Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: what’s the difference and which do you need?

It’s a common question I’m asked by readers and the answer is a little complex.

Overall, you need both really.

Prebiotics and Probiotics are not the same thing.  Each of them work differently in the digestive tract and provide different benefits.

Prebiotics are nondigestible sources of fiber within foods, things like resistant starches, which provide food for the good bacteria in your gut, whereas probiotics are different strains of good bacteria that you eat or take which help colonize your digestive tract.

The best thing is to use them together as part of a healthy diet.

(Side note: occasionally, for those with IBS or leaky gut, prebiotics and some probiotics may be too much to handle in the gut at first and can cause gastrointestinal issues.  I recommend starting with a small amount and working your way up to avoid this!)

Both prebiotics and probiotics can be consumed as food sources, too!

Prebiotics

Prebiotics like unripe (green) bananas are easy to chop up and gobble down.

Other sources of prebiotics in food include jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, and even honey (yay!).

Tigernuts are also a great source of prebiotics and make a wonderful snack or baking flour.  I use them often for my baking needs (here’s my article about baking with tigernut flour)

You can find tigernut flour for sale here and tigernuts here.

Prebiotics can also be consumed as a dietary supplement, which makes it easier to fit them into your life.  I like this prebiotic supplement .

Probiotics

Probiotics are arguably more important than prebiotics.  These strands of “good” bacteria help not only to colonize the gut but to fight the “bad” bacteria.

As probiotics go there are several food sources that are both delicious and functional such as home-made or properly fermented sauerkraut (I like this brand), or raw yogurts, kefir and kombucha tea (like this one).

I also really love raw fermented pickled veggies.  Oregon Brineworks has tons of them from beets (find it here) to carrot-ginger root (find it here).

One caveat I will always make, though, is that it is incredibly difficult to get enough probiotics from food alone.  It can be done, but it isn’t often not feasible for many.

Not to mention that those with damaged guts will need more to start than a diet filled with probiotics can attain.

I recommend taking a high quality probiotic supplement.  I really like this one, but there are tons of others as well.

And if you don’t have the time or energy to take separate supplements or foods, there’s even a combined pre-biotic/pro-biotic supplement.  You can find it here


Prebiotics and Probiotics are an AMAZING food team that will help you have a stronger gut.  With that comes a host of other benefits, from decreased risk of depression to better digestion to a strong immune system.  It’s one of the most important things you can accomplish for your health!

How do you get your pro and pre biotics?  Let me know in the comments below!

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