Prebiotic vs. Probiotic: What's the Difference?

Enter any grocery store, and you'll likely find a myriad of supplements and vitamins that offer both prebiotic and probiotic benefits. It can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t sure about their differences or benefits. Prebiotics and probiotics both aid digestion, support your immune system, and provide critical nutrients. However, there are some key differences.

Keep reading for a comprehensive breakdown of prebiotics, probiotics, and how to incorporate both for a well-balanced microbiome.

What Are Prebiotics?

Let’s start with the basics. Prebiotics and probiotics are not the same, and it's essential to know their differences to ensure that your microbiome is thriving. 

Prebiotics are a non-digestible fiber found in certain foods. They provide nutrients for the healthy bacteria in your gut to consume. Without prebiotics, the bacteria in your digestive system might not receive sufficient fiber to carry out their protective duties. 

Prebiotics can be found in fiber-rich foods like yams, bananas, oats, and legumes. 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial, live bacteria. When you consume probiotics, beneficial microorganisms work to build up the population of healthy bacteria in your gut. 

There are two main kinds of bacteria within probiotic foods and supplements: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Different probiotic strains are in different foods, and some strains might work better for your body than others. 

Probiotics are in many foods, primarily fermented foods. Some probiotic foods include yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  

Are Probiotics More Important Than Prebiotics?

Probiotics have been part of wellness and health conversations for a while, but including probiotics alone in your wellness routine might not be the best method. While research varies on whether prebiotics or probiotics are more important, the consensus is that they work best when consumed together. 

Prebiotics offer nutrients for probiotic bacteria to consume, which is why probiotics and prebiotics work most effectively when taken together. 

Should Prebiotics and Probiotics Be Taken at the Same Time?

Prebiotics and probiotics work together to support your gut health. Taking them together is generally a good way to include both as a consistent part of your diet. 

However, before making any major changes in your dietary routine, it’s always good to consult with a registered dietitian or a primary care provider knowledgeable on the subject. 

If you are using both prebiotics and probiotics, it’s easy to take both of them together at a designated time, like before dinner. 

Looking for an energizing addition to your synbiotic routine? The Supergreens Elixer by Kroma Wellness packs whole food-sourced ingredients and nutrients into a flavorful powder. With probiotics, prebiotics, and a host of superfoods, this energizing elixir is a powerful way to bring healthy bacteria and nutrition to your microbiome. 

What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?

The benefits of probiotics are plentiful, including everything from supporting your digestive system to boosting your immunity.  

Digestive Support

Probiotics offer critical digestive support to your body. A healthy gut means the nutrients you consume can be broken down effectively, converted into energy, and passed on into waste without an issue. Probiotics boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut, improving your overall digestive system. 

Probiotics may even help those with more severe digestive issues, like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Whether you’re looking to gently introduce some good bacteria into your microbiome or address more significant health challenges, the benefits of probiotics are abundant.  

Vaginal Health

Another major benefit of probiotics is that they provide vaginal support. Like your gut, the urogenital system relies on the careful balance of bacteria to maintain proper functioning. The predominant bacterial strain in the vagina, lactobacillus, maintains an acidic system where harmful bacteria are unwelcome.

However, if that acidity is interrupted by an antibiotic or a spermicide, your vaginal health might be more susceptible to harmful microorganisms. Taking a probiotic helps restore and maintain the microflora in your urogenital system to keep everything balanced.  

Weight Management

Not only do probiotics help with keeping healthy bacteria in and harmful bacteria out of your body, but they also help regulate your overall system. 

Though there isn’t conclusive research about whether probiotics promote weight loss, you can include many probiotic foods in a healthful diet. Probiotics work best when incorporated into a well-balanced, nutritious diet. If your diet isn’t benefiting your health, a probiotic supplement isn’t likely to, either. 

Prioritizing whole foods with good bacteria and building a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats is one way to ensure that your body is getting the proper nutrients to maintain a healthy weight. 

Immune Support

The key term here is healthy gut flora, or the combination of beneficial bacteria in your gut working with microorganisms in your intestinal tract to keep your body balanced.

A body filled with healthy bacteria is less likely to be susceptible to illness, particularly during flu season. Again, prioritize finding probiotics in whole foods before adding supplements into your dietary routine.  

