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Prebiotics and Probiotics: What Are They?

#guthealth #prebiotics #probiotics gut health guthealth Nov 07, 2022

If you're like most people, you've probably heard the words “prebiotics” and “probiotics” quite a bit but aren't entirely sure of what they specifically mean. Although they sound the same, they are very different! 

In today’s blog post, I’m going to break it down for you so you’ll know what the difference is and if you should consider adding them to your diet. 

What Are Prebiotics and What Do They Do?

Simply put, prebiotics are a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They’re carbs your body can’t digest and they travel to your lower digestive tract where they act as food to encourage the growth of good bacteria! 

In addition to feeding your good gut bacteria, prebiotics can:[1]

  • Help you absorb calcium
  • Alter the rate at which some foods raise blood sugar levels (the glycemic index)
  • Help you prevent constipation. Foods that are fermented more quickly (with the help of prebiotics), pass through your digestive system faster. 
  • Keep the cells that line your gut healthy

Include more prebiotics in your day by eating these foods: 

  • Apples
  • Bananas (especially green bananas)
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Garlic 
  • Ground flaxseeds
  • Oatmeal

Eating more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and intact whole grains will help you increase your prebiotic intake naturally. Diet is the first place to start when thinking about boosting the amount of prebiotics you consume. 

You can also get prebiotics in a supplement form. 

One of my favorite prebiotics is from Microbiome Labs called MegaPre.

If you are increasing prebiotics, do so slowly and make sure you increase your water intake. 

What Are Probiotics and What Do They Do?

Probiotics are live cultures of "good" bacteria similar to those that are naturally present in your stomach. Their main job is to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria (normal microflora) in your body. For example, when you’re sick, “bad” bacteria enters your body and multiples. As a result, your body becomes out of balance. That’s when your “good” bacteria will step in to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.

Besides helping you balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system, probiotics may help to:[2] 

  • Prevent and treat diarrhea and constipation
  • Improve mental health conditions
  • Keep your heart healthy 
  • Reduce symptoms of certain digestive disorders
  • Boost your immune system

Include more probiotics in your day by eating these foods: 

  • Sauerkraut (easy to add to meals)
  • Kefir (great in smoothies, kids love the strawberry one). Coconut Kefir is a dairy-free option. 
  • Pickles (make sure they’re fermented, not pickled in vinegar)
  • Kimchi (for the spice lovers)
  • Kombucha (a few times per week)
  • Yogurt (easy breakfast or snack)

Fermented foods can make your stomach more bloated or gassy, if you have digestive issues. If you have normal gut health, don’t overdo it! Less is more, include these foods a few times per week. 

How Do I Know Which Probiotic Strains to Take? 

Although many people are quick to grab any probiotic off the shelves, it’s important to note that there are different strains of probiotics that help with different conditions. Before recommending a probiotic, I have to know what specific digestive issues my clients need help with so I can choose the right strains for them! 

If you’re struggling with constipation, here are some probiotic strains that may help:[3] 

  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

On the other hand, if you’re struggling with diarrhea, these strains may help:[4] 

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG(LGG)
  • Saccharomyces boulardii (also the strain I recommend if you have to take an antibiotic).
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus casei

Bottom Line: Consuming more prebiotics and probiotics in your diet may be helpful in keeping your gut bacteria balanced. If you don’t have known digestive issues, think about adding in more fermented foods a few times per week. If you need more help with your digestive issues, apply to work with me


  1. Markowiak, P., & Śliżewska, K. (2017). Effects of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on human health. Nutrients, 9(9), 1021.
  2. Brown, M. J., & (uk), R. D. (2016, August 23). 8 health benefits of probiotics. Healthline.
  3. Link, R., MS, & RD. (2019, September 30). Probiotics for constipation: Everything you need to know. Healthline.
  4. Kubala, J., MS, & RD. (2019, December 18). Probiotics for diarrhea: Benefits, types, and side effects. Healthline. 

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