What’s the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic?
Probiotics are helpful bacteria that we need for good health and wellbeing. Probiotics beneficially affect humans by improving the balance of gut flora. Supermarkets shelves are now commonly displaying products with probiotics and their popularity is gaining. With this popularity comes an increase in consumer awareness and some confusion.
What are pre and probiotics?
These terms are often used synonymously but in fact mean two different things.
- Probiotics help the gut by increasing the number of good bacteria and may help improve the body’s immune response. The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host.”
- Prebiotics act as “food” and help support the good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are the non-digestible parts of food, classed as fibre, that help to stimulate the good bacteria to grow.
So they both benefit digestive health, they just differ in how they do this.
Where are they found?
Food sources for pre and probiotics are numerous with many food labels now claiming they contain probiotics.
Probiotics- found in many foods and drinks, like juices, yoghurt, milks and some soft cheeses. They can also be found in supplements that can be drunk or in tablet form.
Prebiotics – found in foods with fibre such as raw oats, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, berries and asparagus.
What are they used for?
Probiotics are most often used for digestive problems. These may include as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and diarrhoea. Probiotics may also help support the immune system. People will often use probiotics after a course of antibiotics to help replace the good bacteria that may have been killed by the antibiotics.
More information on probiotics
Probiotics need to be refrigerated and as such, should have a best before date. This is important to ensure the viability of the bacteria in the product. It also means that there is a better chance the bacteria are alive as you can’t tell from looking at the products if the cultures are still alive.
The bottom line
As more people become aware of probiotics it is important to make the distinction between pre and probiotics and the benefits they confer. Eating a wide, varied diet is important and if you are feeling confused you should book an appointment to see our dietitian Rhiannon Welsh at ENT Wellbeing Diet and Nutrition, Phone 1300 123 368 Sydney