Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What's the Difference?

Vegetables in grocery

The World of Probiotics and Prebiotics

Ten years ago, not too many people had heard of probiotics or prebiotics. Yogurt took up a shelf or two at the grocery store; sauerkraut only belonged on the occasional hot dog; and if your health-crazed friend said “Kombucha?” you were more likely to say “bless you” than “yes, please.”While more people are now familiar with the idea of probiotics and prebiotics, there might still be some confusion over the difference between the two. (No, they cannot be used interchangeably. Yes, you need both.)Today, we’re taking a deep-dive into the world of probiotics and prebiotics: what they are, how they work, why you need them, and, perhaps most importantly, how you can get them

Your Gut Health and Microbiome

We have come a long way in understanding the importance of the gut. As more and more research has come out about gut health and the gut microbiome, we’ve learned that the gut can contribute to your overall health. A balanced gut is a happy gut. A balanced gut contains the right amounts of beneficial bacteria to balance out naturally occurring bad bacteria. These good bacteria serve a variety of functions, including protecting your gut from harmful viruses or fungi, keeping your immune system strong, and forming short-chain fatty acids. If your gut is out of balance, on the other hand, you may have what is called dysbiosis.
Some of the common symptoms of dysbiosis are:

  • ·         Gas after meals
  • ·         Feeling bloated
  • ·         Constipation
  • ·         Bad breath

Dysbiosis can occur for any number of reasons (diet, stress, poor sleep, or antibiotics, to name a few), and can occur at varying levels of intensity. But no matter where it came from or how bad it is, it’s no fun to live with.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Clearly, a healthy gut lead to a healthy body overall. But dysbiosis can also have a negative impact on your mood, because of something called the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is, essentially, the connection between your gut and your mind. This connection happens through several different bodily systems, including neural, endocrine, immune, and humoral.2  Because of these connections, the state of your gut could have an effect on the state of your mood, including feelings of stress.3In short, keeping your gut healthy isn’t just a matter of physical health, it’s one of mental health, too. Getting your gut in balance may help relieve the symptoms of dysbiosis, including feelings of stress and anxiety, so you can live a happier, healthier life. That is where probiotics and prebiotics come in. But what exactly are they?

What are Probiotics?!

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut. They are a natural occurrence in your body but taking in more probiotics means that there will be more good bacteria in your gut to counteract the harmful bacteria that are striving to take over. This helps to balance your gut flora so that your gut is healthier (and so are you). Generally, what we know as probiotics are bacteria from two main genera:    Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotic strains from these groups are beneficial when it comes to reducing bloating and occasional constipation, but can also help strengthen the immune system and boost your mood. If you’re wanting to add more probiotics into your diet, you’re in luck: there are plenty of foods that naturally contain probiotics, often because the process of fermentation encourages the growth of live bacteria (tasty, right?). 

Here are some foods to add to your diet that pack a powerful probiotic punch:

Probiotic Foods

Probiotics in foods can be killed by heat or passage of time, so if you’re trying to take in more probiotics through your diet, make sure that the foods or products have been prepared in such a way that you’ll still get the full probiotic benefit from them. One important note here is that pasteurization kills the bacteria, also killing the benefits you would have gotten, so look for non-pasteurized options. Probiotics are clearly important when it comes to keeping your gut healthy, but how can you make sure the probiotics have what they need to do their job properly? We are glad you asked.

What are Prebiotics?

 Prebiotics put very simply, are food for probiotics. They feed the probiotics, helping them to grow and flourish in the gut. Put a little less simply: prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber, made up of carbohydrates. Your body actually cannot digest these carbs, but the bacteria in your gut can. In this way, prebiotics act as a type of fertilizer, stimulating and promoting the growth of good gut bacteria.5(Put a lot less simply: prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides. But we will not go there.) Just as there are foods that are good sources of probiotics, there are foods that give you a hearty dose of prebiotics. 

Some of these are:

Since prebiotics themselves do not do anything for your body, per se, they aren’t really useful without probiotics to pair them with, just as fertilizer wouldn’t be beneficial without plants to feed. But as long as they have plenty of probiotics to nourish, prebiotics can play a big role in helping that good bacteria thrive in your gut.

Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements

If you’re looking at the list of probiotic and prebiotic foods and thinking, “Help! I can’t eat all that!” we totally get it. It is not easy to include all the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. In fact, one survey revealed that only 27 percent of adults consumed the recommended number of servings of vegetables every day (3); 29 percent got the recommended servings of fruit (2), and only 9 percent had both. This is why supplements are often a vital part of making sure your gut stays healthy and balanced. Supplements can give you probiotics and/or prebiotics in one convenient serving. As is the case with most nutritional supplements, not all probiotic and prebiotic supplements are created equal. When looking for the perfect probiotic, look for an option that contains multiple strains of active bacteria, with at least 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units), but preferably much more. It seems like a lot but considering that there are trillions of bacteria in your gut, a billion is just a drop in the bucket. VitalBiomeTM is a product that checks all the boxes—and then some—when it comes to giving your body the probiotics it needs. VitalBiome contains 20 billion CFU at the time of manufacture, and it contains eight different, clinically demonstrated strains of beneficial bacteria. Combined, these bacteria work to help reduce gastrointestinal issues like gas and bloating, reduce feelings of stress, improve mood, stabilize stress hormones, promote relaxation, and support a healthy immune system.* Another key feature of VitalBiome is that it uses delayed-release capsules, which allow the beneficial bacteria to survive their journey through the digestive tract. That, plus the gluten-free, vegetarian, non-GMO formula all adds up to one powerhouse probiotic supplement. Looking for a prebiotic partner for all those good probiotics?  Slim® contains a clinically studied prebiotic that serves as the ideal meal for that beneficial bacteria. Combined with VitalBiome, you’re giving your gut its best chance at staying balanced and healthy. * ♢♢

Your Gut Health and Microbiome

Whether you’ve never thought about gut health before, or you’ve been making your own kefir for years, now is the time to give your gut what it needs to be truly healthy. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of dysbiosis, or you just want to stay ahead in the gut-health game, use what you’ve learned about probiotics and prebiotics to make smart choices when it comes to food and supplements. Chances are that gut health could be the key to unlocking a happier, healthier you.

 References/Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-and-prebiotics#section2
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289516300509
  4. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/probiotic-bacteria-strains/slide/5/
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/prebiotics-probiotics-and-your-health/art-20390058
  6. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.80.12.1443

 Disclaimers: *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The results of an in vitro human gut simulator study suggest that VitalBiome’s formula may have several beneficial effects. Further research, including research conducted in humans, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings. ♢♢ The results of an in vitro human gut simulator study suggest that Slim’s formula may have several beneficial effects. Further research, including research conducted in humans, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.