Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Posted February 2, 2022 by in Health + Fitness

In the health and wellness industry, there are a variety of supplements designed to better our bodies. Most people know enough about supplements containing essential vitamins and minerals to make an informed decision about what they need. However, the same can’t be said for supplements that promote optimal gut health.

When it comes to supplements for improved digestive functioning, prebiotics and probiotics are among the most popular options. While both of these supplements can improve your overall wellness, they offer unique benefits that may be more desirable, depending on your specific needs.

If you require a supplement to support gut health, check out this guide detailing the differences between prebiotics and probiotics to understand which is better for your overall health and wellness needs.

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What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics typically come from fibrous foods that your body doesn’t break down easily or at all. However, gut bacteria can break down these foods to produce short-chain fatty acids.

One of these short-chain fatty acids, acetate, is especially beneficial because it signals the body to release higher levels of satiety hormones that tell your brain you are full and satisfied after eating. Acetic acid production also assists in boosting immunity by increasing the number of immune cells involved in inflammation response.

Prebiotics are found in foods that contain high amounts of dietary fiber, including fruits and vegetables. Foods containing the highest amount of prebiotic fiber include artichokes, asparagus, beans, leeks, garlic, onions, oats, and whole-grain rye bread.

Those who need to support a healthy level of gut bacteria should opt for prebiotics. Whether through eating fibrous foods or taking prebiotic supplements, prebiotics are able to better the gut health of various individuals by promoting the production of healthy enzymes.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that help improve the health of your gut by populating it with needed microorganisms. They can be found in foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso soup. However, some dietary supplements contain probiotics as well to help better the absorption of nutrients in food.

One of the most common types of probiotics is Lactobacillus, which is found in fermented foods to help break down proteins and sugars, resulting in healthier gut bacteria. Probiotics also produce enzymes that help break down foods that would otherwise be very difficult to digest.

Those who need additional protein and lactose breakdown support should opt for probiotic supplements. 

What to Look For in Gut Health Supplements

Whether you are looking for prebiotic or probiotic supplements, it is important that you look for supplements free of chemical additives and fillers. These substances can irritate the very conditions you are hoping to treat and are best avoided.

Additionally, look for formulas that offer additional support for gut health. While prebiotics and probiotics both have their merits, some supplements contain ingredients that can be beneficial to overall digestive wellness, including digestive enzymes and L-glutamine.

When to Take Prebiotics and Probiotics?

It is important that you take probiotics and prebiotics at different times of the day to help ensure maximum health benefits. Prebiotics are best taken during or following meals, as taking them before probiotics can cause gas, bloating, and discomfort for some people.

Probiotics should be taken before bed, as they help support a healthy gut while you sleep. This can have various health benefits, including improved energy and mental clarity upon waking.

Make the Right Choice for a Healthy Gut

Whether through dietary fiber or live bacteria, there are many natural ways to keep your digestive system functioning optimally. The right choice will depend on your individual needs and the conditions you are trying to treat. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider for the best advice on which is best for meeting your health goals.