The terms prebiotic and probiotic are often confused and many people use them interchangeably because they don’t know the difference. The bottom line though is that prebiotics are not probiotics.
What Makes Them Different?
Probiotics are live bacteria that is found in many dairy products and in pill form. They are primarily used to help regulate intestinal problems, but they are not as powerful as prebiotics. Stomach acids can kill off the good bacteria of probiotics, and they are ineffective once consumed.
Prebiotics are plant based fibers that help to nourish the bacteria that is already in your intestines. The body doesn’t absorb those fibers, but rather the fiber promotes the growth of the good bacteria that you already have in your stomach and intestines. These bacteria contain insulin to help you regulate blood sugars.
These are a plant based fiber that are considered to be dietary fiber. They are not effected by temperatures and are not ineffective once ingested. Good bacteria already found in the stomach, colon and intestines feed off these probiotics to become larger and more sustainable in the stomach. These good bacteria help to regulate the symptoms and flare ups of gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Prebiotics have helped to strengthen the walls of the bowel, improves the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals and helps regulate hormone production in the body.
These are found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt and are good bacteria that promote a healthier gastrointestinal system. It is thought that by taking them in pill form or in cold foods they will not become ineffective since heat and high temperatures as well as stomach acid can make them ineffective. While they promote good health of the gastrointestinal system, other benefits are not known. It has shown to be an effective supplement for children with bowel problems, and other gastrointestinal complications.
How They Work
Simply put, probiotics are the good bacteria in the body that helps to regulate the digestive tract and gastrointestinal tract by regulating the growth and reproduction of harmful bacteria in these tracts. Prebiotics are carbs that are not digested by the body systems and become food the probiotic. Both of their primary functions are to help support good digestive tract and gastrointestinal tract health.
Good sources of probiotics are any dairy products, including all kinds of yogurt and most kinds of cheese. Many may say “live cultures” or “active cultures” on the packaging. Other good foods that contain high levels of probiotics include sourdough bread and sauerkraut. Good sources of prebiotics can be found in carbohydrate rich foods and others like asparagus, beans and legumes, and regular (not instant!) oatmeal. No food will contain both prebiotics and probiotics, although there are supplement pills that contain both.
When taking either of these, the most common side effects include a bloating feeling, minor discomfort in the stomach, intestinal gas, and in some cases a more frequent need to use the restroom. If you are pregnant or have serious medical conditions you should speak with your doctor before taking these supplements.