The Difference Between Pre and Probiotics, Plus Why You Need Both
by Vickie Chin on May 19, 2021
If you’ve heard us talk about our yacon syrup then you’ve definitely heard us talk about prebiotics. Much like probiotics, prebiotics are an essential part of digestive health. Unlike probiotics, the PR team behind prebiotics isn’t as active – so while you’ve definitely heard all about the importance of a good probiotic and the health benefits of probiotic rich foods, you probably haven’t heard as much about prebiotics and the role they play in maintaining a healthy gut flora. We’re breaking down the difference between pre and probiotics, including how you could benefit from adding more of the former into your diet and why it's essential to have enough of both.
Prebiotic vs Probiotic
First, let’s briefly explain what probiotics are. They are the bacteria and yeasts that reside in your intestine. When we think of the word bacteria, we often label it as bad, however in the case of probiotics, these bacteria are actually helpful in maintaining a healthy and happy gut. Our bodies are packed with both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics function to help balance these good and bad bacteria in your body, keeping it healthy and functioning at its best. Although probiotic supplements are on the rise, you can definitely provide your body with this beneficial bacteria through wholefoods like yogurt, pickled vegetables and other fermented foods.
Did you know that 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut? Your overall health and immunity are directly impacted by the health of your digestive system and its health is directly impacted by the balance of the good and bad bacteria that resides in it.
Prebiotics on the other hand are not ‘alive’. They are types of soluble fiber that our bodies cannot digest which feed the good bacteria in your gut! For probiotics to thrive and survive, they must be fed – that’s where prebiotics come into play. Not only do prebiotics serve as food for them but they also aid in creating an environment where microorganisms (like probiotics!) can flourish. Prebiotics can be found in fiber-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains.
How It Works:
When we consume prebiotics, like all other foods we eat they first go through the small intestine. The difference is prebiotics don’t get digested and instead begin to ferment once it reaches the large colon. This fermentation feeds the good bacteria in your gut. You gotta nourish [with prebiotics] in order [for probiotics] to flourish!
To supplement, or not?
When it comes to both pre and probiotics, it can vary person to person whether a supplement or a wholefood source is the route to go. Probiotic supplements can be a great option for people who may not respond well to fermented foods. If you’re someone who can tolerate them, we always recommend nourishing your body with wholefood sources like kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut (to name a few).
Prebiotic supplements also exist, despite their lackluster PR teams in comparison to probiotics. However, prebiotic supplements just aren’t as necessary when you think about all of the different foods that are naturally rich in this nourishing fiber: onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, green bananas, yacon syrup, acacia fiber and more!
Why Gut Health Matters + How Prebiotics and Probiotics Are Essential
As mentioned, roughly 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut. More and more research is showing how hand in hand our gut health and overall immunity really is. Everything we eat and drink passes through the gut and GI tract. It’s here within the GI tract that probiotics flourish, foods are metabolized and nutrients are absorbed. The relationship between gut health and immune health can now be described as symbiotic. What this means is that in order for your immune health to be in tip top shape – so does your gut.
As illustrated above – both prebiotics and probiotics are essential to optimal digestive health, which means they also play an essential role in your immune health.
Here are some other fun facts about the gut:
- The bacteria in your gut outnumbers your cells, 10 to 1
- There are 100 million neurons in the gut that produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood and satiety
- 95% of the body’s total serotonin is located in the gut
- The gut is also known as the second brain (the gut-brain connection)
- Your gut regulates your mood
- Anyone who’s ever been hangry or been around someone hangry can attest to this!
- Your gut is responsible for energy product, hormone balance, skin health and even your mental health
At Organic Traditions we offer a variety of superfood blends that have been enhanced with both pre and probiotics. Our probiotic of choice is our bacillus coagulans, a strain that can withstand high heat and is 100% shelf stable! Our go-to source of prebiotics for our superfood blends is acacia fiber, a rich soluble fiber that comes from the sap of the Acacia Senegal tree. The acacia fiber in our instant probiotic lattes also serves to add a rich creamy texture to these dairy free superfood drinks. Lastly, our organic yacon syrup is packed with fructooligosaccharides aka FOS, which is a type of prebiotic fiber. We love using our yacon syrup to sweeten our deserts without spiking blood sugar levels or to add a bit of sweetness to our coffee and matcha lattes. If that’s not your jam, it’s delicious enough to enjoy right off of the spoon!