Prebiotics & Probiotics: What’s the Deal? If you’ve ever taken antibiotics before, it’s likely your doctor advised you to boost your intake of yogurt to make the medicine a bit less taxing on your system. Ten years ago, this was a foreign concept for many and most people didn’t know the “why” behind the suggestion. But probiotics, the good bacteria naturally found in our guts, have now become a household name. It’s relative newcomer, prebiotics, who are making news these days.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are natural carbohydrates that are very hard for humans to digest, meaning they stick around long enough to remain intact at the end of the digestive process. They work to actively promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system. More simply, prebiotics are the food for the probiotics in our systems.

How do prebiotics and probiotics work together? When prebiotics meet probiotics in the colon, fermentation takes place resulting in the production of short-chain fatty acids, lactate and gas. When consumed, studies show that prebiotics lead to an increase in the growth of good bacteria in the gut. The more good bacteria, the less opportunity for bad to grow.

Where can I find prebiotics and probiotics in my diet? Right about now, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Oh great, another wellness tip I have to incorporate into my life!” Well hold on, this one’s a cinch! You can find both prebiotics and probiotics in some pretty common foods—you just might not realize you’re already eating them.

Prebiotics & Probiotics: What’s the Deal?

Prebiotics

  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Soybeans
  • Whole-wheat foods

Probiotics

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir products
  • Aged cheeses
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Soy

The real magic happens when these two types of products are eaten together (think: bananas on top of yogurt). And if you find these foods aren’t on your normal grocery list, you can always opt for a nutritional supplement. Just talk with your doctor before adding supplements to your regimen.

Are there long term benefits of prebiotics and probiotics? While studies show that the use of prebiotics and probiotics promotes digestive health, the jury is still out on other potential benefits. However, promising research indicates usage may:

  • Assist in treatment of diarrhea, especially when being treated with antibiotics
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reduce the recurrence of bladder cancer
  • Promote treatment of various infections in the intestines
  • Prevent/treat urinary tract and vaginal yeast infections
  • Prevent/treat eczema in kids
  • Prevent/ease symptoms of colds and flu