Prebiotics Versus Probiotics – What’s the Difference?

Prebiotics versus Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics are both related to gut health, but they work in different ways.

Are they your gut’s best friends?


“In human intestines, there are many strains of two main species of friendly bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium,” says Dr. Gail Cresci, Ph.D., an expert on the gut microbiome. Probiotics and prebiotics both help those friendly bacteria, but in different ways:


Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They serve as food for the good bacteria in the gut and help them to thrive. Prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, onions, garlic, artichokes, and whole grains.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for our digestive system. They are found in certain fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, as well as in probiotic supplements. Probiotics help to restore and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion and boost immune function.


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2013 study on bacteria in the gut confirms that a wide variety of this good type of bacteria can aid in immune system functions, improve symptoms of depression, manage obesity and other benefits.


Eating fermented foods can also help restrore your gut balance, although not as efficiently and quickly as supplements. Consider adding more fermented foods to your diet – food like yogurt, kefir, Kombucha (a fermented tea), tempeh (fermented soybeans), Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), pickled vegetables, miso soup.


Some of those foods can also be considered synbiotic, because they contain both beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic source of fiber for the bacteria to feed on. Some examples of synbiotic foods are cheese, kefir, and sauerkraut.


Dr. Cresci is actively studying synbiotics, which combine a prebiotic and a probiotic.


“Once you understand how all three of these pieces work together, you’ll know that having them all in one pill is pretty major.” (Popsugar)



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While prebiotics and probiotics are both important for gut health, they have different roles. Prebiotics provide the food and environment necessary for beneficial bacteria to grow, while probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut directly. It’s important to note that both prebiotics and probiotics can be beneficial to gut health and can be included in a healthy diet.


Consuming both prebiotics and probiotics can help support a healthy gut microbiome.





Infographic source here



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