Differences and Health Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics

What are Prebiotics and Probiotics? Even though both sound similar, Prebiotics and probiotics are different in the way they benefit the body. While most people know what probiotics are, thanks to Yakult, many are not aware of what Prebiotics are and its benefits which are equivalently crucial to the human body.

In this article, we will look at the differences and benefits of both Prebiotics and Probiotics.

Probiotics VS. Prebiotics

While probiotics are the ‘live’ bacteria that keep our digestive and immune system healthy, Prebiotics, on the other hand, is the ‘non-living food ingredients’ that the good bacteria, such as probiotics, ‘feed’ on to grow and perform their function of keeping our body healthy. In short, probiotics are microorganisms living inside our body, and Prebiotics is their food.


Probiotics and their health benefits

Probiotics are useful forms of good bacteria that are necessary for good health as they help to manage and restore the levels of good bacteria in the intestines that strengthen our immune system and overall wellbeing.

Probiotics are known to prevent many health-related issues such as

  • Digestive disorders
  • Frequent flu and colds
  • Skin problems
  • Candida (bad breath) and
  • Autoimmune disease.

Most of the probiotics in our system come from the fresh, fermented or dairy products we consume daily as part of our diet through whole wheat products, onions, garlic yogurt, tempeh and even dark chocolate.

In the past, fermentation was a common practice to preserve excess food to be consumed later. However, with the advancement in technology, modern equipment’s for the preservation of food such as the refrigerator is introduced and the need for fermentation was made redundant. Modern food processes also produce bacteria-free food which deprives the body of a potential source of probiotics.

Modernization has inevitably changed the sources where we can get our probiotics from and our dietary habits need to change in order to upkeep and maintain healthy levels of probiotics in our body.

Sources of food rich in Probiotics

To make up for the loss, we should include fermented food products such as yogurt and cheese that are rich in probiotics to our diet. This good bacteria is also present in beauty products and dietary supplements, may it be in capsule, powder, or gums. Other food rich in Prebiotics includes:


  • Yogurt
  • Cultured drinks
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso soup
  • Fermented soft cheeses
  • Sourdough bread

Apart from consuming food rich in probiotics, we should also consume food rich in prebiotics as they are the supplements for probiotics that ensures good gut health. Prebiotics will be discussed in further detail as we go along.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

There are a lot of benefits we can get from eating foods that are rich in Probiotics. Some of the health benefits include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Improved digestion
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Good smelling breath
  • Healthier skin
  • Fewer incidents of cold and flu
  • Higher energy level

You should, therefore, enrich your diet with a wide variety of food rich in probiotics to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria within your gut for a stronger immune system.

The infographic below explains the differences between good and bad bacteria and their respective effects on the human body.

Limitations, side effects, and risk

Like we always mention, anything that is good for our health, if taken too much, will turn bad. So limitation and being informed about the side effects and risks are significant.


One of the major weaknesses of probiotics is its weak resistance to heat and stomach acid. As a good bacterium, probiotics are somewhat fragile and susceptible to harm through the process of food preparation or consumption. The excessive heat present in our food during preparation may have killed off the much-needed probiotics before consumption and our dietary habits, preferences and existing conditions such as lactose intolerance may also limit and impede our intake of probiotics through dairy products.

As each of our bodies is different, our requirements for good bacteria will differ as well. It is therefore important for each individual to find the appropriate probiotic-rich food that fits their probiotic needs to ensure a healthy gut and immune system.

Side effects

Despite being good for the body, there are specific side effects associated with probiotics such as mild bloating, allergic reaction, and gas. Probiotics are also thought to cause infections in people with underlying health conditions that would need to be treated with antibiotics. However, these cases are rare.

Probiotics are generally safe for consumption with a low chance of developing serious side effects.


The following groups of people should exercise caution before consuming any form of probiotics:

  • Children
  • Pregnant woman
  • Elderly
  • People with a weak immune system

People with weak immune systems are more susceptible to infections of the bloodstream and chances of contracting other illnesses caused by probiotics.

With that said, probiotics should be taken in moderation as excessive consumption may bring about undesirable side effects such as temporary gas and bloating. People in the above categories should also seek a doctors consult before taking any course of probiotics.

Prebiotics and their health benefits


As mentioned before, Prebiotics is ‘food’ for probiotics and other good bacteria to feed on to grow and flourish. It is a fiber and non-digestible carbohydrates that are essential and proven to have the following health benefits:

  • Improved immune system
  • Increase in bone density
  • Better weight control
  • Better appetite
  • Regular bowel movement
  • The decrease in allergic inflammation
  • Increase calcium absorption for strong bones

How do Prebiotics work

Prebiotics act primarily as a support for probiotics and the latter cannot sustain or work without the former.

