19 December, 2020
Prebiotics VS Probiotics
Approximate reading time: 2-3 minutes
Did you know that we have trillions of bacteria living in our intestines? This is known as our gut bacteria. What you feed your gut bacteria can affect your health. Our gut bacteria ferments carbohydrates to produce short chain fatty acids and gases which is good for gut health. Our gut bacteria produce vitamins, strengthens our immune system, and can affect our mood.
You have probably heard about probiotics and prebiotics and it is well known that they are great for our gut health. In this article, we are going to discuss what they are and provide you with some guidelines around probiotic supplements.
Probiotics refer to any bacteria found in food that is good for your gut health (1). Probiotics help reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, help improve your mood to keep you happy, and can improve the health of your gut lining(1). They also improve your immunity (1).
Probiotics can be found in:
- Fermented milk, yoghurt, and kefir
- Cereals, and in soy based products
- Tofu and tempeh
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi
Should you take Probiotic supplements?
They come in the form of capsules or powders, but are they really effective in improving your gut symptoms?
A review article by the British Dietetic Association aimed to find out the efficacy of probiotic supplements. It found that probiotic supplements were not very effective in reducing IBS symptoms (2).
With that being said, some people do experience improvements in gut symptoms after taking probiotic supplements. However, not everyone will experience these benefits as we are all different. Therefore, it is better to consume foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics. It is also important to know that not all probiotics work the same way. Different probiotic bacteria have different effects on your health! Consult your doctor or dietitian to find out the best probiotic you should use for your symptoms.
Guidelines for choosing a probiotic supplement
If you do wish to consume probiotic supplements, here are some guidelines to be aware of:
- Always choose a reliable brand that has been backed up with research. Examples include: Balance Probiotic Low FODMAP certified, Nestle Pronourish Regularity.
- You may not be able to see results right after consuming a probiotic supplement and it may take up to 4 weeks for any beneficial results to appear.
- Always beware of the best before dates of any probiotic supplement. Never consume one that has passed its best before date and always store your probiotic supplements properly.
Prebiotics are different from probiotics because they act as the food source for our gut bacteria to survive. It also helps our good gut bacteria to grow and fuels them. These foods are not usually digested by our small intestine and travel to the large intestine where it gets fermented by our gut bacteria. The gut bacteria consume them and ferments them.
Prebiotics can be found in:
- Wholegrains, Wheat, Barley, Rye and Oats
- Nuts and seeds
- Skin of Fruits and Vegetables (don’t throw them away, eat them instead!)
- Cabbage, fennel and corn
- Probiotics are bacteria found in food, while prebiotics feed your gut bacteria
- Consult a dietitian or naturopath before taking a probiotic supplement.
About the Author
Meher Vatvani - Bachelor of Nutrition Sciences student
Carla Battaglia - Senior Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Accredited Nutritionist
Accredited Practicing Dietitian Carla specialises in gut health. She's passionate about eating food to enrich our lives and health. She regularly helps with gut disorders, women's health and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. She's completed post graduate studies in the FODMAP diet for IBS and has many years experience working with gastroenterologists.
Similar articles you'll enjoy:
- Kechagia M, Basoulis D, Konstantopoulou S, et al. Health benefits of probiotics: a review. ISRN Nutr. 2013; 481651. Published 2013 Jan 2. doi:10.5402/2013/481651
- McKenzie YA, Thompson J, Gulia P, Lomer MC; (IBS Dietetic Guideline Review Group on behalf of Gastroenterology Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association). British Dietetic Association systematic review of systematic reviews and evidence-based practice guidelines for the use of probiotics in the management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct;29(5):576-92. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12386.