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Prebiotic vs probiotic: digesting the differences

When comparing prebiotic vs probiotic, which will help your digestion most? Probiotics have been hogging the spotlight recently. But don’t you need prebiotics – since it starts with “pre” – for the probiotics show to go on?

Prebiotic vs probiotic: understanding the onus of each

prebiotic vs probiotic

More health professionals have begun recommending probiotics as a daily supplement for people of all ages. But they recommend taking probiotics especially when also taking antibiotics.

That’s because probiotics are the good bacteria found naturally in your gut flora, that is if they haven’t been killed off by taking too many antibiotics. Maybe that’s the meaning behind the “anti”. Other factors such as stress, birth control pills and more affect the amount of probiotics in our guts. Read more in my article “What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids”.

You can replenish probiotics by eating foods including kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and yogurt. But these good bacteria are sensitive to heat and stomach acid, and don’t always survive the journey to your colon, where they’re needed. This is why some doctors recommend taking a probiotic supplement daily.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of fiber and serve as food for the probiotics in your gut flora. Prebiotics pass through your upper digestive tract undigested and collect in your colon where they are fermented by your gut flora.

So if your body lacks probiotics, it makes sense to add those to your diet first. Then consider adding prebiotics to help fuel your body’s probiotics and keep your gut flora in balance.

Why is our digestion so out of whack anyway?

According to “Feeling the burn?” in “Health and Happiness” (Lucky’s Market, November 2016), proper digestion requires stomach acid plus enzymes which occur naturally in many foods. These enzymes cause the foods to ripen, and eventually rot. But also mentioned in the article, about 40 years ago, food processors realized that destroying those enzymes would slow the natural rotting process and increase shelf life.

This is why processed foods are so bad for us, and why whole (live) foods are vital to our health!

Add the harmful long-term effects of antacids and other digestive medicines to our out-of-balance guts, and prebiotics vs probiotics becomes a draw. We desperately need both.

How you do naturally build up prebiotics in your body?

Similar to probiotics, depending on how depleted your system is, you may not be able to get enough prebiotics from foods, in which case you can take a supplement.

However, here are some tasty foods that will give you a prebiotic punch:

  • Acacia gum (gum arabic)
  • raw asparagus
  • raw dandelion greens
  • raw chicory root
  • raw garlic (add to hummus or dip)
  • raw Jerusalem artichoke
  • raw jicama
  • raw leeks
  • onion (raw or cooked)
  • under-ripe bananas

Getting your gut flora back into balance with the help of prebiotics may help:

  1. reduce inflammation, therefore reducing chronic conditions or diseases.
  2. boost your immune function.
  3. maintain healthier cholesterol levels.
  4. reduce indigestion and other digestive issues.
  5. balance your hormones (think thyroid, weight, mood, etc).

When contemplating prebiotic vs probiotic, choose healthy food sources of each. Talk with your doctor about supplementing. And cut out the processed foods that continue to sabotage your hard work to feel healthier.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.