Probiotics vs Prebiotics: What’s Better For Your Gut?

There’s a big difference between probiotics vs prebiotics. In fact, a healthy gut microbiome should have BOTH. Here’s why.

Probiotics and prebiotics have become buzzwords in nutrition these days. Still, despite sounding similar, they actually play different roles in your health.

Probiotics are live, “friendly” bacteria. Prebiotics are food for them. In this article, we’ll explore what you need to know about the differences between probiotics vs prebiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

The definition of probiotics is “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Yet, what exactly does that mean?

When we say “biotic” we’re referring to something that is “relating to or resulting from living organisms.

Add “pro,” and we’re talking about something that has a positive, or favourable, effect.

In essence, probiotics are live microbes that can have direct health benefits.

What Are Prebiotics?

The definition of prebiotics is “a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.”

“Pre” tells us it’s something that happens before.

In this way, prebiotics are a prerequisite to probiotics.

What’s the Difference Between Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

  • Probiotics. Live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements that provide health benefits.
  • Prebiotics. Food components that come from types of carbohydrates (mostly fiber) we can’t digest. Probiotics feed on these to grow and survive.

Your friendly bacteria (probiotics) need prebiotics to survive. Different prebiotics stimulates the growth of different gut bacteria.

Different prebiotics stimulate growth of different gut bacteria.

Still, the power of prebiotics to modify gut microbial communities depends on the specific strains and species, as well as pH and other factors of the gut environment.

Probiotics Benefits

Probiotics are alive. They balance your gut flora and help make you less prone to certain diseases like gastroenteritis, or can be used to restore your gut ecosystem of the gut after a dose of antibiotics.

Probiotics can be used to restore your gut ecosystem of the gut after a dose of antibiotics.

Fermentation feeds the beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our gut that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics. You can get probiotics and prebiotics from foods and supplements.

What is the Best Way to Get Probiotics?

Many companies offer their own probiotic formulations, either as pills or powders. If you’re looking for a probiotic supplement, we recommend you go for probiotics in sachets. Every time you open “stored powder” probiotics, you are releasing some of the living bacteria. So it’s best to buy contained probiotics.

Still, you can also eat your way to more probiotics. Probiotics are naturally made during the process of fermentation in foods like sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi.

Foods with Probiotics

  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sourdough
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt

What is the Best Way to Get Prebiotics?

A series of plant-based foods contain potential sources of prebiotics. Look to fruit, vegetables, cereals, and other edible plants for your prebiotic boost!

Other artificially produced sources are, among others: lactulose, galactooligosaccharides, and fructooligosaccharides.

Generally, fructans, such as inulin and oligofructose, are considered the most used and effective.

Foods with Prebiotics

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Edamame
  • Garlic
  • Leeds
  • Mushrooms
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Wheat bran

What’s Better: Probiotics vs Prebiotics?

Neither is necessarily better. Rather, they both work together to support your microbiome and overall gut health. If you don’t have prebiotics, your probiotic bacteria will perish!

Instead of relying on enriched supplements, we’d recommend you focus on a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods.

For most people that would be sufficient for their prebiotic and probiotic needs.


Markowiak, P., & Śliżewska, K. (2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients9(9), 1021.

Krumbeck JA, Maldonado-Gomez MX, Ramer-Tait AE, Hutkins RW. Prebiotics and synbiotics: dietary strategies for improving gut health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2016;32(2):110-119. doi:10.1097/MOG.0000000000000249

Jakubczyk E., Kosikowska M. Nowa generacja mlecznych produktów fermentowanych z udziałem probiotyków i prebiotyków, produkty synbiotyczne. Prz. Mlecz. 2000;12:397–400.