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15 Nov 2012
What are probiotics & prebiotics and what are the differences between the two?
...We aim to answer all of your questions here.
Probiotics are the body's friendly bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are microorganisms which are beneficial for the human host. Types of probiotic include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Bifidobacterium infantis. Learn more about probiotics.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a food source for probiotics. A prebiotic is a complex carbohydrate which selectively stimulates the growth of good (probiotic) bacteria in the body. Prebiotics can be naturally found in foods such as leeks, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes. Learn more about prebiotics.
Both probiotic and prebiotic supplements have been linked to healthy digestion, good immunity, and increased energy levels.
The benefit of taking probiotics as opposed to prebiotics is that if the body does not have enough, or the right types of probiotics, it is more useful to take a probiotic supplement, as opposed to simply a prebiotic which will stimulate growth of any friendly bacteria already in the system. A very small minority of people find that prebiotics do not agree with their system (they can cause gas & bloating at first, although this may not subside), and therefore prefer to take probiotics alone.
The benefit of taking probiotics with prebiotics is that you are effectively covering both grounds; replenishing the body's good bacteria, and also feeding the probiotics - for a longer lasting effect. In simple terms it is like giving someone a bunch of flowers, along with flower food to keep them flourishing for longer. The scientific term of taking a pro and prebiotic combination together is known as a synbiotic. Learn more about synbiotics in our article: What are synbiotics?. An example of a synbiotic is Optibac Every Day, which contains six probiotic strains alongside 88mg of FOS fibres.
Some people find that certain types of prebiotics can be beneficial for certain conditions such as occasional constipation (others may find that a combination works better, or that probiotics alone work for them too). The question of is it better to take prebiotics alone has been explored in research.
At the end of the day, different people have different bacterial make-ups, and therefore find that different solutions work for them.