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Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics

What Is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

You might be one of those wondering: what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Well, quite a lot, actually. However, they also have similarities, particularly when it comes to the benefits they provide our bodies. To better understand what these concepts are, read on.

What they are

Let’s look at probiotics first. These are live microorganisms that mimic the function of the good bacteria already present in our digestive system. Their addition increases the level of good bacteria in the gut, which results in better protection for the stomach from bad bacteria which are the cause of diseases like intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, constipation, atopic diseases and urogenital infections.

Prebiotics, in comparison, are food ingredients that are non-digestible. Their main function is to serve as food to the good bacteria present in the gut. They also induce the growth of these good bacteria and have also been found to be good at speeding up metabolism. Basically, they are needed to make the good bacteria work better at protecting the digestive system from bad bacteria.

Resistance to natural and outside forces

Prebiotics are resistant to heat and cold and can survive for a long time. Meanwhile, probiotics can be destroyed by heat, acid from the stomach and the passage of time. This means that even before they reach the colon, they may already be destroyed or their effectiveness diminished. Prebiotics do not suffer from the same problem since they remain intact as they reach the digestive system and their original structure remains unaltered.

There have also been studies that claim that probiotics do not survive treatment or manufacturing processes. This means that even if some can reach the gut and the colon, they may not have enough power to serve their purpose. Some studies even noted that probiotics may not function as they should unless prebiotics are also present.

Where you can get them

Probiotics are manufactured or processed and are added to food products or nutritional supplements. Bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria are the microbes commonly used as probiotics, both of which are highly beneficial to the digestive tract. Fermented foods are the primary sources of probiotics, including yogurt and soy food and drinks.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, can be found in a number of plant species, including soybeans, artichoke, chicory root, wheat, oats, barley, onion, garlic, asparagus and kiwi fruit. Lately, food manufacturers have also added them to daily food options like cereals, biscuits and bread and are also used as primary ingredients in some nutritional supplements.

Combination of the two

Some food and nutritional supplement manufacturers have combined these two groups to create the so-called synbiotic products. These offered consumers the benefit of both, although not a lot of studies have yet to be published on how effective these synbiotics are. Having noted that, it is still a fact that both have benefits on the digestive system and on human health.

However, some studies have cited the superiority of prebiotics over probiotics, citing the former’s bigger impact and the fact that they can remain unaltered despite processes and treatment. In addition, prebiotics can work even without probiotics since they can just use the good bacteria already present in the digestive tract.

Probiotics, on the other hand, may have need of prebiotic help to function properly. Some studies have also claimed that the effects of probiotics are insignificant, particularly when the source has undergone processing or manufacturing procedures.

So, what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? In truth, a lot. But the human body will definitely benefit by taking both, particularly in the case of prebiotics which not only remain intact in the stomach, but can also be had from natural sources.