Probiotics Vs. Prebiotics – Same Difference?


Ryan Day Coaching

Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Tobacco. We’ve heard these monikers for huge industries, and there are usually some crazy conspiracies (or sometimes just facts) about each.

Well, let me tell you.  Big Probiotics has been making a strong push the last few years.  

Probiotic supplements started popping up everywhere a few years ago, and now marketing teams everywhere are putting “probiotic” on just about any food you can find.  It’s crazy town.

The health space has had a gut health renaissance the last few years, and probiotics are at the forefront.  Unfortunately, everybody forgot about probiotics’ best friend, prebiotics.  

Don’t worry prebiotics – I didn’t forget about you.  

Today we’re going to talk about probiotics AND prebiotics.  We’ll take a look at the distinct role that each plays in supporting your digestive system, how they work together, and some foods (and drinks) we can use to get more of both.  

Real quick before we do that – it’s important to know that your gut is FILLED with bacteria.  The types and amounts of bacteria have a huge impact on your gut health, so making sure we have the right bacteria in there is important.

Here’s where probiotics and prebiotics come in.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

While probiotics and prebiotics both promote gut health, they are not one and the same.

Probiotics are live strains of bacteria that are beneficial for your gut and digestion. You can find these things in many different foods or supplements, and so far, the research suggests that they have lots of health benefits even beyond the gut.

Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that act as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. In a nutshell, prebiotics allow the probiotics to continue populating by giving them the fuel they need.

Because prebiotics can act as fuel to your probiotic fire, it’s important to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of both.  Whenever your diet is focused on foods with both of these, it allows the good bacteria in your gut to flourish while keeping the bad bacteria at bay.

Conversely, if you aren’t getting enough of these in your diet, your gut might start working against you by allowing the bad bacteria to take over.

The synergy is evident: prebiotics provide the nourishment probiotics need to perform their best. It’s like tending to your garden by providing both seeds (probiotics) and the nutrients in the soil (prebiotics).

Foods with Probiotics and Prebiotics

Remember, probiotics are the live bacteria themselves.  To that extent, you can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, kombucha, and pickled vegetables.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are naturally found in various fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some popular ones: beans, bananas, apples, oats, legumes, berries, garlic, asparagus, peas, onions, and leeks.

Importance of a Healthy Gut

The food we eat has a direct impact on our gut health, which can ultimately determine how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

The more “unhealthy” food choices you make, the less good you’re doing for your gut.  The more foods that include prebiotics and probiotics, the more good you’re doing for it.

Probiotic Supplements

Before we finish up, let’s talk briefly about probiotic supplements.

It’s always best to get your nutrients (probiotics & prebiotics included) from whole, natural foods.  If you’re thinking about taking a probiotic supplement just for fun or maybe because you’re constantly battling stomach problems, check with your doctor first.  

Sometimes chronic stomach issues are a result of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (aka SIBO), and probiotic supplements can actually make this worse.  

As for those who want to take a probiotic supplement because the marketing behind them is really good, tread lightly.  A lot of probiotic supplements on the market haven’t shown any efficacy at all, and the bacteria strains included in these things vary widely.  

So – please try experimenting with some of the foods listed above and see how that impacts your digestion and overall gut health.  If you still want to take a probiotic supplement, feel free to reach out and I can give you some recommendations.  

And one last thing – don’t let your friends leave out prebiotics the next time they bring up probiotics.