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What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Last Updated On September 24, 2021

Gut health is a trending topic because it affects all aspects of health. Also, the science about gut microbiota has significantly improved in the last few years since genomic technologies have made it possible to study the gut microbiome.  From birth, microbes colonize our guts and become an integral part of who we are. These…

Reviewed by Aida Ombasic
Fact checked by Nattha Wannissorn

Gut health is a trending topic because it affects all aspects of health. Also, the science about gut microbiota has significantly improved in the last few years since genomic technologies have made it possible to study the gut microbiome. 

From birth, microbes colonize our guts and become an integral part of who we are. These vast numbers of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are collectively known as the gut microbiome. We’re just beginning to learn how this complex system affects our health from our immunity through to digestion and mental health.

Our gut microbiome needs probiotics and prebiotics to thrive. Although the words probiotics and prebiotics sound similar, they’re different things. Simply, prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria—the probiotics. In this article, we’ll cover the science behind each and how you can harness their benefits.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microbes—commonly referred to as good bacteria, but they also include some fungi species.  “Probiotics” originates from the Greek word “for life”..

Probiotics are necessary for:

  • Proper immune system functioning 
  • Protecting us against harmful bacteria and viruses
  • Controlling the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut
  • Assisting with both the digestion and absorption of nutrients.

The best probiotic for bloating also assists with this very common problem. Bacterial populations in the intestine are diverse. The gut flora is developed right after birth and stays mostly intact throughout our lives. Antibiotics are intentionally given to kill off harmful bacteria but because of their broad-spectrum activity, they also end up harming our gut microbiomes. They negatively impact and change the gut flora’s composition. Introducing beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics recreates the balance.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates (fiber) that feed the gut bacteria—stimulating their growth and activity. Prebiotics are, therefore, beneficial for us.

Typically, anything our digestive systems don’t digest is left for our gut bacteria to consume. Our diet and how many prebiotics we eat largely determines our microbiome because the prebiotics feed the good gut bacteria. Taking prebiotic supplements may improve the bacterial composition in the intestine 

Prebiotics can be categorized as soluble and insoluble fibers.

Dietary fiber is important for our health and should be a regular part of our diets . It’s found only in plant-based foods. You should be aware that peeling vegetables reduces their fiber content but cooking has no effect on fiber content.

Examples of soluble dietary fibers include:

  • Pectins—Part of the plant’s cell wall; found in fruits and vegetables
  • Mucilages—Produced by plants and used in the food industry; found in plant extracts (like gum acacia)
  • Gums—Secreted at the site of plant damage; found in seaweed extract, leguminous seed plants, microbial gums.

Examples of insoluble dietary fibers:

  • Resistant starch—Starch that is not digested because of its structure. So, the starch acts like dietary fiber.
  • Cellulose—The main structural component of plant cell walls; found only in plants 
  • Hemicelluloses—found in cereal grains
  • Lignin—Found in flax, rye, and some vegetables.

Although prebiotics and probiotics supplements are different and individually beneficial, taking them together may increase their benefits even further. 

Stuck with excess fat?

While excess calorie intake is the main driver behind obesity, changes in the composition of the gut microbiota is another important cause of unwanted excess fat. This is partly because the gut is the home of many microbes that send signals to our brains when we are hungry. An imbalance here may prevent these signals from working correctly, leading to overeating.

Using the best prebiotic and probiotic along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen will help you to decrease your body mass index (BMI) and total body fat. In a clinical study done with 20 healthy men, probiotics prevented increases in body weight and body fat even though they ate a high-fat diet for four weeks.

The evidence is still accumulating, but we know that probiotics and prebiotics improve the gut microbiota, help in managing excess fat, and aid in the treatment of obesity.

Why should you take both probiotics and prebiotics?

As we’ve said, probiotics are good bacteria that are crucial for our well-being while prebiotics are indigestible dietary fibers that feed the probiotics in the gut

When prebiotics and probiotics are combined, we call them synbiotics. Synbiotics improve the gut flora by stimulating the growth of the good bacteria and benefitting our health in many ways.

Why you should combine both probiotics and prebiotics (synbiotics):

  • Prebiotics aid the growth and strength of probiotics—the good bacteria. Taking these two together—synbiotics—help the probiotics work better.
  • Prebiotics aid the survival of probiotics. The stomach is an acidic environment that can kill most bacteria. Probiotics must survive the stomach acid and bile to make themselves at home in our guts. Studies show that providing food for them improves their chances of survival in these harsh conditions. 
  • In comparison to the activity of probiotics or prebiotics alone, the use of synbiotics promises a better effect on the gut flora.
  • When the probiotics consume the prebiotics, they create postbiotics. Generally speaking, postbiotics are beneficial.  Postbiotics are not live bacteria but they benefit health by modulating the immune system, preventing inflammation, and more.
  • One of the most beneficial postbiotics is butyrate. It feeds the gut cells, has strong immune-balancing properties, and improves intestinal barrier function (preventing leaky gut).
  • Synbiotics are more effective against harmful bacteria than probiotics and prebiotics by themselves. Synbiotics inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.


Our gut microbiota is a reflection of our health. Diet and lifestyle choices directly affect gut microbiota composition. Thankfully, a disrupted microbiota can be fixed with probiotics. To improve the efficacy and survival of probiotics, you should take prebiotics with probiotics. Prebiotics strengthen good bacteria and make probiotics more effective. Prebiotics and probiotics make a dream team and should be taken together to achieve the best results. We depend on our good bacteria and should feed and nurture them as they affect everything else in our bodies.

Here are our three synbiotic products:

    • Survives stomach acid and digestion
    • Antimicrobial activity against harmful bacteria 
    • Produces protein-digesting enzymes
    • Promotes bowel regularity
    • Reduces bloating and gassiness

Lactobacillus plantarum strains, which are part of the lactic acid bacteria group, are essential probiotics.

Many strains of L. plantarum have promising health properties when it comes to gut health, metabolic disorders, and mental health.

The applications of L. plantarum include:

  • Cholesterol-lowering properties
  • Diarrhea prevention
  • Regulation of gastrointestinal disorders
  • IBS symptom reduction
  • Cognibiotics — This is a mood-enhancing supplement with synbiotics that ensures both brain and gut health.

This cognibiotic product includes a proprietary probiotic blend containing Lactobacillus (casei, rhamnosus, reuteri,  helveticus, fermentum) and Bifidobacterium (animalis, breve, longum, infantis). 

Lactobacillus members are one of the most abundant microorganisms in the human gut and are essential for a healthy gut. Along with Lactobacillus members, members of the Bifidobacterium family are among the first microbes to make themselves at home in the human gut at birth and are beneficial for proper gut health.

LEAKY GUT GUARDIAN—VANILLA is a vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free option. It is effective against harmful bacteria while replenishing the good bacteria and repairing the gut lining.

LEAKY GUT GUARDIAN—CHOCOLATE is a gluten-free and dairy-free option. It fights off harmful bacteria and replaces them with good bacteria while also repairing the gut lining.

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