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Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Prebiotics and probiotics are both important elements of gut health, but they have very different functions and health benefits. Pick up a cup of yogurt at your local grocery store and you’ll likely see the word “probiotic” somewhere on the label. Most people are familiar with probiotics and may even take a probiotic supplement to support their gut health. Yet many people don’t know much about prebiotics. So what’s the difference, and do we really need both?

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are bacteria you add to your body that keeps your digestive system healthy and functional. They’re live bacteria and yeasts that live in the gut, help keep the immune system balanced and are often hailed as the “helpful” bacteria.

Where can I find probiotics?
These friendly bacteria can be found in many healthy foods including:

  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha tea (fermented tea)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso Soup
  • Soft cheeses
  • Kefir
  • Milk with Probiotics

You can also purchase probiotic supplements from your grocery or drugstore in pill, powder and liquid forms.

What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are often complex carbohydrates like dietary fibers that feed the friendly gut bacteria. They are essentially food for probiotics. They’re tasked with feeding the good bacteria that already lives in your gut. As they pass through the small intestine, they’re fermented in the colon, helping gut flora retain its natural balance.

Where can I find prebiotics?
Some foods with naturally-occurring prebiotics include:

  • Chicory root
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Jicama
  • Dandelion greens
  • Jerusalem artichoke

They are also available in supplement form. Great Gut Prebiotic Fiber® is available in powder form and helps support your digestive system, promotes immune system health and increases satiety.

Do I really need prebiotics and probiotics?
Simply put, yes. Prebiotics are the foods that probiotics need to perform optimally. They’re beneficial for many reasons and have been shown to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, improve cholesterol levels, lower stressresponse and improve immunity. Additionally, because probiotics are the good bacteria working to keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong by proxy, they’re a vital component to incorporate into your lifestyle. They also step in if and when prebiotics fail. Studies have shown probiotics boost the immune system, prevent and treat urinary tract infections, ease symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS and fight food-borne illnesses. These two powerhouses support your body and its systems in a variety of ways.

Overall, there are so very key differences between prebiotics and probiotics, but both are crucial in supporting gut health. Because probiotics are generally available and marketed in abundance, it’s typically easy to get your fill of this good stuff. Prebiotics can be found in some foods, but many people find it beneficial to add a supplement, like Great Gut Prebiotic Fiber®, into their diet.

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