Prebiotics and Probiotics: How Are They Different and Relevant to Your Gut Microbiome?

Prebiotics and Probiotics: How Are They Different and Relevant to Your Gut Microbiome?

They say, you are what you eat, and we say, you are what you feed these trillions of little critters living in your gut. The lining of your gut is covered in microscopic creatures that are usually bacteria, and they help in creating a micro-ecosystem known as the microbiome. It plays a crucial role in keeping you healthy and can also have an effect on your mood and behavior.

When it comes to gut health, prebiotics and probiotics aren’t alien to most people, but still, there is a lot of confusion regarding these two. Is there a difference or these are the same? Why are they so crucial for your gut microbiome? This article attempts to answer all your questions regarding prebiotics and probiotics.


These are a kind of fiber that the human body is unable to digest. Prebiotics are food for probiotics, which are very tiny living microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeast. Prebiotics and probiotics support good bacteria and other helpful organisms in the gut.


Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts beneficial especially for the digestive system. These are generally known as the “good” bacteria as they help in keeping the gut healthy.

To get a healthy microbiome, you need to strike a balance among around 1,000 different species of bacteria in your gut. And, to do so, you can follow two ways- help the microbes present there to grow by feeding them prebiotic and by adding living microbes directly to the system, which is probiotic.

Difference between Prebiotics and Probiotics

Let’s understand the differences between the two, better.

Basis Prebiotics Probiotics
Constitution These are dietary fibers and essentially the fertilizer that generate friendly bacteria in the gut. They are not living organisms and are not affected by heat, acidity, or decay in your gut. These are living microorganisms present in the gastric system. They might get eliminated upon being exposed to heat, decay, or stomach acid.
Health benefits These help nourish the probiotics in your gut and allow the formation of good bacteria. Prebiotics also help in enabling the smooth movement of food in the digestive tract. These are essential for a smooth functioning digestive system. Probiotics can help lose weight, enhance heart health, and also lower blood pressure and sugar levels.
Food sources These are dietary fibers and can be found in foods such as oatmeal, apple, onion,  and barley. Fermented foods are a good source. Such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese.

Benefits of probiotics

  • Enhanced digestive health: Multiple studies have found probiotics to be helpful in boosting digestive health. A review study found that taking probiotics while using antibiotics can help in minimizing the risk of developing antibiotic-related diarrhea by 60%.
  • Improved gastrointestinal health: Various studies have suggested that people with disorders related to the stomach and intestines can be benefitted from probiotics. Studies have found that probiotics improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Might improve mental health and immunity: Some studies suggest that probiotics might be helpful in improving mental health. Probiotics might help in reducing the symptoms of depression, but additional studies are required to confirm this. Probiotics also help in boosting immunity.

Benefits of Prebiotics

Understand the Microbiome

The microbiome consists of microbes that are both beneficial and harmful. Most of these are symbiotic, which means both the human body and microbiota can benefit from them. Some of these can be pathogenic, which means they promote disease. A healthy body has both of these microbes without any issues. If there is a disturbance in this balance caused by certain diets, infectious diseases, or prolonged use of antibiotics, it leads to dysbiosis, under which the normal interactions are stopped. In such as case, the body is at more risk of developing a disease.

The gut bacteria, which is known as the gut flora or gut microbiota, perform many key functions in your body. To maintain the right balance of these bacteria and keep gut microbiota healthy, it is important that you eat balanced amounts of probiotics and prebiotics.

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