Although probiotics and prebiotics sound the same, they are quite unique. They are similar in that they impact your digestive system. But that’s where the similarities end. A comparison of a probiotic vs prebiotic shows that each one plays an important role in your body.
What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Before you can look at probiotic vs prebiotic, you need to understand the role of each one. Prebiotic fiber is non-digestible food particles. For example, banana peels, apple skin, and beans are all prebiotic fiber.
Because your body can’t digest those particles, they go through your small intestine. Eventually, it reaches the large colon and goes through the fermentation process.
That’s where your body starts reaping the benefits of prebiotic fiber. As fermentation occurs, the byproducts feed the good bacteria in your gut. This improves the function of your digestive system and decreases your risk of disease.
An Overview of Probiotics
On the other hand, probiotics are different. They don’t feed the bacteria in your gut - they ARE the bacteria. The term probiotics refer to the live, good bacteria in your digestive system. Typically, you can get more probiotics from foods like yogurt, miso soup, and sauerkraut.
You can also get probiotics from outside sources. Because probiotics improve your gut health, people often take probiotic supplements. They come in powder or liquid form and increase the bacteria count in your gut.
There are several types of bacteria that help your body digest food. Each one plays an important role. When you take probiotics, you contribute to the diversity of bacteria. You give your body what it needs to function well.
The Types of Probiotics
There are two main categories of probiotics in your body. Lactobacillus is the type of probiotic that comes from yogurt and various other fermented foods. If you have diarrhea or issues with lactose, lactobacillus can help.
The second type is Bifidobacterium. Typically, you find this type of probiotic in dairy products. It can ease irritable bowel syndrome as well as other similar conditions. Naturally occurring in your large intestine, bifidobacteria fights off bad bacteria. As a result, it boosts your immune system and fights constipation. Research shows that it might reduce the concentration of carcinogenic enzymes1.
Probiotic vs Prebiotic
Still confused? It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Probiotics are the agent responsible for keeping your gut healthy.
But prebiotics keep your probiotics healthy and strong. Without prebiotics, your bacteria won’t work as well as they should. Without probiotics, your prebiotics have nothing to nourish. They depend on each other.
To better understand the topic of probiotic vs prebiotic, you should consider the benefits of each one. Look at their role in the body and how they help you.
What Do Probiotics Do for Your Body?
Probiotics have many benefits, and science backs up many claims of their benefits. Here are some of the benefits:
1. Balance out your gut after taking antibiotics
Doctors often provide probiotics to patients who take antibiotics. When you take antibiotics, you kill off the bacteria in your body. The medicine can’t identify the good bacteria from the bad, so it kills off both types.
Probiotics counteract the negative effect of antibiotics. It repopulates your colon with the necessary bacteria.
2. Reduce yeast infections
If you take medication, then it could cause a bacterial imbalance in your body. You could develop a yeast infection. By taking probiotics, you can reduce the chance of a yeast infection2.
3. Improve your gut health
Overall, probiotics can improve your gut health. Whether or not you suffer from an issue like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, probiotics can help. They can give your digestive system the boost it needs to perform at its best.
What Do Prebiotics Do for Your Body?
Prebiotics also come with many benefits. For example, they do all of the following:
1. Increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut
By taking prebiotics, you feed the good bacteria in your digestive system. This increases their numbers, which allows them to work better.
2. Prevent good bacteria from dying
Probiotics have a lot fighting against them. They are very sensitive to high temperature, stomach acid, and time. If you want your probiotics to thrive, you need to care for them properly.
Prebiotics allow you to do just that. By nourishing your probiotics, prebiotics help them thrive. This prevents them from dying off and leaving your gut unhealthy.
3. Improve Overall Health
When you take care of the beneficial bacteria in your body, you improve your health. Because of the positive effects that prebiotics have on probiotics, they lead to improved health.
Some examples of health improvements include weight management, immunity, brain health, and bone density.
Supplements: Probiotic vs Prebiotic
You can get prebiotics and probiotics from your food3. However, most people don’t eat enough fermented food to get enough probiotics.
That’s where supplementing comes into play. When you supplement with probiotics and prebiotics, you can give your body what it needs.
References: 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11709850, Anti-carcinogenicity of probiotics and prebiotics., 2000 Mar;1(1):13-24. 2. https://www.healthline.com/health/yeast-infection-probiotics#when-to-see-a-doctor, When to see a doctor for a yeast infection 3. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-probiotics, Top Foods With Probiotics, June 05, 2018