The Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics (Let's Gut to the Bottom of It)

We just launched our new Prebiotic Blend supplement, and while most of us have heard of probiotics before, some may be wondering what a prebiotic is.

We swear it’s not a typo! Both probiotics and prebiotics are important to maintain a healthy gut, and there is a clear difference between the two.  Before getting into the specifics, let’s take a step back to understand the different types of bacteria living in the gut.

The battle of good vs. bad

Your gut contains trillions of bacteria, both “good” and “bad”.

The good bacteria have a few high-stakes jobs that contribute to overall gut health. They work to digest your food so your body can put its nutrients to use. They help you stay regular, facilitating healthy weight management and helping to avoid diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Good bacteria can also help to prevent or reduce the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, and Crohn’s disease.

Your good bacteria also have the all-important job of fighting off the “bad” bacteria. Your body takes in bad bacteria and other foreign invaders like viruses, yeast, fungi, and parasites, and if not controlled, they can cause illnesses, diseases, infections, and inflammation. Your body counts on the gut’s good bacteria to keep the bad in check, and in this regard, the good bacteria can be thought of as the frontline of your immune system.

The difference between probiotics and prebiotics

It’s critical to have a thriving population of good bacteria in your gut to keep you healthy. Probiotics are the good bacteria themselves – live microorganisms that are beneficial to your body. Probiotic supplements contain one or several strains of actual bacteria and are helpful when taking antibiotics or undergoing chemotherapy, as those medications and treatments are destructive to both the good and bad bacteria in the body.

Unless using antibiotics or going through chemotherapy, most people have normal levels of good bacteria and therefore shouldn’t need probiotic supplementation.

Taking supplemental probiotics without a specific need for them could cause an imbalance of the good bacteria in your gut. Just like everything else in the body, your gut biome has an optimal balance between its various strains of bacteria, and supplementing could throw that balance out of whack, leading to a number of digestive issues.

So, we typically don’t need more bacteria (i.e. probiotics), we just need healthier bacteria. Your good bacteria are very effective at reproducing and proliferating, so simply giving them the right food and living conditions will allow them to multiply and thrive on their own.

Prebiotics are the foods your good bacteria need to thrive. Just like the rest of the body uses food for energy, the bacteria convert prebiotics into energy to put towards their important jobs.

Prebiotics consist of fibers that your stomach can’t break down and digest. Therefore, they’re able to make their way through the stomach and into the intestines (where the bacteria live) still intact, so that the bacteria can utilize all their nutritional benefits.

Our Prebiotic Blend is made up of Inulin FOS (Fructooligosaccharide), which is fiber derived from Jerusalem artichoke and is your good bacteria’s main energy source. It also contains Beta-Glucan, a fiber derived from baker’s yeast that is full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your good bacteria need to stay healthy. It also helps to protect the good bacteria as a key component in the bacteria’s cell walls.

Other whole foods rich in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, and flaxseeds.

Prebiotics, whether taken through supplements or whole foods, are critical for maintaining healthy bacteria in your gut. They give the good bacteria what they need to beat the bad guys.  And when they win, you win!

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These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.