Prebiotics vs Probiotics

Prebiotics vs Probiotics

Many people want to know what the difference is between prebiotics and probiotics. They are both helpful supplements that benefit the health of your gut by providing or stimulating the growth of good bacteria. The biproducts of these bacteria or microbes are good for your overall health.

So prebiotics vs probiotics, what is the difference? Prebiotics are typically foods or supplements containing particular types of fibers that serve as food or stimulants for the growth of your microbiome (bacteria living within your gut). In contrast, probiotics contain the actual bacteria that colonize your intestines and consume the fiber, producing useful biproducts for your overall health.

Here is an easy way to think about the difference. Prebiotics are before (“pre”) life (“biotic”) while probiotics are for (“pro”) life (“biotic”). The “pre” in prebiotics means that the prebiotics provide the useful non-living material for the microbes living within you to consume. The non-living material is “pre” life since it is not yet alive. The “pro” in probiotics means that the probiotics actually provide the living material to continue that life. In other words, probiotics contain living bacteria (see “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Julia Enders).

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Benefits of Prebiotics

Benefits of Prebiotics
Relaxation: Prebiotics can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Prebiotics provide numerous benefits to your health by providing food for bacteria living in your intestines. Prebiotics have the ability to benefit you, independent of whether you are also taking probiotics. While prebiotics do significantly raise the efficacy of probotiocs, they can also be taken on a standalone basis. The benefits of prebiotics are important to your overall health and can also help prevent certain diseases.

Numerous scientific studies have shown the health benefits of taking prebiotics. A recent Oxford study has even shown that it in humans, prebiotics have significant neurological benefits. They reduce stress and decrease anxiety and stress. In the study, participants were tested  for the stress hormone cortisol before and after taking a prebiotic. A portion of participants were give a placebo. Those receiving the prebiotics reported lower stress cortisol when tested after three weeks on the prebiotic.

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Prebiotics Side Effects

Prebiotics Side Effects
Are there side effects of prebiotics?
We’ve established that prebiotics are important for your overall health and that you can use them to support your bacterial growth. But what, if any, are the side effects of taking prebiotics? Prebiotics side effects are generally small in comparison to the benefits that they yield but are worth learning about nonetheless.

To start, we would note that prebiotics have been designated as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration. They are commonly found in everyday foods as we have written about in other articles. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary or unusual about prebiotics and, for the most part, they are all-natural.

Prebiotics side effects can come from overdoing intake as with any typical food source. Prebiotic venders typically suggest that high doses of prebiotics can lead to abdominal pain, bloating or flatulence if too many prebiotics are taken too fast. They recommend reducing to lighter doses if these side effects occur and building up slowly. If you are taking supplements, consult the product information for an idea as to how much you should be taking. If you are not sure, ask your health care professional.

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Top 20 Prebiotic Foods

Top Prebiotics Foods List
Oats: One of our top prebiotic foods

See below for our list of the top 20 best prebiotic foods. These foods, rich in prebiotics, are great examples of common everyday foods that contain plenty of healthy prebiotics that benefit the good bacteria in your gut. They can be worked into your everyday meals or eaten on their own.

Certain starches are an excellent source of prebiotics, especially when cooled. Cold rice and cold potatoes are very beneficial for the health of your gut. When cooled, these starches crystallize and are able to withstand the digestion of your small intestine and make it to your large intestine. There they provide greater benefits to your digestion. When you eat sushi, you may not realize it but you are also digesting beneficial ingredients for your digestive system through the cold rice you take in.

Milk is another source of prebiotics. Cow’s milk contains beneficial prebiotics but most beneficial bacteria found in raw cow’s milk is killed off during pasteurization. Breast milk contains large amounts of prebiotics and probiotics. One study outlines the benefits of human breastmilk including a complex system of prebiotics and probiotics unique to a mother.

