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Probiotic vs Prebiotic: What's the Difference, and Which is Right for You

Probiotics and prebiotics seem like they’re everywhere these days — but what’s the difference between them and what do they actually do? We’re breaking it down.

Probiotics vs Prebiotics, the science made simple

Probiotics seem like they’re everywhere these days thanks to their evidence-based benefits for gut health. But what about prebiotics? Have you heard of probiotics and prebiotics? Prebiotics are gaining attention as a complementary supplement to probiotics, so we’re breaking down the difference between the two.

What are probiotics and prebiotics?

Here’s the long and short of it: Probiotics and prebiotics work together to create and maintain a healthy digestive system. Probiotics help balance and regulate the microbiome of your digestive system by colonizing your gut with beneficial bacteria. And prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut, keeping your digestive system happy and healthy. After all, a healthy gut is a happy gut. Let’s look a little closer:

Probiotics explained

Probiotics help balance and regulate your gut microbiome by colonizing your gut with beneficial bacteria. Generally, our bodies are good at maintaining a healthy balance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. But sometimes, things like medications and other factors can create an imbalance. For example, an antibiotic is meant to wipe out bad bacteria in your system, but it also eliminates some good bacteria along the way. When you’re experiencing an imbalance of bacteria in your gut microbiota and digestive tract, you can add more probiotics to your diet or take a probiotic supplement to help restore the balance of good bacteria in your body. Research has shown that probiotics can help improve gut health, alleviate digestive concerns, and even support a healthy immune system. So how can you make sure you’re getting enough probiotics? Probiotics can be naturally found in fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, or miso and if you don’t eat many of these foods you can take a probiotic supplement.

Prebiotics explained

Prebiotics aren’t quite the same thing as probiotics. Rather than introducing good bacteria to your digestive system, prebiotics serve as a food source for the good bacteria already there and do not contain any live bacteria. Prebiotics serve strictly as a source of nutrients for the probiotics in your body. There are two primary sources of prebiotics: foods and supplements. Typically, prebiotic foods are high-fiber sources. Think bananas, pears, greens, chickpeas, and whole grains. If you need a little extra prebiotic support you can also take a prebiotic supplement in a capsule form.

What are the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics and prebiotics both offer great benefits for your overall health, and work best when taken together since they play complementary roles in your digestive system. Probiotics ensure that your body has enough good bacteria to function properly, and prebiotics serve as an energy source to help probiotics do their job. When an imbalance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria happens in your gut, prebiotics and probiotics can both help restore the balance in your system. This balance can help keep your digestive system healthy and regular and support your immune health. After all, a whopping 70% of your immune system lives in your intestines — so keeping this ecosystem balanced with “good” bacteria from probiotics is critical.

Should I take probiotic supplements?

Probiotics supplements have grown in popularity in recent years for a reason. Most people don’t eat fermented foods every day, and even if you are, it’s likely you’re consuming the same strains each day. We’re creatures of habit after all. Clinical studies have shown that different strains of probiotics support gut flora in different ways. So probiotic supplements offer an easy way to help restore good bacteria within our gut. Not all probiotics are created equal though. It is important to purchase your probiotic supplement from a reputable source that provides transparent labeling. Two probiotic formulations that may work well for you are a probiotic blend or a single-strain yeast probiotic. Our probiotic blend combines three highly studied strains of bacteria (AKA probiotics): Bifidobacterium lactis (BB‑12), Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Lactobacillus acidophilus (LA‑5) which have been shown to help colonize the gut with good bacteria.

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