Read Time: 7 minutes

Prebiotic vs Probiotic: Exploring the Key Differences

Prebiotic vs probiotic: which one should you choose?

In a nutshell, prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, while probiotics are live beneficial bacteria.

Both prebiotics and probiotics work together (The P Team!) to promote a healthy gut environment, which in turn supports overall health.

What are Prebiotics?

Definition and Function

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

These fibers pass through your digestive system and reach the colon, where they’re fermented by the good bacteria (1).

This process of fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids, which have various positive effects on your health (2).

Sources of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are found naturally in many plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Some examples of prebiotic-rich foods include:

– Garlic

– Onions

– Leeks

– Asparagus

– Bananas

– Barley

– Oats

What are Probiotics?

Definition and Function

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, provide health benefits by improving or restoring the gut flora (3).

These beneficial bacteria aid in digestion, enhance immune function, and may even help prevent certain diseases.

Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics can be found in various fermented foods and supplements.

Some common sources include:

– Yogurt

– Kefir

– Sauerkraut

– Kimchi

– Miso

– Tempeh

– Probiotic supplements

Prebiotics and Probiotics: A Synergistic Relationship

Prebiotics and probiotics work together to maintain a healthy gut environment.

Prebiotics serve as food for the beneficial bacteria, while probiotics add to the existing population of good bacteria.

This synergistic (and beautiful) relationship helps promote a well-balanced gut microbiota, which is essential for overall health (4).

Health Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Improved Digestion

A healthy balance of gut bacteria is crucial for proper digestion.

Prebiotics and probiotics can help maintain this balance by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, which in turn aids in the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients (5).

Enhanced Immune Function

Research suggests that a well-balanced gut microbiota plays a vital role in immune system function (6).

Prebiotics and probiotics can support immune health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and helping to regulate the immune response.

Weight Management

Some studies have shown that prebiotics and probiotics may help with weight management.

By promoting a healthy gut environment, they can influence the way our bodies metabolize and store fat, as well as impact our appetite and satiety levels (7).

How to Choose the Right Prebiotic or Probiotic

When deciding between prebiotics and probiotics, consider your specific needs and health goals.

If you’re looking to support overall gut health and digestion, incorporating both prebiotics and probiotics into your diet may be the most beneficial approach.

However, if you’re targeting a specific health concern or have a dietary restriction, you may need to choose one or the other.

Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplements

If you’re unable to obtain enough prebiotics and probiotics through food sources, you might consider taking supplements.

There are numerous prebiotic and probiotic supplements available on the market, each with varying strains and concentrations of beneficial bacteria.

When choosing a supplement, look for products that:

  1. Contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria
  2. Specify the concentration of live bacteria (measured in CFUs or colony-forming units)
  3. Are produced by reputable manufacturers

Final Thoughts

Prebiotics and probiotics both play essential roles in maintaining a healthy gut environment.

While prebiotics serve as food for the beneficial bacteria, probiotics provide live microorganisms that support gut health.

Incorporating both prebiotics and probiotics into your diet can lead to improved digestion, enhanced immune function, and better overall health. 


1. Gibson, G. R., & Roberfroid, M. B. (1995). Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics. The Journal of nutrition, 125(6), 1401-1412.

2. Ríos-Covián, D., Ruas-Madiedo, P., Margolles, A., Gueimonde, M., de Los Reyes-Gavilán, C. G., & Salazar, N. (2016). Intestinal short-chain fatty acids and their link with diet and human health. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 185.

3. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506-514.

4. Sanders, M. E., Merenstein, D. J., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., & Rastall, R. A. (2019). Probiotics and prebiotics in intestinal health and disease: from biology to the clinic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 16(10), 605-616.

5. O’Hara, A. M., & Shanahan, F. (2006). The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO reports, 7(7), 688-693.

6. Belkaid, Y., & Hand, T. W. (2014). Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell, 157(1), 121-141.

For a fitter, stronger,
healthier you.

Calculate your macro and calorie targets, generate a meal plan you'll love, and level-up with structured workout plans.