Inulin is the key ingredient contained in many foods with fiber-based prebiotics. Bananas, onions and leeks contain plenty of inulin. Inulin is also used in many yogurt products as it can be used as a sweetener. Inulin can also be taken as a nutritional supplement available for direct purchase.

Please note that it is important not to suddenly switch from a diet low in prebiotic fibers to a diet rich in one. Such a sudden onset may lead to a fast blooming of these bacteria in your gut that your body may not immediately be able to handle. It is important to make your transition gradual and not overdo it. In addition, an increased intake of prebiotics may not be suitable for all people, especially those with liver problems who are unable to deal with the  increased output from these probiotic bacteria.

Prebiotics Foods List: Potatoes
Potatoes: Another top source of prebiotics
See below for our Top 20 Best Food Sources for Prebiotics:

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Inulin Fiber

Inulin fiber
Garlic: An excellent source of inulin fiber

Inulin fiber is a dietary compound with substantial health benefits. It can reduce obesity, diabetes, anxiety and constipation. So what is inulin and why is it so helpful to us?

Inulin is a sugar or fat substitute that is a common prebiotic found in foods with high amounts of dietary fiber. It is a naturally occurring chain of sugar molecules, commonly found in foods such as chicory, garlic or bananas. It can also be purchased as a nutritional supplement and consumed on its own. Inulin is useful in that it is able to pass through the small intestine undigested, in order to be consumed by bacteria in the large intestine. In the large intestine it provides food for your microbes to flourish and thus provides benefits to the rest of your body.

 So what are the benefits of taking inulin?

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What Are Prebiotics?

What are prebiotics? Bananas are an easy example.
Bananas: A typical food with prebiotics.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are foods that feed the bacteria in your gut. Gut flora has been proven to improve immunity, anxiety, depression, neurological health, longevity, digestion, and possibly much more.

Prebiotics help us by fostering the growth of good bacteria within us. The scientific definition of prebiotics is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastorintestinal microflora, that confer benefits on host well-being and health” (See citation).

There are two types of prebiotics: inulin and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). GOS is produced through the conversion of lactose (milk). Inulin is found in many types of plants, particularly bananas.

There are many ways to take in prebiotics including various types of food and nutritional supplements. What are some examples?

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Inulin Visceral Fat

Inulin visceral fat is a consideration in weight loss. Can inulin lead to a reduction in visceral fat? Insofar as it can aid in weight loss the answer may very well be yes.

Inulin visceral fat
Inulin visceral fat


What are some examples of food sources of prebiotics: -leeks -cold potatoes -jerusalem artichoke -parsnip -prebiotic fiber supplements. These ordinary foods have a healty prebiotic called inulin which is a prebiotic fiber that is well-researched and understood to provide benefits to your health. As we described above inulin is a type of sugar molecule that is harder to break down making it difficult to digest and with a high probability travel into the end of your digestive system. Once it is here it acts as food for the bacteria here creating the conditions for a flourishing of these bacteria.

Blood vessel disease occurs because of the growth of plaque in your blood arteries. Blood vessel disease is the cause of many physical problems and may result in heart attack and death yet it is also something that can be avoided. Prebiotics have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease by feeding microbes which actually decrease cholesterol. One takeaway we can take from this is that prebiotic fibers should be included into one’s diet especially for those at risk of heart disease.

Prebiotics such as asparagus or spinach have been proven to decrease anxiety by easing the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and helping individuals ease out of depression. They hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis works to manage your body’s ability to tax itself by increasing the level of cortisol a natural hormone that has side effects such as a reduced immune system but leading to an uptake in your metabolic rate. Cortisol is manufactured by your adrenal glands as is needed when something adds anxiety to your sense of safety.

While prebiotics will not necessarily deliver weight loss it may make the path something that you can strive for and achievable. Prebiotics can bring feelings of fullness after eating and make it easier for you to consume less calories. Prebiotic fibers are critical to your health in that they provide food for bacteria living within your gut and they change the types of bacteria living within you. These microbes release important biproducts into your intestines which change the hormones that your body releases giving you the ability lose weight.

