While PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS sound similar, these supplements are very different and have different roles in the digestive system.

  •  is a non-digestible part of foods like bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples, chicory root, beans, and many others. Prebiotic fiber goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the large colon. This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our digestive systems (also called the gut) that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk.
  •  are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and others. Probiotics are also available in pill form and as an added ingredient in products like yogurt and health drinks.

Benefits and side effects of probiotics

Digestive health

Numerous studies have found that probiotics may improve digestive health in some people. A 2017 review found that taking probiotics while using antibiotics reduced the risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea by 60%. A 2014 analysis of 24 trials found that probiotics could help prevent the life-threatening disease necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

Mental health

A smaller body of research suggests that probiotics may improve mental health. A review found that probiotics may alleviate the symptoms of depression, but the authors note that additional studies are necessary to confirm this. It is possible that probiotics have this effect because there is a link between gut and brain health.

Gastrointestinal health

The results of studies generally suggest that people with disorders affecting the stomach and intestines may see improvements with probiotics. For example,irritable bowel syndrome found that probiotics seem to improve the symptoms of this condition. However, the authors caution that it is unclear how significant the benefit may be or which strain of probiotic is most effective.

Side effects

People with weakened immune systems were also more vulnerable to side effects. The lack of data regarding safety shows that scientists know little about the risks of probiotics, especially the potential issues of long-term use. Anyone concerned about the risk of side effects should speak with a doctor before significantly increasing their intake of probiotics.

Benefits and side effects of prebiotics

Some Reserch suggests that prebiotics may benefit the body by:

  • improving calcium absorption
  • changing how quickly the body can process carbohydrates.
  • supporting the probiotic growth of gut bacteria, potentially enhancing digestion and metabolism

Prebiotics occur naturally in many foods, so there is no need for people to take prebiotic supplements.

Probiotic foods

Many foods are rich in probiotics, including:

  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • kombucha
  • traditional fermented buttermilk
  • fermented cheeses, such as Gouda

Prebiotic foods

By including a variety of foods in their diet, people can ensure that they consume a range of prebiotics that may fuel various strains of bacteria. Prebiotics are in many high-fiber foods, including some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Some probiotic-rich foods may also contain prebiotics.

Babies get access to prebiotics through the sugars in breast milk, and some infant formulas also contain prebiotics.