Probiotic vs prebiotic: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, and why you need them in your diet!

You may have heard of the term probiotic, but have you heard of its counterpart, the prebiotic?

While they may sound similar, these supplements play vitally different roles in balancing the health of your microbiome (your gut).

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Probiotics are foods that help to increase the number of good bacteria in our digestive systems that are associated with improved health and immune function. Although the term ‘bacteria’ has a negative connotation, some bacteria actually perform vital functions in our bodies and are incredibly important for achieving and maintaining optimal health.

On the other hand, prebiotics are food compounds that act as fuel for probiotics and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi in our gut. Put simply, prebiotics are the non-digestible fibres that probiotics like to feed off. 

What are the benefits of consuming pre and probiotics? 

There have been numerous studies over the last 10 years that suggest probiotics and prebiotics have the potential to greatly benefit our bodies, our immune systems and support a healthy brain, via our gut-brain axis. 

Research has shown that the consumption of pre and probiotics together can aid in the treatment of – and possibly prevent – diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infections, eczema, and digestive tract infections. A smaller body of research also suggests that probiotic consumption may help those experiencing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Conducted in 2017, this study found that some strains of probiotics alleviate the symptoms of depression in participants. 

Recent research is even showing the potential for pre- and pro-biotics to aid in weight loss. In a 2014 study, female participants who consumed Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three months dropped 50% more weight than participants who took placebos. A different study found that the Lactobacillus paracasei strain could effectively block fat storage.

In short…

While there is a difference between probiotics and prebiotics, both play crucially different roles in ensuring that your gut is in tip-top shape.

To optimise your gut flora, eat plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods to help promote an ideal balance of good and bad bacteria, or opt for a probiotic formula  – like TrueForm!

To know which foods benefit a healthy gut, read our guide to foods containing probiotic and prebiotics.