Prebiotcs vs Probiotics

Apr 7, 2023 | Nutrition

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics: they act like fertilizer – they feed our bacteria and fungi in our gut. They are a non-digestible food that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria and changes the microbiome in the gut towards a healthier one. This improves overall health.

Most common forms & food sources:

    • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS): Garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichokes, Chicory root, Rye, Dandelion, Barley, Asparagus, Leek, Green Bananas

    • Lactulose: UHT milk, goats

    • Galactooligosaccharides (GOS): cow’s milk

Who can benefit from prebiotics?

We can ALL benefit from PREBIOTICS! I always suggest food first. Basically, the more variety of fruits & vegetables you consumer, the higher your consumption of prebiotic fibers.

If you have trouble with fiber, more is not always better. Start low and slow. Cook your veggies to help breakdown the fiber and make it easier to digest.

What about powders?

Prebiotics come in powder form as well, its called Inulin. If you want to add it in, please go slow and low. It can cause serious bloating if you are not used to it. I usually recommend that you start with other fiber powder like acacia  (not a prebiotic fiber, but still great!). This is great for bowel movements. Other fibers include slippery elm, pectin, psyllium husks, and guar gum – they can be great for gut health, but as always it really depends on the person. Start slow and go low if you choose to include. Think 1 tsp and work your way up to 1 tbsp.

What about Probiotics? These are the actual friendly bacteria! Most of them live in our gut.  As defined in science, they are ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’ (Hill et al., 2014) .

Most common food sources:

    • Yogurts

    • Drinks like Kombucha or Kefir

    • Fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi

What about Probiotic Pills?

There is a time & place for them on your gut health journey. If you are dealing with IBS, SIBO, Chron’s etc.. there are scientific studies that show probiotics can be very helpful in such conditions. They can temporarily colonize in the gut and help to reduce the number of bad bugs in the gut. For healthy individuals, they may not do much. We need more research.

When selecting a probiotic, you want to select the right strains. Certain strains were shown to improve certain disorders. If you have a designated condition, working with a practitioner can be very helpful.

Side note: how you take a probiotic matters! I generally don’t recommend taking it on an empty stomach. Our stomach PH is too acidic around 2/2.5 when empty and this can decrease the survival of the bacteria strains in the probiotic pill. Having it right before or with a meal is better because food buffers the PH to around 4/4.5

So in conclusion: Both pre & probiotics can be beneficial. For most healthy individuals, I would focus on prebiotics.

Increase your fiber and prebiotic-rich foods Think of having a diversity of fruits and veggies daily. I also recommend adding in some fermented foods.