Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: What’s the difference?

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws & the pH health care professionals

You may have heard about health benefits of probiotics, which have been rising in popularity in recent years. These “good” bacteria may help with constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, depression and more. But you may not be familiar with prebiotics. They are not the same thing.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are the food for probiotics! Remember, probiotics are living microorganisms, so they need to eat. In order for those good bacteria to flourish in your gut, you must also have prebiotics, which come in the form of fiber. However, while all prebiotics are fiber, not all fiber is considered prebiotic. In order for a food item to be considered prebiotic, there are a few criteria including that it resists gastric acidity, is fermented by the probiotics in your gut and it stimulates the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria potentially associated with health and well-being.

Prebiotics occur naturally in certain foods, including leeks, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, wheat, oats and soybeans.

What are some of the benefits of prebiotics?

Prebiotic fibers may play a role in helping you restore healthy sleep patterns after a stressful event, research suggests. Prebiotics  may also aid mineral absorption, specifically with calcium and magnesium, to promote healthy bone density. And they may increase satiety hormones, making you feel full and more satisfied, a rat study suggests, which makes prebiotics a possible treatment for obesity. Recent studies concluded prebiotics may also be effective in the management of neonatal inguinal hernia. According to the Journal of Neonatal Surgery, “[t]hey decrease colic and abdominal distention, which seems helpful to prevent strangulation and probably get spontaneous resolution of small hernias.”

Because prebiotics feed probiotics, they may also be important for optimizing the health benefits of probiotics, such as treating gastrointestinal issues, delaying allergies in children, treating and preventing vaginal and urinary tract infections in women and boosting the immune system.

Where can you get probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt and kombucha, as well as supplements, skin care products and even toothpastes! You can find prebiotics in foods, such as whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey, artichokes and of course in supplements.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

 

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