:

  • aiding our bodies in the digestion of food

  • boosting our immune systems to prevent illnesses

  • play a role in breakdown and absorbing medications we take

  • control excess inflammation in the body


Common Types of Probiotic Bacteria

Lactobacillus

Bifidobacterium


Sound familiar? You bet! This is what’s found in yogurt. If you don’t like yogurt, no worries, there are plenty of other foods/drinks and supplements that contain the healthy bacteria you need.


Prebiotics

Prebiotics are special plant fibers that when consumed, “feed” the good bacteria in our guts to help it grow. This is turn, helps improve digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. Like probiotics, probiotics are found in many of the foods we commonly eat including:

-high fiber foods

-fruits

-vegetables

-whole grains

-Jerusalem artichokes

-beans

-chicory

-cocoa

-flaxseed

-garlic

-onions


Benefits of Prebiotics

Consuming a minimum of 5grams of prebiotics a day by eating whole foods can help with things like:

-Absorbing calcium better

-Controlling your blood sugar spikes and drops

-Improving bowel regularity


The recommended intake of fiber in general is 25-30 grams/day. If you are not used to eating prebiotic containing foods specifically, start small and build your way up to 5 grams of prebiotics. Although, side effects are rare, if too much is consumed at once, some people may experience things like bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas.


Common Types of Prebiotic Types of Bacteria

-Galactooligosaccharides

-Fructooliosaccharides

-Oligofructose

-Chicory Fiber

-Inulin

-Breast Milk


In Summary

Both probiotics and prebiotics are good for you and can be consumed together which is believed to make them even more effective. This idea is referred to as microbiome therapy. Whether taken alone or together, the benefits are vast and contribute to a healthy, happy gut. If you are interested in increasing your gut health or are experiencing GI issues, a Registered Dietitian is a great resource to evaluate your current diet and assist you in improving how you eat to become a healthier you!


References:

Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You. Available at https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-creating-a-healthier-you Accessed on April 26, 2022


What are Prebiotics and What Do They Do? Available at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-are-prebiotics/ Accessed on April 26, 2022


Probiotics: What You Need to Know. Available at https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know Accessed on April 26, 2022


What’s the Difference Between Probiotics and Probiotics? Available at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics Accessed on April 29, 2022

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