What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

15 Jan 2022

When it comes to gut health, we are advised to take prebiotics and probiotics. But what exactly are they? What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, and what can they both do to enrich our gut health? Read on to find out.

The difference between prebiotics and probiotics

Probiotics are living microorganisms that naturally live in the gut (1). These include various bacteria and yeasts (2). They are popularly referred to as “good bacteria” that serve to balance out the “bad bacteria” that can also be found in the gut. Bad bacteria may cause harm if they spread in your gut. Good bacteria helps keep them in check, keeping your gastrointestinal tract in a state of healthy balance (2).

Probiotics may aid in boosting immunity and gastrointestinal health, as well as managing the symptoms of certain disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, like irritable bowel syndrome, or traveller's diarrhoea (2).

On the other hand, prebiotics are complex carbohydrates from plant fibre. When ingested, prebiotics feed the good bacteria, promoting their growth in the gastrointestinal tract (2, 4). The difference between prebiotics and probiotics is that while probiotics help ensure your gut remains healthy, prebiotics support probiotic health and proliferation (4).

What probiotics and prebiotics do you need?

Recognised probiotics include over 50 species of Lactobacillus, 30 species of Bifidobacterium, yeasts like Saccharomyces spp, and other bacteria.

These can be taken in through a variety of fermented foods, including miso soup, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir (4). You may also try buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, and tempeh (2).

Prebiotics include inulin, pectin, and resistant starches (2). Sources of prebiotics include onions, bananas, garlic, legumes, beans, berries, oats, peas, asparagus, and apple skin (4).

Products that combine both probiotics and prebiotics are referred to as synbiotics. In terms of diet, you may combine foods that are sources of either prebiotics or probiotics. For instance, you can try mixing bananas with your yogurt, or having a breakfast of berries and oats alongside a slice of sourdough bread (3).

While it is best to get your probiotics and prebiotics from dietary sources, you may not always get your daily recommended intake from food alone. In this case, you may consider supplementation.

Supplements to support gut health

Here are some supplements you can consider to support gut health:


If you’re opting for probiotics in supplements form, be sure to go for the ones that contain helpful microorganisms like L. rhamnosus, B. Lactis, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

L. rhamnosus has been found to positively affect the population of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract, and protect against degenerative disease. It was also found to decrease the negative side effects to the gastrointestinal tract that arise from taking antibiotics.

Lactobacillus, on the other hand, can improve gastrointestinal barrier function, and inhibit harmful bacteria.

Saccharomyces boulardii has been found to be helpful in the treatment of diarrheal conditions that are caused by bacteria, such as traveller’s diarrhoea. It may also help improve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.


Zinc supports gut health by playing a role in strengthening the gastrointestinal epithelial barrier function. A deficiency in zinc helps give rise to various gastrointestinal disorders (6). Good food sources of zinc include liver and kidney from beef and poultry, eggs, beans, and lentils, such as soy, chickpeas, and kidney beans (7).


Curcumin is one of the active ingredients found in turmeric, which is typically used as a spice, and in curry (8, 9). Curcumin supports the growth of good bacteria strains such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. It also promotes the reduction of certain bad bacteria. Curcumin has also been found to reduce intestinal inflammation (10).

Probiotics and prebiotics are both important to support gut health. But while the best source of probiotics and prebiotics is healthy foods, it helps to support your diet with supplementation. Try Vitable vitamins and create your own daily vitamin packs. These packs contain personalised supplements specifically for your health needs. Have your subscription vitamins brought right to your doorstep through our vitamin delivery service in Australia.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Probiotic SB | Zinc | Curcumin

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.


  1. Dairy Food Safety Victoria. "Probiotics". Dairy Food Safety Victoria. Published (n.d.) on https://www.dairysafe.vic.gov.au/licensees/dairy-science-business/probiotics. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. "Probiotics". Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed March 9, 2020 at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  3. K, Sarah., "Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You". Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: EatRight.org. Last reviewed February 2020 at https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-creating-a-healthier-you. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  4. SCL Health. " What’s the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?". SCL Health. Published (n.d.) on https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2019/07/difference-between-probiotics-and-prebiotics/. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  5. Vitable. “Probiotics”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/probiotics. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  6. Skrovanek, S., et. al., "Zinc and gastrointestinal disease". World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology. Published November 15, 2014 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4231515/. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  7. GI Society. "Are You Getting Enough Zinc?" Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: GI Society. Published 2011 on https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/zinc/. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  8. Vitable. “Curcumin”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/curcumin. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  9. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "Turmeric". National Institutes of Health: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Last updated May 2020 on https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  10. Di Meo, F., et. al., "Curcumin, Gut Microbiota, and Neuroprotection". Nutrients. Published October 11, 2019 onhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835970/. Accessed November 22, 2021.