Hungry Haley

it's more than food

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

Haley HansenComment

Wait - what's a prebiotic? I asked myself, the first time I heard it. Thinking it was some sort of typo, I just shrugged it off and assumed someone meant to say "probiotic". Oops! 

Last quarter in my food-processing class, we briefly touched on prebiotics, but mainly for the sole purpose of identifying their role as food additives. Naturally, I just had to find out exactly what they do in my body. Soooo let's get started, eh?

Probiotics - 

  • What are they: 
    • live bacteria and yeasts beneficial to the digestive system (WebMD)
    • also known as "good bacteria", a.k.a. the kind the body needs in order to regulate digestion
    • can be found in the body and in certain foods
    • Lactobacillus - the name for the probiotic found in yogurt and fermented foods, like kimchi and sourdough bread (one of my favorites in the entire bread basket) 
      • used for common digestive issues, as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, urinary tract infections (UTI's), and some skin disorders
      • aids in digestion (breaking down and absorbing food to obtain nutrients) and the body's fight against disease-causing bacteria 
      • more information here from WebMD
    • Bifidobacteria - the name for the probiotic typically taken in the form of medication as means of restoring healthy bacteria killed off by disease
      • can be used against antibiotics, which unfortunately destroy good bacteria while they target the bad guys
      • commonly used for those suffering from diarrhea, lactose intolerance, and some cancers, or those undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation
      • more information here from WebMD
  • Where to find them (plant-based sources):
    • Fermented foods - fermentation is a cellular process that turns carbohydrates (starches or sugars) into acids or alcohols
      • sauerkraut - fermented cabbage 
      • kimchi - the Asian version of ^
      • sourdough bread 
      • kombucha - fermented tea 
      • tempeh - fermented soybeans, pressed into a patty 

Prebiotics - 

  • What are they: 
    • carbohydrates (fiber) that serve as food for probiotics (WebMD)
    • soluble fiber fermented in the digestive system
    • stimulate the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria (NCBI)
    • can also be found in many whole foods 
    • Inulin - naturally occurring fructose-based carbohydrate in plants
      • not digested, but goes straight to large intestine to be fermented by probiotics mentioned above 
      • then produces gas and organic acids (i.e. lactic acid and short-chain fatty acids); these are excreted from the body by, well, you know...
      • more information here from Research Gate
    • Fructooligosaccharides - 
  • Where to find them (plant-based sources): 
    • bananas 
    • raw garlic 
    • raw onion
    • wheat flour 

As always with "This vs. That" posts, I never pick one or the other and point it out as superior because each one serves a unique purpose in the body. We need both pre- and probiotics - one is not more important than the other. 

Thank you for reading and I hope this post provided some beneficial information! If you still have questions and/or any research or findings you'd like to contribute, leave them below or send me an email.