The study of the colon has long been neglected as it was originally thought to only be responsible for disposing of body waste and nothing else. However, doctors have recently discovered that the colon is actually home to a diverse group of bacteria that contributes beneficially to our overall health.

The presence of good bacteria such as probiotics in the system helps the body with the absorption of nutrients, minerals, strengthens bowel walls and regulate hormone production which improves overall health among other benefits.

Regular consumption of food rich in fiber is inevitably beneficial to human health due to the positive chain effect it brings.

Prebiotics linked to good physical and mental health

Contrary to popular belief, your body does not actually digest nor absorb the fibers you consume. Apart from aiding the grown of good bacteria, fiber also promotes the movement of materials through our body system to promote a healthy digestive system.

Studies have also shown that people who consume food rich in prebiotics are less susceptible to anxiety and stress. This has been attributed to the low levels of cortisol that is associated with the increase in fiber intake.

Sources of Prebiotics

Among the list below, sources of fiber include vegetables, fruits, nuts, wholegrain food, and supplements. Some food where Prebiotics is present are:

  • Banana
  • Celery
  • Skin of apple
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Beans and legumes
  • Papaya
  • Spinach
  • Artichoke
  • Chicory roots
  • Asparagus
  • Oatmeal

It is important to note that the amount of fiber usually consumed per serving is roughly 1 to 2 grams which is insufficient for most people on a healthy diet. The exclusion of fruits and vegetables from one’s diet would further deprive the body of the much-needed mineral.

Even though it is better to consume adequate amounts of minerals and nutrients through the intake of food, there might be certain circumstances that may prohibit one from taking in the needed nutrients via solid food. This is where supplements may come in to make up for the deficit as water-soluble probiotic food supplements are easy to prepare and consume either in the morning or evening to give your body the minerals it needs.

Taking prebiotics together with probiotics?

It is recommended to take both Prebiotics and probiotics at the same time regularly. A holistic diet should include food rich in both pre and probiotics and a healthy those of yogurt, coupled with regular intake of fruits and vegetables will provide the body with the necessary nutrients and materials required.

Should your pre or probiotic intake be limited by your dietary constraints, supplements can also be taken to help make up for the lack of either.

Can I take prebiotics alone?

Most definitely. The human body contains natural amounts of probiotics, although levels may differ with each individual. Having adequate levels of Prebiotics are the first steps to ensuring healthy levels of probiotics. Prebiotics can be taken alone to spur the internal growth of probiotics within your gut.

As the natural levels of probiotics are different with each individual, it is recommended for people to still consume food rich in probiotics to maintain healthy levels of such bacteria, either through the natural consumption of food or through supplements.

When is the best time to eat probiotics or prebiotics?

Food rich in Prebiotics and probiotics should be consumed regularly, but the amount of fiber usually consumed per serving of food is roughly 1 to 2 grams which are insufficient for most people on a healthy diet. Supplements are therefore necessary to make up for the deficit.

For the best effects, prebiotic and probiotic supplements can be taken before bed regularly to give the body the steady flow of minerals it requires to upkeep body functions. Such supplements can also be taken with a meal for its filling effect. This is very useful for people who are trying to control and maintain their weight.

Unlike other supplements that take time to realize its effects, the effects of plant-based fiber supplements can be felt with just one dose with no extra calories added to your meal.

However, supplements should always be taken in moderation to complement an existing healthy diet to maximize its effects.

Why Should I Take prebiotics supplement

Even though it is better to rely on the natural intake of food, the nutrients and minerals we get through the natural method are generally insufficient to maintain healthy and optimal body function and the consumption of supplements are therefore necessary to make up for the deficit.

Low levels of fiber would impede the smooth processing of food within the body, and it is important to note that fibers are not native to the human body and can only be taken via external sources such as food and supplements.

However, food these days are prepared with excessive amounts of sugar and artificial preservatives and consuming excessive amounts of such preservatives to meet your regular nutrient intake may be detrimental to your overall health.

Specific supplements such as prebiotic and probiotic supplements seek only to provide what is required without anything else.

Understanding your body and health

The Gastrointestinal tract is an organ responsible for digestion, absorption of nutrients, and expulsion of waste. As a vital organ in the body, the condition of the gastrointestinal tract will inevitably affect the overall immune system and health.

The goodness of Natural Fiber

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