Prebiotics or Probiotics: what’s the difference and why do we care?

 You could be wasting a lot of money on useless and expensive Pro-biotics! 

On top of that they may be far less effective if you get no Pre-biotics.

Are you confused yet?

read on and all will become clear…

When I first heard the term ‘prebiotic’ I thought it was just a mistake or meant the same as ‘probiotic’. I was wrong and it is important to know the difference.


Probiotics are live bacteria found in yogurt, other dairy products and cultured foods and can also be bought in pill form. Probiotics have been shown quite effective in managing certain gastrointestinal conditions, but they do not have the same power as Prebiotics.

[important] PREbiotics [/important]

A prebiotic is a specialised plant fibre, such as inulin and oligofructose that beneficially nourishes the good bacteria already in the large bowel or colon. They act as a sort of fertiliser or food for increasing the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in the gut.

Prebiotics not only increase bowel regularity, there can also be a positive effect on leaky gut syndrome, weight management and strengthening of the immune system. In fact, the role of the gut in our health is currently an exciting and promising area of research, and its role in the understanding and treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes, polyps and cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease looks increasingly promising.

Prebiotics are found in plants and vegetables such as:

  • asparagus

  • leeks

  • bananas

  • yams or sweet potatoes

  • garlic

  • leeks

  • onions

  • Chicory root

  • Artichoke (the root type, not the spiky globe)

  • Agave

  • Jicama

  • Dandelion greens

All delicious and yet another good reason to eat them.

Other sources

 You may also see Inulin and Oligofructose on the ingredients label of packaged foods.

In these cases it is probably extracted from onions and by products of sugar production from beets or chicory root and then added to processed foods to increase fibre. This does NOT make a highly processed food into a healthy food even though you may get more fibre.

So what’s wrong with Pro-biotics ?

Most of us have seen the many advertisements for Pro-biotic supplements and think we are doing the right thing when we buy them but, if you use Pro-biotics yet do not eat foods containing Pre-biotics you could be wasting your money. In fact Pro-biotic supplements can be a bit hit and miss anyway because you never know how much of the live bacteria were actually put in it or, whether they are still alive when you take them,  so you could be wasting you money either way!

Where else can I get Pro-biotics then?

If you can, it is great to eat real foods containing Probiotics such as:

  • yoghurt, kefir, and buttermilk

  • harder cheeses such as cheddar, Gouda, or Parmesan

  • sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickled versions of veggies

  • sourdough bread

  • miso (fermented barley or soy or rice)probiotic drink

  • tempeh – fermented soy

  • kombucha – a delicious fermented tea – great as a substitute for sugary soft drinks!

  • Beer, wine (Thank God!)

Why buy a supplement at all?

Well of course we should all eat a wide variety of foods containing both Prebiotics and Probiotics but the reality is that many do not and realistically, may never do that, so I suppose you could say a supplement is the next best thing but really, you can never beat a good and sufficient diet.

If you are going to supplement then it seems a Prebiotic that multiplies the good bacteria already present may give you more bang for your buck. If you are a smoker it is even more important that you eat a good diet it and still imperative that you stop smoking.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Carmel Boutchard is a professional quit smoking hypnotherapy practitioner in Brisbane, Australia. Web: email: phone: 1300 971701 (in Australia only).   References (a commercial site but useful) (Non-sponsored article with refs.)

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