Probiotics VS Prebiotics. What's the Difference?

probiotics vs prebiotics

WELLNESS-- By now everyone has heard of probiotics. Pro means good and biotic means bacteria, so probiotics are good bacteria that help maintain a friendly gut flora. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that feed probiotics and are mostly carbohydrates in the form of fiber. Think of prebiotics as fertilizer for probiotics. They are found primarily in vegetables. The more prebiotics that we consume, the greater the colonization of probiotics in our gut. 

By eating enough prebiotics, we ensure that the friendly bacteria in our gut maintain a healthy population. This is important for many reasons including keeping inflammation levels at a minimum and helping to keep our immunity strong. When the healthy bacteria levels drop, inflammation levels go up. When the friendly bacteria levels drop, it is more likely that inflammation will rise and we run the risk of getting leaky gut syndrome. 

The health of the large intestine and gut is more important than we ever expected. Links with poor probiotic levels and the gut have now been linked to many ailments including mental health issues, autoimmune problems like colitis and chrones disease, and elevated levels of inflammation that can negatively effect every system in the body. 

probiotics vs prebiotics

One of the most obvious ways to check the health of the gut is simply by looking at your digestive health. After eating is there gas and bloating? Are the stools formed and normal or do you tend to go in the direction of loose stool or diarrhea? Also, once the food is broken down it is to be used as fuel, so your energy level should tell you a lot about how efficiently your body is breaking down food. There are also blood tests to check your levels of inflammation in the blood that you can ask your primary care provider to run. 

probiotics vs prebiotics

The most effective way to get all of your prebiotic needs met is by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables. If your lifestyle is set up in a way making it difficult to get the vegetables you need, there are prebiotic supplements. There has been chatter about how prebiotics and probiotics should not both be taken, but they are ungrounded. Taking both a prebiotic and probiotic will not be a problem. Ideally, take them both at the same time each day and ideally with food. 

Keep your gut healthy in order to maintain optimum health mentally and physically.

Written by Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist  in Los Angeles



Kefir is a cultured beverage similar to yogurt, but it’s thinner and drinkable. It can be made from many types of dairy or non-dairy milk, including cow, goat, sheep, or coconut. Unlike yogurt, which is fermented using heat, kefir is fermented at room temperature. Kefir is made by adding “kefir grains,” a microbial symbiotic mixture of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria, to milk. Kefir has a slightly acidic and tart flavor, and is full of helpful microbes; it can contain anywhere from 10 to 34 strains of probiotics and beneficial yeasts.



Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of pickled vegetables, most commonly a mix of napa cabbage and Korean radishes and sometimes other veggies and spices. Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, a preservation process in which food is fermented by beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria.

First, the vegetables are soaked in a salty brine that kills off any harmful bacteria. Then, the probiotic Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid – preserving them, increasing their shelf-life, and giving them that tangy flavor that people love. Kimchi is regarded as a rich source of beneficial bacteria. In fact, one of the bacterial species found in kimchi is named after it: Lactobacillus kimchii.



Like kimchi, sauerkraut is also shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid.  Sauerkraut, however, usually ferments at a higher temperature than kimchi, resulting in a higher concentration of lactic acid bacteria and a bit of a tangier flavor. When you’re shopping for this delicious veggie at your local market, look for fresh sauerkraut in the refrigerated section. If the kraut has undergone pasteurization, all bacteria strains have been killed – even the probiotic ones. Like kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies contain several bacteria of the Lactobacillus genus, such as  Lactobacillus plantarumL. pentosusL. brevisL. acidophilusL. fermentumLeuconostoc fallax, and L. mesenteroides.



Kombucha has recently become very popular in health-food scene as both a delicious and probiotic-packed beverage. Kombucha is a fermented tea, and most types also include the addition of a little sugar or fruit juice. Think of kombucha as a fizzy, healthier alternative to soda, as it has far fewer calories and less added sugar.

Kombucha is created through fermentation with what is known as a “SCOBY,” which is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. During the fermentation process, kombucha obtains a small amount of alcohol, so consult with your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to drink during pregnancy.



It’s easy to forget that these beloved, salty snacks are one of the most commonly eaten and widely fermented foods in the world. In addition to their antioxidant properties and healthy unsaturated fats, olives also give you a burst of beneficial bacteria. After olives are placed in brine, Lactobacillus bacteria cause them to ferment. After the fermentation process, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus pentosus are the predominant species of probiotic bacteria found in olives.



Miso, a staple of Japanese cuisine, is yet another probiotic powerhouse. It is made from soybeans, water, and koji (cooked grains or soybeans inoculated with a mold, Aspergillus oryzae, which begins the fermentation process). As the koji enzymes break down the soybeans, the simple sugars created become fodder for bacteria such as Pediococcus halophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii. These bacteria break down the sugar into lactic acids that contribute to the flavor of the miso. There are many varieties of miso, and each variety uniquely reflects the microorganisms native to the area in which it is made. This gives the miso an individualized flavor and sometimes a unique appearance. Depending on the type of miso, the aging process may range between two months and three years.  

Before you go off to make your own miso soup, there is one important thing to note: the probiotic bacteria in miso can be killed at high heat. You can avoid destroying the beneficial bacteria by adding miso to foods when their temperatures are below boiling.



Tempeh, a fermented soybean-based product that originates from Indonesia, has gained popularity all over the world. Not only is it a source of probiotics – it is also a rich source of protein, making it an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians and omnivores, alike. This cake-like product is typically made of fermented soybeans and has an earthy, nutty flavor. During the fermentation process, the bacteria also produce vitamin B12, a nutrient that soybeans do not naturally contain. Tempeh is also a rich source of other B vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and folic acid.  


Coconut yogurt

If you have to limit or eliminate dairy in your diet, coconut yogurt can be an awesome way to get probiotics in the same creamy and delicious way as the typical dairy variety. Coconut yogurt can be an especially powerful source of probiotics and has an extra tangy, effervescent effect. Add coconut yogurt to smoothies, or enjoy a few spoonfuls with nut butter and berries – the options are endless.

Christian Cristiano Acupuncture

Christian Cristiano received his Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. The school’s renowned full-time program requires students to combine coursework with concurrent clinical internships, providing exposure to patients during the entire four years of study. Christian received his B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing. Christian works to help patients achieve their healing objectives as quickly as possible. For some patients, it may be simply to heal an illness or injury. For others, it is a crucial element in a health maintenance, illness prevention or overall wellness plan. In addition, some programs may require weekly visits to ensure a homeostatic state so that organs function properly and in balance.

In his free time, he enjoys surfing, yoga, qi gong, lifting weights and running with his dog in the canyon. He continues to study Chinese Medicine.

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