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Andrea Drever
By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director


These nutritional cousins can be confusing, but both are essential for good gut heath. Since millions of people suffer from digestive problems, info about them is well worth consuming.

Prebiotics

You know those friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract? Well, they need to eat, too. That’s where prebiotics come in. Luckily, our digestive system can’t break down prebiotics. So they survive the journey through the digestive tract, eventually reaching the part of the colon where the friendly bacteria hang out. The good bacteria break down the prebiotics into nutrition that helps them grow and thrive.

Probiotics

Sometimes that good bacteria in your gut needs bolstering. And that’s where probiotics play a role. These are live microorganisms cultured in a lab to be used as a supplement. They can also occur naturally in food. When we ingest them, they survive in the gut and provide benefits to us like the good bacteria that we naturally have.

You can buy prebiotic supplements, but you don’t need them if you eat foods that naturally fortify the army of friendly bacteria in your intestines. These include fiber-rich foods, like fruits vegetables and whole grains. Boiled and cooled potatoes, less-ripe bananas and Jerusalem artichokes are all good choices.

Probiotic supplements are also available, but can be expensive. Instead, you can build your gut bacteria by eating fermented foods, like yogurt, kombucha, tempeh and sauerkraut.

If you do decide to take a supplement, consider opting for a synbiotic, which combines a prebiotic and a probiotic. A probiotic in a capsule might not survive while sitting on the grocery store shelf or passing through the intestinal tract. But when you combine it with its food source, the prebiotic, it has a much better shot at staying viable until it reaches the part of the gut where it will ultimately live.

Whether through diet or supplements, prebiotics and probiotics should leave you with a good feeling in your gut.

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