Patients sometimes ask us about the difference between PRObiotics and PREbiotics. The simple answer is this:

  • Probiotics are living organisms, or “good bacteria,” that live in the human intestinal tract
  • Prebiotics are non-living carbohydrates that serve as food for probiotics to flourish

Probiotics – good gut bacteria

Many foods that are fermented or cultured – like yogurt, aged cheese, tempeh, and even wine and beer – contain probiotics. These organisms have entered our consciousness only in recent years, but we’ve actually been ingesting them throughout time. Probiotics are good bacteria that help regulate bowel movement, reduce lactose intolerance and increase immunities, among other health benefits.

For more information about probiotics and how to incorporate them into your diet, see our recent blog post, 10 Dietary Do’s and Don’ts to Improve Your Gut Bacteria.

Prebiotics – keeping probiotics happy

Meanwhile, PREbiotics are altogether different in their make-up and function. They typically show up in the form of fiber that fuels the gut’s probiotics and keeps them healthy and functioning properly. A number of studies and medical reviews have linked prebiotics to various health benefits – reducing the risk of colon cancer, building bone density, and helping control appetite.

Chances are you already consume foods that contain prebiotics. Check out these suggestions for prebiotic foods to promote GI health.