What are the differences between probiotics and prebiotics? | The NY Journal


Feeding useful bacteria supports good digestion and the immune system

Prebiotics and probiotics, its Balance it is very important not only for optimal gut health, but for the overall health of the body. The intestine is an important site of immune activity. Knowing the functions of the good bacteria that live in our body and how to promote them is essential.

What is the microbiome?

Billions of microorganisms or microbes that live in our bodies, mainly in the intestines. These are found in small towns built within us, which are called microbiota, publishes the Faculty of Medicine of the UNAM.

What is the gut microbiota?

The intestinal flora o gut microbiota are colonies of bacteria that live in the intestine. What we eat can favor useful “good” or “bad” bacteria that cause disease.

Functions of good bacteria in the intestinal microbiota:

  • It helps us to digest part of our food, metabolize nutrients and drugs.
  • They fight infections from other external bacteria and viruses.
  • They stimulate the activity of immune cells.
  • They maintain the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract.

What are probiotic foods?

Probiotic foods they contain useful live or beneficial bacteria.

What are prebiotic foods?

The prebiotics are the food of beneficial bacteria. They contain fiber and oligosaccharides that maintain healthy colonies of bacteria in the intestine.

What is the importance of probiotics and prebiotics?

A diet low in probiotics not only can reduce the amount of good bacteria, but also increase the growth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria that thrive in a less acidic environment.

Failure to provide healthy intestinal microorganisms and promote disorders results in a chronic inflammation of the intestine and in suppressed immunity, according to the Nutritional Source from the Harvard School of Public Health.

What can damage the intestinal flora?

Diet plays an important role in determining what types of microbes live in our intestines. A diet rich in refined sugar and unhealthy fats, with low consumption of fruits and vegetables is enemy of the bacteria that protect our body.

There are also studies that reveal that a high consumption of antibiotics especially in childhood and adolescence they can cause permanent changes in certain types of intestinal bacteria.

How to get prebiotics

Although there are supplements that contain prebiotic fibers, there are many foods that contain prebiotics naturally.

A high-fiber, plant-rich diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and other legumes can support the growth and maintenance of beneficial bacteria.

Foods high in prebiotic fiber:

Legumes, beans and peas, oats, banana, berries, asparagus, dandelion, seaweed, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes and onions.

The bacteria break down fiber and convert it to short-chain fatty acids that have been shown to they stimulate the activity of immune cells.

Probiotic foods

Oatmeal is a prebiotic and yogurt is a probiotic. Photo: Shutterstock.

Yogurt with live active cultures, kefir, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha tea, kimchi and miso.


Increase your intake of prebiotic foods gradually, if introduced suddenly, can increase gas production (flatulence) and bloating.

People with gastrointestinal sensitivities such as irritable bowel syndrome should introduce prebiotic foods in small amounts, and with continued use tolerance can be improved.

Before taking any probiotic powder, pill or liquid supplement, it is best to consult a specialist. Given their popularity, these supplements are readily available and not all have proof of efficiency or quality.

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