What Are Food Sources of Probiotics?

While the list of probiotic foods isn’t as lengthy as prebiotic options, there are several diverse and flavorful ways to include this healthy bacteria in your diet. 

Yogurt

Yogurt is probably one of the more well-known sources of probiotics. Yogurt supports bone health and blood pressure and contains the probiotic strain Lactobacillus. Not all yogurt contains probiotics, though, so be sure to select a yogurt with live and active cultures. Yogurt can be used as a smoothie base, included in a fruit parfait, or incorporated into a sauce. 

Kimchi and Sauerkraut

Kimchi and sauerkraut are both excellent sources of probiotics. Both are fermented and contain Lactobacilli, the same bacteria active in yogurt. Try including either kimchi or sauerkraut on a sandwich with fresh veggies or a protein source for a flavorful meal that will boost your gut health. 

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains live and active bacteria cultures and is a good option for those who may be lactose intolerant. For those looking to reduce their alcohol intake, kombucha can provide a flavorful and bubbly replacement that will have you feeling alert and refreshed the morning after. 

Miso

Miso, a flavorful and fermented soybean paste, is most commonly consumed in broth or soup. Containing a number of probiotic bacteria, miso can be used to make a broth, can act as a fermenting agent for pickled vegetables and meats, or can be incorporated into a sauce. 

With a distinct umami flavor, miso is a savory probiotic option that boosts your microbiome with every spoonful. Kroma Veggie Broth with Plant Protein contains red miso alongside eleven vegetables and herbs for a superfood-powered, nutrient-rich meal.

What Foods Naturally Contain Prebiotics?

The list of prebiotic foods seems endless, but a few stand out from the rest. Highlighted below are a few flavorful and nutrient-packed options. 

Garlic

Garlic is a winning flavor, and to top it off, it has significant prebiotic qualities, making it a no-brainer for gut health. Garlic acts as a prebiotic in that it promotes the production of healthy bacteria in the gut and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

Kroma 24K Chicken Bone Broth includes garlic alongside red miso and onions for a probiotic boost that tastes like liquid gold. 

Onions

Onions are another great source of prebiotic fiber and can easily be incorporated into any meal. From whole food breakfast scramble to pickled onions on a gourmet sandwich, onions are versatile and rich in antioxidants. 

Bananas

A staple in smoothies, a delight on top of a parfait, bananas are flavorful and filled with potassium and vitamins. They also contain a prebiotic fiber called inulin, which can boost healthy bacterial growth in your gut if consumed regularly. 

Gluten-Free Whole Grains

All prebiotics are fibers, but not all fibers are prebiotics. Whole grains are full of prebiotic fiber, making them a key part of a healthy diet. Quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are just a few gluten-free whole grains that will boost your microbiota. 

Kroma Super Porridge features almond meal, organic rolled oats, and hemp and sunflower seeds for a satiating breakfast full of antioxidants and healthy fats. 

How Long Does It Take for Prebiotics and Probiotics To Work?

A sure sign that your prebiotics and probiotics are working is improved digestive health. More regular bowel movements, alleviated gas or bloating, and reduced inflammation are all signs that your synbiotic regime is working. 

However, not all probiotics and prebiotics are created equal. Be sure to find high-quality products with diverse strains of bacteria. 

If you don’t notice any changes within a few weeks, your body might not be responding to the influx of healthy bacteria. Working with a health provider can help you navigate which bacteria strain might work best for your body. 

The Bottom Line

Prebiotics and probiotics work best when they’re together. Whether you’re interested in supplementing an already balanced diet or are looking to incorporate healthy bacteria into your meals, there is an option for everyone. 

Your microbiome consists of complex, balanced systems, and your gut’s microbiota is the epicenter that keeps your body filled with healthy bacteria while flushing harmful bacteria. 

Whether you’re introducing a whole food elixir into your wellness routine or are looking to boost your overall health, consistently incorporating both probiotics and prebiotics into your wellness routine can ensure a stable and healthy gut microbiome. 


Sources:

Prebiotics, probiotics and your health | Mayo Clinic

Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics | Harvard Health

Could Probiotics Help With Weight Loss? | Cleveland Clinic