The Difference Between Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics

The emerging importance of probiotics and their role in gut health brings with it a ton of confusing terminology. Can’t keep it all straight? Here’s a basic rundown of the differences between probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics, each of which have unique benefits for human health.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms which, when administered in adequate mounts, confer a health benefit on the person taking them. In other words, they are bacteria that your body needs to stay healthy.

Probiotics can be consumed both as part of a food or as supplements. They help your immune system stay strong, keep your digestive system working efficiently, and help counteract bad bacteria and the ailments that come with them.

Where they’re found: Fermented foods such as yogurts (with live, active cultures), kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut. Other sources include soy milk, tempeh and pickles.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are, in essence, food for probiotics. These fibers are not digestible by humans, but stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria and fuel the restoration of good bacteria in the body. Cool, right?

Two of the most common prebiotics are inulin and carbohydrate fibers called – wait for it – oligosaccharides. Experts believe that they are just as important to human health as probiotics, so make sure you’re getting enough of both!

Where they’re found: Prebiotics are found within fruits, vegetables and whole grains, particularly Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, onions, leeks, the skin of apples and barley. If you’re eating a balanced diet, you are probably already consuming them.

What are synbiotics?

Synbiotics do not naturally occur in nature. Rather, a synbiotic (think symbiotic) is a supplement that contains both probiotics and prebiotics together. If you’re taking a supplement to improve your gut health, seek a product that features both in tandem.

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Carol C
Carol C2 months ago

Thank you for all the interesting information and links. It's especially good to know where probiotics and prebiotics are found in food.

Vincent T
Vincent T2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Elinor Dorrian
Elinor Dorrian2 months ago


Mely Lu
Mely Lu2 months ago

Thank you

Leo C
Leo Custer2 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Angela K
Angela K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Richard B
Past Member 2 months ago

thank you for posting

Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Debbi W
Debbi W2 months ago

IF I ever decide to try one, it would be the synbiotics, but I doubt that will happen.

Chad A
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.