The key difference between probiotics and prebiotics and synbiotics is that probiotics are beneficial gut flora while prebiotics are mostly non-digestible fiber and synbiotics are synergistic combinations of prebiotics together with probiotics.
Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics are good for the health of our digestive system. Probiotics are gut microflora that provides health benefits. They are living non-pathogenic organisms that exert a positive influence on the host’s health or physiology. Prebiotics are food supplements that alter, modify and reinstate the pre-existing intestinal flora and facilitate smooth functions of the intestinal environment. Synbiotics are synergistic combinations of both probiotics and prebiotics.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Probiotics
3. What is Prebiotics
4. What is Synbiotics
5. Similarities Between Probiotics and Prebiotics and Synbiotics
6. Side by Side Comparison – Probiotics vs Prebiotics vs Synbiotics in Tabular Form
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that are important for the health of the digestive system. They are also known as good bacteria since they do not show any threat of infection. They are beneficial microorganisms. Some bacteria and yeast are identified as probiotics. When there are digestive problems, doctors often prescribe probiotics as a food supplement to increase gut health and resolve digestive problems. Probiotics are important in the repopulation of the good bacteria in our gut after their loss due to antibiotic treatment. They are also important to maintain the balance of good and bad microorganism populations in our body and keep us healthy.
There are many types of probiotic bacteria. They all can be categorized under two main groups as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacilli are the most common group of probiotics, and they are found in yogurt and different fermented foods. They are important in recovering from diarrhea and solve the difficulty of lactose digestion in milk. Bifidobacteria can be found in dairy products and are also important for treating diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
In addition to digestion, probiotics are helpful in different ways. They are effective in preventing and curing skin problems such as eczema. They are useful in maintaining overall health and fighting against infections.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are selectively fermented food ingredients that are mostly fibers. They are non-digestible food ingredients beneficial to the host’s health. Prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of probiotics or colon microbiota. Therefore, they cause changes in the composition and activity of gastrointestinal microflora, thereby benefitting the health and well being of the host. Basically, prebiotics are able to alter, modify and reinstate the pre-existing intestinal flora. They also facilitate smooth functions of the intestinal environment. Some examples of prebiotics include in breast milk, soybeans, inulin sources, raw oats, unrefined wheat, unrefined barley, yacon, non-digestible carbohydrates, and in particular non-digestible oligosaccharides.
Other than health effects, prebiotics is involved in the prevention of diarrhoea or obstipation, modulation of the metabolism of the intestinal flora, cancer prevention, positive effects on lipid metabolism, stimulation of mineral adsorption and immunomodulatory properties.
What are Synbiotics?
Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics with prebiotics. In other words, when prebiotics is used together with probiotics, we call them synbiotics. Synbiotics improve the viability of the probiotics. Fructooligosaccharide (FOS), GOS and xyloseoligosaccharide (XOS), Inulin; fructans are the most commonly used prebiotics together with probitics such as Lacbobacilli, Bifidobacteria spp, S. boulardii, B. coagulans, etc. in synbiotics.
Synbiotics are mainly responsible for improving the survival and implantation of live microbial dietary supplements in the gastrointestinal tract. They also selectively stimulate the growth and activate the metabolism of one or a limited number of health-promoting bacteria. The purpose of synbiotics is to overcome possible survival difficulties for probiotics.
What are the Similarities Between Probiotics and Prebiotics and Synbiotics?
- Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics provide health benefits.
- They enhance the growth and activity of intestinal microflora.
- Probiotics, probiotics and synbiotics have systemic effects on the host’s health metabolism and immune system.
What is the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics and Synbiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial gut flora while prebiotics are mostly non-digestible fiber. Synbiotics are synergistic combinations of prebiotics together with probiotics. So, this is the key difference between probiotics and prebiotics and synbiotics.
Below infographic summarizes the difference between probiotics and prebiotics and synbiotics.
Summary – Probiotics vs Prebiotics and Synbiotics
Gut microbiota or microflora has a crucial role in human health and disease. Probiotics are beneficial non-pathogenic living microorganisms inhabiting the human gut. Prebiotics are mostly non-digestible carbohydrates/fiber which stimulates growth and activity of gastrointestinal microflora. Synbiotics are synergistic combinations of prebiotics and probiotics. They all exert systemic effects on the host’s health metabolism and immune system. Thus, this summarizes the difference between probiotics and prebiotics and synbiotics.
1. Pandey, Kavita R, et al. “Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics- a Review.” Journal of Food Science and Technology, Springer India, Dec. 2015, Available here.