Featured Article: What's the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics

We all know how important it is to keep a healthy gut for overall health and a lot of us rely on probiotics and prebiotics, but what's the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? While both are beneficial in promoting digestive health and immunity, understanding their individual roles can be confusing. In this article, we have discussed different aspects of both probiotics and prebiotics.


What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Prebiotics and probiotics, while they may sound similar, play distinct roles in our digestive system.

Prebiotics are non-digestible parts of foods, predominantly dietary fiber, that go through the small intestine undigested and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine or colon. In essence, they are the "fuel" that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. They are commonly found in foods like onions, garlic, bananas, and whole grains.

On the other hand, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial to the human body, especially the digestive system [1]. Often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria, they help keep your gut healthy. They are naturally present in our bodies, but can also be found in certain foods and supplements.


Benefits of Probiotics

Digestive Health

Probiotics are renowned for their role in promoting good digestive health. They are essentially beneficial bacteria that balance the gut microbiome, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption while fending off harmful bacteria [2]. This helps prevent various digestive ailments, such as bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mental Health

Recent studies have revealed a fascinating link between gut health and mental health often referred to as the "gut-brain axis." Probiotics, by improving gut health, can influence neurotransmitter activity, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. According to a study, regular supplementation of L. helveticus R0052 and B. longum R075 over 30 days significantly improved their mood and over mental health [3].

Gastrointestinal Health

In regard to gastrointestinal health, probiotics play a significant role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier, which protects the body from harmful bacteria and pathogens. They are also involved in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are essential nutrients for the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. Consequently, they can help manage conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and gastroenteritis.


Side effects of Probiotics

While probiotics are generally considered safe and beneficial for most people, they may cause side effects in some cases, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems or serious illnesses. Common side effects may include gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea, particularly during the first few days of use as the body adjusts to the new bacterial climate within the gut [4].

In rare instances, probiotics may lead to an allergic reaction, causing symptoms like difficulty breathing, itching, rash, or even anaphylaxis in severe cases. Furthermore, some strains of probiotic bacteria may increase the risk of harmful byproducts in your body.


Benefits of Prebiotics 

Prebiotics have been gaining attention for their numerous health benefits.

Digestive Health

Prebiotics, being a type of dietary fiber, aid in improving gut health. They serve as food for our gut bacteria, helping them thrive. This promotes a balanced gut microbiome, which is crucial for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption [5].

Immune Function

By supporting a healthy gut flora, prebiotics indirectly bolster our immune system. A well-balanced microbiome aids in regulating

the immune response, playing a role in preventing infections and diseases.

Mental Health

Emerging research suggests a link between gut health and mental wellbeing. Prebiotics can potentially influence brain health by supporting the production of beneficial gut bacteria, which produce neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that influence our mood and mental state.

Weight Management

Prebiotics can also play a role in weight management. They promote feelings of fullness, which can help control appetite and reduce overall calorie intake.


Side Effects of Prebiotics

While prebiotics have risen in popularity due to their potential health benefits, they may also cause some side effects, particularly when consumption is high. Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort, including symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.

These side effects are usually tied to the fermentation process of prebiotics in the large intestine. Moreover, those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other sensitivity conditions might find these symptoms exacerbated. It's also worth noting that a sudden increase in the intake of prebiotics can cause temporary upsets in the gut, which usually settle as the body adjusts. As always, it's important to remember that everyone's body responds differently, and it's crucial to listen to what your body is telling you.


Which Foods are Probiotics?

Here's a list of foods known to be rich in prebiotics:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Tempeh

Probiotics can easily be taken from various foods mentioned above. However, if you are unable to take adequate amounts, you can always resort to Rucir’s Ultra probiotic ND50, it has all that your body requires.


Which Foods are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. These substances help promote the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria, improving digestion and overall health. Here's a list of foods known to be rich in prebiotics:

  • Garlic: Garlic acts as a potent prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut.
  • Onions: Similar to garlic, onions are rich in the fiber inulin, which is a great prebiotic source.
  • Bananas: Bananas, particularly underripe ones, contain a good amount of resistant starch and pectin, known to be prebiotic.
  • Oats: Oats are a fantastic source of beta-glucan fiber, a type of fiber with strong prebiotic potential.
  • Apples: Apples are high in pectin, a prebiotic that feeds the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacteria.
  • Asparagus: It is another great source of the prebiotic fiber inulin.
  • Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are known for their dietary fiber content, including prebiotic fiber.
  • Barley: Barley is packed with beta-glucan, a prebiotic fiber that promotes the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
  • Seaweed: Interestingly, seaweed is thought to be a potent prebiotic that can boost gut health significantly.
  • Cocoa: The flavanols in cocoa can act as prebiotics to support gut health. 



In conclusion, prebiotics and probiotics offer various health benefits; from improved digestion to weight management. While prebiotics are found in certain foods such as garlic, bananas, asparagus, onions and apples, probiotics are present in fermented dairy products, yogurts, non-dairy milks and sauerkraut. Before considering adding probiotic supplements or prebiotic-rich foods to your diet, it's important to assess your individual needs and medical history with a healthcare professional.



  1. Shahrokhi M, Nagalli S. Probiotics. StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023.
  2. Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therap Adv Gastroenterol 2013;6:39–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X12459294.
  3. Johnson D, Letchumanan V, Thum CC, Thurairajasingam S, Lee L-H. A Microbial-Based Approach to Mental Health: The Potential of Probiotics in the Treatment of Depression. Nutrients 2023;15:1382. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15061382.
  4. Doron S, Snydman DR. Risk and Safety of Probiotics. Clin Infect Dis 2015;60:S129–34. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/civ085.
  5. Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL. Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber. Curr Dev Nutr 2018;2:nzy005. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzy005.
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