Prebiotic vs. Probiotic: Which Is Right for Your Gut Health Goals?

Achieve your health goals by understanding the role of prebiotics and probiotics in your diet

Daniesha Govender
By Daniesha Govender
Jovan Mijailovic
Edited by Jovan Mijailovic

Updated December 6, 2023.

Prebiotic vs. probiotic: a woman holding a supplement pill.

If you want to improve your digestive health, choosing prebiotics and probiotics can leave you wondering which path to follow. But when working together, they can nurture the gut microbiome and reduce pro-inflammatory biomarkers. [1, 2]

So, let's explore their differences, use cases, dietary sources, and how to use them to achieve specific gut health goals.

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What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers found in certain foods like onions and leeks, while probiotics are beneficial bacteria or yeast strains that nourish gut microbiota, helping it thrive.

Tip: You can create habits that positively affect your gut health by knowing the difference between probiotics and prebiotics and using each to your advantage.

» Find out how the gut microbiome impacts longevity

Prebiotic vs probiotic foods

You can use InsideTracker to optimize your gut microbiome and add variety to your meals by including prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Prebiotic-rich foods:

  • Garlic, onions, and leeks: These aromatic vegetables are a potent source of fructans, a non-digestible fiber beneficial to gut health. [3] Add them to your salads, dressings, or stir-fries for a healthy and savory twist.
  • Chicory root: One of the richest sources of prebiotics, which can be a substitute for coffee. It's rich in inulin—a non-digestible fiber that acts as a food source for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. [4] You can brew Chicory root or include it in recipes.

Probiotic-rich foods:

  • Yogurt: Greek or regular yogurt is a well-known source of probiotics. You can top it with a variety of fresh berries for a healthy breakfast.
  • Kefir: Like yogurt with a thinner consistency, Kefir is a probiotic-rich fermented milk drink. It can be a base for smoothies.
  • Sauerkraut: Delicious fermented cabbage dish that is also rich in probiotics. It's a staple in many traditional cuisines. Savor sauerkraut as a flavorful side dish alongside your main meal. It's a tangy accompaniment with probiotic benefits.
  • Kimchi: A spicy and tangy Korean side dish teeming with probiotics. Include it in your rice bowls, sandwiches, or a side dish to diversify your diet.

Note: Ensure that the probiotic products aren't pasteurized. The process uses heat to destroy bacteria, including active microorganisms essential for gut health. [5]

A table topped with different healthy food items


Can you take prebiotics and probiotics together?

Prebiotics and probiotics can work together to improve the survival and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut in the process known as synbiotics. [6]

For example, prebiotics prepare your gut for healthy bacteria to thrive, while probiotics populate this environment with beneficial microorganisms, creating a robust gut microbiome.

Note: You can also take probiotics and prebiotics as supplements to improve the survival of beneficial microorganisms, but consult your physician to find the proper dosage.

Tailoring for specific health goals

If you want to lose weight, probiotics can influence how well your body breaks down and uses nutrients. [7] On the other hand, prebiotics can help you with constipation by improving regularity. [8]

Experiment with various probiotic strains to enhance overall gut health as they interact with different parts of the digestive system.

» Find out how gut health affects athletic performance

Secrets to a healthier gut

Consistency is critical when including prebiotics and probiotics in your diet. With enough patience and daily intake, you can get lasting benefits like reduced inflammation and weight loss. Remember that everyone's gut microbiome is unique, so what works for someone else might not be effective for you.

You can also use InsideTracker to improve your gut health with better dietary choices. Through blood, DNA, and fitness data, InsideTracker gives you actionable steps to improve your overall well-being.

InsideTracker doesn't treat or diagnose medical conditions. For any health concerns, consult a qualified physician.



References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988227/

[2] https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/07/fermented-food-diet-increases-microbiome-diversity-lowers-inflammation

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417592/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6537941/

[5] https://www.idfa.org/pasteurization

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4648921/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8110871/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9773270/