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What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Roshini C. Rajapaksa, MD
Gastroenterology
Probiotics are living organisms (in most cases bacteria) that confer a health benefit to humans. We all contain over 400 hundred species of probiotic bacteria in our digestive tract, which reduce the growth of unfavorable bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. Besides gut well-being, probiotics have other health-promoting benefits: They help boost the immune system, assist with the production of vitamins, including vitamins K, B12, B5 and biotin, and help prevent anti-inflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream. Recent studies have also showed that probiotics can provide powerful skincare benefits. Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir, are good sources of probiotics. You can also find them in sauerkraut or other veggies like kimchi, kombucha or miso. 

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are indigestible dietary fibers that act as food for probiotics. In the digestive tract, prebiotics help maintain and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. Good sources of prebiotics include whole grains, asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, dandelion root or Jerusalem artichoke. 
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Probiotics are live microorganisms ingested to change the balance of microbes in the gut and thereby confer a health benefit. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not living organisms, but rather food ingredients meant to stimulate the growth of certain bacteria already present in the gut. Many foods and supplements now on the market claim to have probiotic or prebiotic effects.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.