When it comes to maintaining a healthy gut, prebiotics and probiotics are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they are two distinct types of supplements that serve two very different functions.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that serve as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. They are typically found in fruits and vegetables, specifically in foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, and artichokes. Eating a diet rich in prebiotics can help nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy digestive system and reducing the risk of disease.
The key to choosing the right prebiotic supplement is to look for one that contains a variety of fibers, as different types of fiber will nourish different types of bacteria in your gut. Some of the most common types of prebiotic fibers include:
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
- Resistant starch
Prebiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms, including powders, capsules, and liquids, and can be taken daily to support gut health.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria and yeasts that are naturally found in the gut. They are often called “good” bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy by competing with harmful bacteria and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.
Probiotics can be found in a variety of foods, particularly fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They can also be taken in supplement form, with the most common types of probiotics being:
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Probiotic supplements can be particularly helpful for individuals who have recently taken antibiotics, as antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome and kill off beneficial bacteria along with harmful bacteria.
The Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics
While prebiotics and probiotics serve two very different functions in the gut, they work together to promote overall gut health. Some of the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving digestion
- Reducing the risk of disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity
- Improving mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
Additionally, supplementing with prebiotics and probiotics has been found to be particularly helpful for individuals with specific health concerns, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and lactose intolerance.
The Bottom Line
Prebiotics and probiotics are two key supplements for promoting overall gut health. While prebiotics serve as food for healthy gut bacteria, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help keep the gut microbiome in balance. By taking a prebiotic and probiotic supplement daily, individuals can support their gut health and reduce the risk of disease and other health concerns.