What’s the difference between probiotic & prebiotic?

Wordle Probiotics
You have probably heard about probiotics and their health benefits through packages on yogurts and the Activia belly dancing commercials. But do you know the difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic?

Let’s first break things down so we can digest this information (pun intended).

Our gut is a giant host to millions of bacteria with approximately 300 to 500 bacterial species!  In fact, the number of bacteria within the gut is almost ten times that of all the cells in the human body (talk about a wild party!). These bacteria have multiple roles within the digestive system that help you digest food and absorb essential vitamins. However, when your system is disturbed, it can lead to digestive issues. This is where your probiotics and prebiotics come in!

Probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed in adequate amounts, provide positive health effects. Common foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, Kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, soy milk, tempeh and many more. You can also purchase supplements that contain probiotics.

Like all living organisms, probiotics need food to stay healthy. This is where prebiotics come into play. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act like food for probiotics to help them grow and stay healthy.  These special non-digestible carbohydrates must meet specific scientific criteria in order to be classified as a prebiotic. So what are some examples of prebiotics you may be asking? Fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS) or fructans and Galacto-oligosaccardes (GOS) are the most common prebiotics. They can be found in foods like artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, rye, dandelion roots, tomatoes, and fermented dairy products like yogurt, buttermilk and kefir. Prebiotics can also be added to foods like breakfast cereals, breads and snack bars, or can be provided in a supplement form.

Bottom line: Prebiotics are fuel for probiotics to help you keep a healthy, happy gut!

Blog post contributed by Alyssa Ramuscak, Nutrition & Dietetics Student, University of Western Ontario