Prebiotics versus Probiotics

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

A question we hear a lot is what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. This is not surprising as prebiotics and probiotics are easily confused. While they both support good digestive health, it is important to understand their distinct roles in the microbiome.

What are probiotics?

We usually think of bacteria as germs that cause diseases. What you may not know is that our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Most of this bacteria lives in our gut microbiome.

Our gut is home to about a trillion microorganisms, and when the bad bacteria take over, your microbiome becomes unbalanced, making you more prone to getting sick, feeling tired, or experiencing digestion issues.  

Probiotics are good bacteria that fight off bad bacteria in the gut and help establish a healthy microbiome.

Some of the most common probiotic types include:

  • Bifidobacterium
  • Lactobacillus
  • Saccharomyces boulardii, which is a type of yeast

Probiotics can be found naturally in many fermented foods including:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh (a popular meat substitute)
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Miso
  • Aged cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda, or mozzarella

Not all fermented foods contain probiotics, however. During the manufacturing process, some foods and beverages including beer and wine, undergo process that make their probiotics inactive.

But you can’t just add probiotics to your diet to have a healthy microbiome. They need food to survive and thrive which is why prebiotics are also important.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics such as those found in Inner Life!, act as fuel for the good bacteria that live in the gut.

Prebiotics are soluble fibers often found in grains, vegetables, and fruits and are non-digestible, meaning human enzymes in our gut cannot break them down. The good bacteria in the colon ferments these undigested prebiotic fibers and by doing so convert them into short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids are associated with many health benefits including immune system regulation.

In other words, prebiotics make probiotics happy, and happy probiotics make for a happy, healthy gut… which means you feel better too!

Some food sources of prebiotics include:

  • Green bananas
  • Artichokes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus

While these foods can serve as a great base for a gut healthy diet, a high quantity of them is needed to achieve prebiotic effect. The prebiotic fibers in these foods can also promote the growth of unwanted bacteria.

This is why more consumers are turning to prebiotic supplements to ensure that their gut is receiving the fuel and nourishment it needs. Unfortunately, many popular prebiotics fibers used in supplements, such as inulin commonly derived from chicory root or dandelion roots, are also needed in higher quantities to achieve prebiotic effects. Many prebiotics on the market can also cause GI distress including gut discomfort, gas and bloating.

What makes Inner Life!’s Arabinoxylan prebiotic fiber different?

We chose the clinically-proven prebiotic fiber Arabinoxylan for Inner Life! to avoid these common prebiotic problems.

    Check out our chart below to learn more about how Arabinoxylan compares to other prebiotics in terms of potency, tolerability in the gut and the selectivity in promoting only good bacteria.

    Arabinoxylan (Inner Life!)

    Inulin

    (Chicory Root, Dandelion Greens)

    Asparagus

    Bananas

    Amount needed  to achieve prebiotic benefits

    2.2 grams

    5 grams

    400 grams (1 pound)

    15+ bananas

    GI Symptoms

    (Bloating, gut discomfort)

    Very Little 

    Yes, especially with higher doses

    Yes, especially with higher doses

    Yes, especially with higher doses

    Promotes growth of good bacteria

    Yes, specifically Bifidobacterium species

    Yes

    Yes, but also can promote growth of bad bacteria (not selective)

    Yes, but also can promote growth of bad bacteria (not selective)


    Which are better prebiotics or probiotics?

    Both prebiotics and probiotics have gut health benefits. However, while good bacteria can naturally exist in a healthy gut, our microbiome needs a consistent supply of prebiotic fuel to remain in balance. Our bodies cannot supply the fuel needed for good bacteria to grow, which is why it is important to make sure our diet includes prebiotics.

    Inner Life! makes meeting your daily prebiotic needs easy. Each serving of Inner Life!’s Peach Iced Tea Flavored prebiotic mix provides 3.8g of the clinically-proven prebiotic fiber, Arabinoxylan. Inner Life! is made with only the best ingredients, meaning no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives or gluten, and is conveniently packaged in single-serve sticks.

    And remember, Inner Life! is gentle on the stomach and will not cause the bloating or belly discomfort associated with other prebiotic fibers. Just add it to water and enjoy!

    How to add prebiotics and probiotics to your diet

    Here are some gut-healthy options:

    • Add kefir or probiotic yogurt to your breakfast smoothie
      • Pro tip: Watch out for added sugar content in yogurts and kefir
    • Use tempeh as a meat substitute in a stir fry
      • Pro tip: Try to incorporate tempeh at the end of cooking as high heat can potentially destroy the active probiotic cultures
    • Drink prebiotic-rich beverages, such as Inner Life! Prebiotic Drink Mix
      • Pro tip: Keep the convenient drink mix in your purse or bag, so you always have a gut-healthy option even when on-the-go
    • Try incorporating miso into soup recipes or as a marinade on salmon

    About the Author

    Hannah Ackermann, RD
    Communications Manager at Inner Life!
    As a Registered Dietitian, Hannah uses her expertise in food and nutrition to tell Inner Life!’s ingredient story. Hannah is passionate about gut health and helping educate consumers about healthy eating.

     

     


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