Microbes are key residents of your large intestine as they coexist closely with the rest of your digestive system. Researchers have indicated that probiotics taken with prebiotics have substantial health benefits and may reduce the risk of diabetes as well as decrease stress. Members of the medical community believe that prebiotic fibers may provide a way to reduce harmful dietary processes that increase the likelihood of weight gain. The way in which prebiotics cause an enhancement in your health depends on their ability to impact your digestive system through your your gut.

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Losing Weight Intestinal Flora

Losing weight intestinal flora are key. Intestinal flora are helpful in losing weight.

Losing weight intestinal flora

Prebiotic intake has been studied has been well-researched and the result has been shown to be positive in a number of ways. Not just obesity but also measures of cortisol are manifestations of the positive impact of prebiotics in an ordinary dietary plan. All fibers that we consume pass through the digestive system and our bodies try to break them down so the rest of our internal systems can have their fill. Even though probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular especially through the consumption of fermented foods the positive health impact of prebiotics is are still mostly yet to be popularized.

Microbes are often in everyday meals however they are not noticed as existing. We see as an example the fact that fermentation has been around throughout human history as the key method to create a number of foods. Foods created through fermentation provide a satisfying way to ingest good bacteria that bestow your gut with numerous healthy side effects. Through fermentation yeast create edible foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut that you can find at a grocery store or restaurant.

Opportunities to research shall be vetted paving the way for new ideas for making prebiotics. Additional types of microbial bacteria are given a close look by scientists as new candidates for probiotic supplements available to consumers. Today there is quite a bit of hope in future possibilities to develop tools spur microbial activity. Well-designed studies may bring to light novel probiotic candidates and allow them to be accepted by scientists and by the general public.

Dietitians believe there is a strong likelihood that prebiotics may prove to decrease intestinal processes that cause obesity. A host of scientific studies have shown that prebiotics have substantial health benefits and may reduce the risk of diabetes as well as decrease stress. The way in which prebiotics lead to major improvements in your digestive processes pivots on the fact that they impact your hormones and your large intestine. Microbes are extremely significant members of your large intestine as they coexist closely with the rest of your body ecology.

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Prebiotic Meaning

Prebiotic Meaning – What is the meaning of prebiotic? Prebiotics are food that aid the good bacteria living within your gut. Prebiotics are typically difficult to digest and thus are more likely to serve as food for your microbiome.

Prebiotic Meaning

 Prebiotic Meaning

Researchers have indicated that probiotics taken with prebiotics have surprising and positive side effects and may reduce the risk of diabetes in addition to a reduction in stress. Bacteria are a critical component of your body as they coexist with your body. Researchers are hopeful that prebiotics may prove to ameliorate intestinal processes that cause obesity. The way in which prebiotics bring about major improvements in your digestive processes pivots on the fact that they impact your hormones and your gut.

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Antibiotics Probiotics

Antibiotics Probiotics – two opposite words. Antibiotics are anti-life whereas probiotics are pro-life. The idea is that antibiotics kill bacteria and bad microorganisms living within you but as a side effect can also kill some good ones. Probiotics are meant to inject good bacteria into your gut. On the other hand, prebiotics are meant to come before (“pre”) life. The provide the food or ingredients for the good bacteria to live.

Antibiotics Probiotics


Let us review some cases of various sources of prebiotics: -asparagus -rice and potatoes -onion -parsnip -prebiotic fiber supplements. These examples have a healty prebiotic called inulin which is an oligosaccharide that is well-known and known to yield health benefits. As we described above inulin is a type of sugar molecule that is harder to break down making it difficult to digest and travel into your large intestine. Once it is here it becomes supplies for the microbiota in this malnourished part of your body creating the conditions for a population growth of these bacteria.

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