What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

These 2 terms can be found in the description of drugs, and in leaflets, on food packaging, they are recommended by media rollers. More and more often in certain problematic situations with health, doctors recommend us to provide the body with probiotics and prebiotics, whether in the form of food or in drugs that can be bought at the pharmacy. Probiotics make a brilliant career. But hardly anyone understands how they work and how they actually differ from ... prebiotics.

Probiotics and prebiotics - what's the difference?

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

The term probiotic, comes from the Greek words "pro" and "bios" - life and living microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on the human body when ingested.

Although the difference in the name of drugs is small, but their meanings differ. Probiotics are live bacteria, for example (bio-yogurt) or bacteria in capsules. Probiotics not only restore the balance of intestinal microflora disturbed by antibiotics, but also prevent allergies and support the body's defenses.

Prebiotics are olgiosaccharides, non-digested starch, polysaccharides that are not absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, but are a source of energy for healthy intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics are found in breast milk; they are also added to some infant formula.

Prebiotics and probiotics are very often used together, as their actions complement each other, but do not interchange. If prebiotics and probiotics are combined in one preparation, they are called synbiotics.

What are probiotics, and which ones are better?


According to the WHO definition of probiotics, preparations or foods containing one or more cultures of living microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on health, if they are provided in sufficient quantity.

These microorganisms produce lactic acid and belong to the family of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces yeast. Physiologically present in the microflora of the human gastrointestinal tract.

Probiotics join the intestinal walls and thus take the place of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, protecting us from diarrhea. Among the more well-known probiotics are: Fisioflor, Lacidofil, Bio Gaia and Lactobacillus rhamnosus and their subspecies. They must be resistant to the action of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, digestive enzymes, bile acids. Their task is also to participate in the synthesis of vitamin K and assist in the absorption of vitamins (especially group B) and minerals (mainly iron, phosphorus and calcium).

These bacteria are:

  • promote the process of digestion;
  • increase the absorption of minerals and vitamins;
  • protect the intestinal microflora when antibiotic treatment is under way;
  • affect the immune system, increasing resistance to infection;
  • some strains have anti-allergic and anti-cancer properties;
  • reduce cholesterol levels;
  • reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance;
  • able to synthesize certain vitamins from group B, K and folic acid.

In order for probiotic bacteria to survive and multiply in the gastrointestinal tract, a proper environment is necessary. It is created by prebiotics, mainly polysaccharides, which are present in various foods.

Natural probiotics

Probiotic rich foods

Examples of probiotic products are fermented kefir, milk, yogurt, acidophilic buttermilk. Very often the prefix - bio is added to such products.

In addition to providing lactic acid bacteria, they have many other benefits in human nutrition:

  • provide the body with high protein content;
  • contain a lot of calcium;
  • vitamins of group A, B, D.

Probiotic bacteria are also found in cucumber and cabbage salads. Probiotics are used to produce drugs (Lacidofil, Lakcid, Trilac).

What you need to know about prebiotics?


Prebiotics are natural substances or plant extracts that support and stimulate the body's immune system. They have a beneficial effect on the human body through the ability to stimulate growth and increase the activity of selected strains of intestinal bacteria, including the genus Lactobacillus (lactobacteria) and Bifidobacterium (bifidobacteria).

They perform several functions in the body:

  • are direct producers of B vitamins;
  • reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the blood;
  • maintain normal intestinal acidity, which contributes to a better absorption of calcium, iron and zinc and the establishment of normal intestinal microflora;
  • improve intestinal motility;
  • improve the healing of damaged colon walls;
  • reduce pain during fungal infections of the vagina caused by the use of antibiotics;
  • stimulate the immune system, through the ability to adhesion (adhesion) with the intestinal mucosa;
  • reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance;
  • prevent the formation of tumors.

Most attention is paid to saccharides from the inulin group and fructo-oligosaccharides found in wheat, onion, garlic, bananas, chicory, asparagus, artichoke, parsley, dandelion. They cause a significant increase in bifidobacteria in the intestine.

In the food industry, prebiotics (inulin, pectin) are added to the cakes, cookies, milk desserts, and yogurts as fat substitutes. This significantly reduces the calorie content of these products.

Popular prebiotics:

Omega 3

  • Garlic Caps - used in the treatment of infectious catarrh, sinusitis, otitis media, lymph nodes, enlarged tonsils and other inflammatory processes.
  • Bee Power - Milk is especially useful in the fight against streptococci, chronic tonsillitis, purulent rhinitis, sinusitis, otitis media, enlarged tonsils, anemia and during recovery.
  • Spirulina - used for diseases associated with blood, anemia, leukemia, sinusitis, hypothyroidism, asthma, allergies and neoplastic diseases.
  • Omega 3 - strengthens the immune system, strengthens the heart, blood vessels, joints and bones, prevents the development of rickets, caries, osteoporosis and other rheumatic diseases, as well as skin diseases such as psoriasis, is important for the nervous system.

Probiotics and prebiotics are particularly preferred during and after infectious diarrhea, after the use of antibiotics, to create proper microflora in the intestines. Studies have shown that probiotics should be taken long enough, about 6 months, to restore the microflora after treatment with antibiotics.

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