The jury is out.
Both Probiotics and Prebiotics help building a healthy gut (1) and thus a healthier you.
While both work towards a common goal of benefiting your health, there are fundamental differences between the two.
What is the difference between Prebiotics and Probiotics?
The key difference: probiotics are live cultures containing bacteria, fungi and viruses (2) that directly help your gut health. Prebiotics are the food that stimulates intestinal bacterial growth.
“Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora”
They contain live bacteria in their cultures. Supplementing your food with probiotics add to the good bacteria already present in your gut. So the good and health making bacteria surpass the number of bad bacteria. This way the functions of your body is improved. For example, Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic found in food such as yogurt (3).
Sampling of Probiotics:
- Yogurt (Dahi in Oriya)
- Fermented rice water -“Kanji” in oriya
- Kefir and related products
- Kimchi- Fermented vegetables
PrebioticsPrebiotics are complex carbohydrates containing indigestible fibers. In the language of nutrition scientists they are inulin, resistant starch and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). For a common man standpoint, they are fruits, whole grains and vegetables containing fibers. These special fibers pass your digestive system without being digested. Then they enter the rear part of the digestive system. The bacteria in your colon break them down to varieties of nutrients. These broken down nutrients work as fertilizers. They stimulate the growth of good bacteria. So prebiotics essentially feed the probiotics which are living organisms like bacteria and fungi. They don’t feed bad bacteria. This process influences the overall microbial equilibrium towards more good bacteria. Basically more good bacteria vs. bad bacteria is better health for you.
Prebiotics Available in Odisha-India (Local):
- Chia seeds
- Moringa leaves
- Curry leaves
- Flax seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Jamming leaves
- Green tea
- Human milk
- Black pepper
- Chili pepper
Prebiotics Available Widely in Western Countries
- Sugar beet
- Jerusalem artichoke,
- Human and cow milk,
- Micro algae
Are All Dietary Fibers Prebiotic?
Similarity between the two: both are indigestible in GI tract. A significant difference is that prebiotics are fermented by strictly defined groups of microorganisms, and dietary fibre is used by the majority of colonic microorganisms.
Exemplary Difference of Probiotics and Prebiotics
Do not get confused between prebiotics and probiotics.
The yogurt (dahi in Oriya) that you make or buy from outside is a probiotic. However moringa leaves are prebiotic.
Synbiotics Combine the Power of Probiotics and Prebiotics
A proper combination of pre and probiotics which uses the power of both can act synergistically and promote your health better. These synergistic combinations benefiting certain symptoms are called Synbiotics.
Can You Use Both Probiotics and Probiotic supplements?
Absolutely. However they may or may not be necessary.
There are different varieties of cultures, pills, powders, supplements of pre and pro biotics available.to support your gut health. You can order them online or from various stores and from well established companies.
However it is simple and preferred to consume them as food or ingredients holistically. But certain symptoms may require special supplements. Ask your doctor before you use them.
Regulations for the Use of Probiotics
In US, Probiotics are regulated by FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The rule is the microorganisms used for the human consumption is generally regarded as safe.
Read the label during your purchase.
Dose, Safety and Side Effects
The prebiotic dose can affect its safety profile. For example, a daily dose of 2.5–10 g prebiotics is required to exert their beneficial functions on human health and high (40–50 g/day) doses of prebiotics can cause flatulence and diarrhea, respectively. Prebiotics within their therapeutic doses can cause mild to moderate side effects. Most products of prebiotics in the market have doses of 1.5–5 g per portion.
An overdose of prebiotics may lead to flatulence and diarrhoea—these effects are absent in the case of excessive consumption of probiotics.
When you buy, there are labels representing number of bacterial colonies. But there are no ways to measure the strength of it. That is a caveat.
Probiotics may be used on a long term basis to benefit the host’s health. When you use in correct dose it does not cause diarrhea.
It is the Need of the Hour
Microbes need diverse vegetarian foods to thrive which is currently becoming a rarity with a younger population. Below are some of the reasons why your gut health gets compromised or prone to be compromised.
- There is a surge of meat based diet in India that is a large shift from plant based diet because of the influence of western culture.
- Free range organic eggs are rare and twice expensive compared to bulk eggs from farm raised hens.
- Hormone and antibiotic treated meat
- Fish comes from the pond water contaminated with herbicides and pesticides.
- Fruits and vegetables take a back sit on the dining table.
- Consuming spicy and oily foods have become the norm society.
- The oils are adulterated and used heavily in cooking for frying and making curries.
- Never ever forget the use of alcohol which is ruling over the society.
- The local stores are flooded with oily and snacks using processed and refined grains.
- The fashion is to drink a sugar loaded cold drink.
- People have no time to cook at home and ruin their health eating out.
- Antibiotics are the today’s name of the treatment.
You are harassing your gut health every time you eat these. The consequences of the above habits reflect terribly on your health.
The mouth watering tasty and good smelling foods of your unhealthy meals eventually get you suffer from chronic symptoms, reduced longevity of life, make you depressed and putting in mental and emotional suffering. You may end end in hospital fighting for health and your life.
Is it not the need of the hour to change your lifestyle?
Both probiotics and Prebiotics enhances your gut health independently and as a combination. Treat your gut right and gain control over your overall health. While eating several selected fermented foods and drinks (probiotics) help boost healthy gut bacteria, consumption of varieties of foods and vegetables (prebiotics) containing fibers can stimulate the growth of the good bacteria.