If you are familiar with probiotics then it is more likely that somewhere you have read or heard of the word prebiotics. Then it is obvious a question has arisen in your mind that what are prebiotics and what are the differences between probiotics and prebiotics. You may also think that those two things are the same because those two words are very similar, only the difference is a letter.
Here are some details which will let you understand both terms & the key differences between them by answering all your questions.
Your Gut Microbiome
If you want to know everything about probiotics & prebiotics then the first thing you need to know is your gut microbiome. You need to eat foods to live, to maintain your body & good health, to keep your body & brain running. When you eat foods generally your gut holds these foods for a certain time period to digest. Every living human being has a whole world inside their gut microbiome, where the digestion process occurs. The main thing of the digestion process is to breakdown the foods you eat & provide your body with the nutrients, vitamins, minerals & all the essential elements you need which was found in the foods you ate. Then your gut microbiome passes them through your intestine towards your rectum as waste to release. You may be curious to know how your gut microbiome does all these critical things. Your gut contains stomach acids & a combination of trillions of diversified active organisms. These organisms may be various kinds of viruses, fungi or various types of living bacteria. And those living organisms play a crucial role in your gut microbiome system by boosting your digestion & immune process. But not all the bacteria are good for your health. There are both negative bacteria & positive bacteria live in your gut microbiome.
There are billions or maybe trillions of active beneficial bacteria living in your gut microbiome. And these active beneficial bacteria are referred to as probiotics.
Probiotics bring various health benefits for you. There are different types of probiotics living in your microbiome. Most of them help in your digestion and immune system. Some specific probiotics also help you to get rid of constipation, diarrhea, various infections, heart problems, skin problems, etc.
Probiotics replace most of the negative bacteria with beneficial positive bacteria in your gut. It is very important to maintain a proper balance between positive & negative bacteria to live a healthy life & probiotics do this job with Excellency.
Now a question may arise in your mind that wherefrom these probiotics come or what are the sources of getting probiotics. The main source of getting probiotics in your gut microbiome is by taking various kinds of fermented natural foods which contains active beneficial organisms like pickles, natto (made from fermented soybeans), sauerkraut, kombucha (a kind of fermented tea) etc. or fermented dairy foods like yogurt, traditional buttermilk (not cultured), aged cheese, kefir etc. All those foods may contain different kinds of strains of probiotics. For example, the most common probiotic strain is Lactobacillus Acidophilus which can be found in yogurt. Whenever you eat these foods you also take the active organisms living in these foods. Some of them get digested by your gut microbiome in the digestion process. But some living organisms which you know as probiotics, your gut microbiome cannot digest. There are also different types of probiotic supplements now available in the market which is a very easy source of having live beneficial organisms in your gut. By taking those probiotics you can get the direct benefits of the probiotic strains.
As you know that probiotics are living organisms so that they must need some kinds of foods or boosters to maintain their colony. Every living thing needs some source of foods or energy to sustain their living. Are you not curious to know what are the boosters of probiotics or what do they eat? Well if you are then you should know that from this question the term prebiotics arises.
Prebiotics are known as food or fertilizer for probiotics living in your gut. Those are known as the certain foods which probiotics will consume within your gut microbiome. As you know that probiotics are live beneficial bacteria & prebiotics are fibers & carbohydrates that beneficial bacteria use as their booster. Most of the natural plant foods contain fibers that your gut microbiome can not digest. Prebiotics are compounds of these nondigestible fibers. As those compounds are nondigestible so that they start lives in your gut. Then they start to take part in your gut microbiome functioning by feed and fertilize the probiotics living in your gut. Without prebiotics, probiotics cannot function properly. But all the fibers of foods you cannot call prebiotics. To be prebiotics the components of fiber must have the ability to resist the digestion process in your intestine & stomach. Those components should only be digested by the probiotics living in your intestine. They also must have the ability to enhance the activity and growth of probiotics & bring you health benefits.
You can understand this easily by an example. Assume that you have a garden and you planted many plants there. Those plants will provide you with fruits & vegetables which you can eat. But your plants also need to eat something like sunlight, water & fertilizer. Here in this example, your garden represents your gut microbiome, plants represent probiotics, the fruits & vegetables represent the benefits of probiotics & finally the sunlight, water & fertilizer represents prebiotics.
There are different natural sources of prebiotics as well. There are different kinds of plant foods such as oats, banana, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, legumes, and leafy greens, etc. which contain prebiotics in fibers. Now a day prebiotic supplements are also available in the market which brings you with faster results.
Now you know the differences between probiotics and prebiotics and how they work in your body. Of course, you have understood that both probiotics and prebiotics are essential for your gut microbiome functioning. Those also affect your health, entire body, and your brain as well. So always try to add them to your body by taking the foods which contain probiotics and prebiotics as mentioned every day. It is always better to have those with natural food sources instead of taking supplements in the first place. Because both probiotic supplements & prebiotic supplements may have several side effects. So take cautions before taking them and read more articles about the benefits and risks of taking supplements as well as how to choose the best supplement.