Prebiotics vs. Probiotics vs. Postbiotics - What's the Difference?

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics vs. Postbiotics - What's the Difference?

Your digestive tract contains microbiota. These are potentially good and harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. To be as healthy as possible, you need a balance between the two kinds of microbiota. Probiotics generally refer to consumable cultured foods and drinks that contain good bacteria. Prebiotics are dietary materials these bacteria feed on. Postbiotics are healthy byproducts naturally produced by probiotics as part of their life processes.

These bacteria communities are essential to the human body. They perform many jobs in the digestive system and regulate your immune system, protect your gut from harmful bacteria, and improve digestion.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are food sources for probiotics found in your body. Most are fibers and sugars that good bacteria can eat but which your body can’t digest. Prebiotics are found in foods such as:

Your body can’t digest the fiber in these foods on its own. Healthy bacteria help your body break down and process foods rich in fiber. This process happens in the large intestines. The fiber provides nutrients to the bacteria and fungi in the intestines.

What are the health benefits and risks of prebiotics?

Health benefits. Prebiotics improve your health. After your gut bacteria process these sugars and fibers, they contribute to good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Some of the health benefits are:

  1. Fewer infections
  2. Healthier heart and metabolism
  3. Mineral availability
  4. Modulate the immune system

Risks. Before eating more prebiotics, understand that there’s a greater risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome. The fermentation process might increase cases of bloating, constipation, or diarrhea in people who are sensitive to foods rich in fiber content.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast contained in cultured foods. If you consume foods that contain probiotics, they will provide healthy nutrition.

Cultured foods that contain helpful living bacteria include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha (fermented tea)
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Soft cheese

What are the health benefits and risks of probiotics?

Health benefits. Probiotic products can help control various conditions such as:

  1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  2. Diarrhea associated with taking antibiotics.
  3. Lactose intolerance.
  4. Diarrhea in children.
  5. Eczema in children.
  6. Can reduce the risk and duration of respiratory and gut infections.

Risks. Probiotics might pose harmful health risks to people suffering from severe illnesses or those with weak immune systems.

What are postbiotics?

When probiotics feed on prebiotics they produce postbiotics. Postbiotics are formed through fermentation. The fermentation process happens when the food is processed and in the intestines. Postbiotics have several uses. They can be found in foods such as:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented soybean soup
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Slow fermented bread
  • Buttermilk


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

What are the health benefits and risks of postbiotics?

Health benefits. Postbiotics’ health benefits are not yet fully understood. Most known health benefits resemble those of probiotics. Postbiotics can help:

  1. Prevent infections
  2. Lower the risks of heart diseases
  3. Reduce inflammation
  4. Strengthen your immune system
  5. Fight cancerous cells

Risks. The risk of ingesting postbiotics is relatively low compared to ingesting probiotics. Ingesting postbiotics might be a healthier option for individuals who have weak immune systems, have undergone surgery, or who are experiencing severe illness. Postbiotics introduce fewer new microorganisms into vulnerable immune systems.

How to use prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics safely

Consider following some of these principles:

  • Eat wholesome natural foods. Natural foods also contain other nutrients that may be useful for your body.
  • Eating too many prebiotic-rich foods might get you gassy and bloated.
  • Avoid prebiotics if you have certain health conditions like small intestine bacterial overgrowth condition (SIBO).
  • Problems when using probiotics are uncommon, but make an effort to see your doctor about any health problem.
  • Include more foods that contain natural probiotics and prebiotics in your diet plan. These foods are good for your general health.
  • Check with your doctor before consuming probiotic supplements if you have any underlying health problems.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021


Columbia University Irving Medical Center: “What You Need To Know About Prebiotics.”

Hebrew SeniorLife: “How Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics Help Maintain a Healthy Gut.”

HHS Author Manuscripts: “Therapeutic Use of Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics to Prevent Necrotizing Enterocolitis: What is the Current Evidence?”

International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics: “Probiotics.”

National Institutes of Health: “Probiotics: What You Need To Know.”

Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics.”

The Johns Hopkins University: “The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health.”