How Are Probiotics Different From Prebiotics?

Probiotics and prebiotics help to enhance the development of healthy microorganisms in the body. Since the early 1900s, initiatives have been taken to use bacteria to improve human health. But the common man did not fully accept the idea until recently. Today, prebiotics and probiotics are used widely, mostly to treat and prevent gastrointestinal conditions.

What are probiotics?


Probiotics are live bacteria present in dairy products, yogurt and pills. Probiotics are often prescribed to patients on antibiotics to suppress the gastrointestinal side effects of the medicines. According to the World Health Organization, probiotics have a positive health impact.

Probiotics are delicate. They may perish due to heat and stomach acids. Probiotics can be found in many food items, including fermented dairy, soy products, sauerkraut, miso, sourdough bread, tempeh and kombucha. Probiotics can be purchased in supplement form. The bacteria and yeast present in probiotic products are specially prepared to support our immune defences. Probiotics help to restore the balance of bacteria in our stomach disrupted by alcohol consumption, smoking, poor diet, antibiotics and infections. They can also treat yeast infections, boost the functions of the brain and lower blood pressure.

What is prebiotics?

Prebiotics encourage the development of beneficial bacteria. They are nutrients for the healthy bacteria and probiotics in your system. Most prebiotics is carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body but they make first-rate food sources for the beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics encourage the development of beneficial bacteria living in the body. Prebiotics are found in limited food items such as leeks, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and whole grains like barley, wheat and oatmeal. They are present in other fruits and vegetables in limited quantities.

What is synbiotics?

The combination of probiotics and prebiotics is called synbiotics. According to an article by “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, this combination will allow the probiotics to survive in your body for long. Synbiotic therapies are comparatively new, and their efficacy is still being researched.

Difference between prebiotics and probiotics

Though probiotics and prebiotics sound similar, the difference is not of one letter. There is a considerable difference between probiotics and prebiotics. Both are beneficial in different ways. The difference between prebiotics and probiotics are as follows:

  1. Probiotics are live yeast, bacteria or fungi found in dairy products, yogurt and pills. Hundreds of probiotic species are available. They are essential for maintaining good health. Large doses of probiotics help in maintaining gastrointestinal tract health.Prebiotics is a distinctive form of dietary fibre that nourishes the good bacteria in your stomach. These are non-digestible food fibres that are essential for the survival of the good bacteria. They allow the good bacteria to attach to the bowel wall and helps in stimulating their growth.
  2. High temperature or stomach acid may kill probiotic bacteria. They may also perish with time while neither acid nor temperature can affect prebiotics.
  3. The health benefits of probiotics are not known clearly. A few benefits are suspected, but yet to be proved. While prebiotics have a wide range of health benefits, most of which are medically proven.
  4. Probiotics face a stiff competition from the other thousand species of bacteria that are already present in the stomach. Prebiotics nurture the good bacteria present in the stomach.
  5. Some probiotics help to deal with certain stomach related medical conditions, such as irritable bowel disease, childhood diarrhoea or bowel infections like C. difficile. Prebiotics may help the body deal with several inflammatory bowel diseases or chronic digestive disorders.
  6. Probiotics are living microorganisms, whereas prebiotics is non-living substances.

How do probiotics and prebiotics affect our health?

Incorporating prebiotics and probiotics in our diets have numerous health beneficial effects. Probiotics will help to boost digestion, immune health and mental health. It will also boost production of vitamin B12 and K. Prebiotics, on the other hand, stimulate the growth of good bacteria and counterbalance the growth of harmful microorganisms.

What happens if you do not get enough prebiotics and probiotics?

If probiotics and prebiotics are lacking in your diet, pathogenic bacteria can flourish, which may lead to poor digestion. This can cause flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, candida, inflammation and damage of the gut lining and increase the susceptibility to urinary tract infections, allergies and inflammatory disorders, colds and flu. Having an unhealthy diet may also affect your mental health, since most of our brain chemicals, like serotonin, are produced in the gut.

The benefits of probiotics and prebiotics are similar because they both aim to increase the population of healthy bacteria and healthy yeast in your body. Healthy bacteria can develop a protective shield in your digestive system, preventing harmful bacteria and viruses from attacking your body. The healthy bacteria in your system can also prepare your immune system for combat.

All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.

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