Prebiotics vs. Probiotics - A True Gut Check

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM February 11, 2020 0 Comments

probiotics for skincare

If you have been an ardent follower of skin health updates, then you have probably come across the terms “prebiotics” and “probiotics.” They might sound very technical, but they are very easy to understand. Read on to learn more about the differences between prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics

What they are: 

Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that are not affected by time, acidity, or temperature. They can travel up to the hindgut where they serve as food to the good bacteria (aka probiotics.) 

In nutrition labels, prebiotics may be described as inulins, fructooligosaccharides, or galactooligosaccharides. 

Where to get them: 

You can get your daily dose of prebiotics by eating grains, vegetables, and fruits. Prebiotic-rich sources include onion, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leek, carrots, dandelion, and chicory root.  

The recommended prebiotic intake per day is 5 to 20 grams, and if you cannot achieve this through the usual diet, taking prebiotic supplements is recommended. 

Should your focus be on skin health, you can obtain prebiotics from specially-made skincare products as well. 

Benefits for the Body:

Since prebiotics feed the probiotics that exert wonders on the body, some of their benefits are related to these ‘good bacteria’ (more info about probiotic benefits below.) 

Studies on prebiotics are not as numerous as those of probiotics, and despite this limitation, the limited results show that they are just as beneficial. 

Primarily, since prebiotics are dietary fibers, they can promote a healthy bowel movement. 

They may also be the key to better calcium absorption, according to multiple studies. When taken as Inulin, Fructooligosaccharides, or Galactooligosaccharides, prebiotics may enhance calcium absorption in the gut. Consequently, this increase in calcium levels can help strengthen bones and prevent fractures or osteoporosis in older individuals. 

Prebiotics, which usually come in the form of dietary fiber, have been touted to promote satiety and weight loss as well. Lowered hunger rates, as well as a weight loss of about 1 kilogram, were noted in individuals who consumed prebiotic- fiber sources. 

Side effects: 

As it was mentioned, research in prebiotics is still limited. Possible side effects might mirror those linked with probiotic intake (i.e. bloating, digestive upset, allergic reactions.)

Reminders for use: 

Since prebiotics serve as food sources to microorganisms, they are best taken (whether through food or supplement) together with probiotics. This will help maximize their beneficial effects on the body. 

Related articles about: Probiotics For Skin Care

Probiotics

What they are: 

Probiotics are minute living organisms, either bacteria or yeast (or both), which help restore the bacterial balance in our digestive tract. Popular strains include the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. 

Where to get them: 

Probiotics are present in fermented food such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh. They are also available in the forms of pills or supplements. 

Since probiotics may be able to treat a variety of skin diseases (this will be discussed next,) they can also be used as creams and ointments. Such can be applied directly to the affected areas. 

Benefits for the Body: 

Probiotic use is very popular mainly because of its wealth of bodily benefits. 

For one, it can help improve gastrointestinal health, especially in people suffering from digestive disorders. Studies have shown that probiotics may help treat irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, as well as necrotizing enterocolitis in infants. 

Enhanced skin health is another advantage that comes with probiotic use. Probiotics may treat a wide spectrum of skin diseases, from acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis, to allergic inflammation. When used as a cosmetic or skincare product, it can reduce UV ray damage and protect wounds as well. 

Improving immunity is another one of the perceived benefits of probiotic use. Studies show that continued probiotic use may help reduce the incidence of colds and the need for antibiotics in some cases. It might even be useful as a treatment for vaginal yeast infections. As for the hospital setting, probiotic supplementation has been associated with a decreased prevalence in ventilator-induced pneumonia. 

Probiotics may help treat depression as well. Researchers from Queen’s University, Canada have seen a reduction in the depressive symptoms of individuals who took probiotic supplementation.  

Side effects: 

Although probiotics occur in natural food sources, some side effects have been noted. They include bloating, gas, headaches, and allergic reactions. 

Reminders for use: 

While probiotics are generally safe to take, caution is advised to people with immunity problems and chronic disorders. These individuals are advised to consult with their physicians before taking any supplements.

As for those with lactose intolerance, make sure to opt for probiotics in the form of Lactobacillus strains to prevent stomach upset.  

The Bottomline 

Now that you know the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, what you need to keep in mind is that they best work together. After all, they share a synergistic relationship that may support gut function and skin health (among many other bodily functions.) 

Remember: the right diet can help you get these substances in your system. And should you decide to take a supplement, make sure that it has both the recommended amounts of prebiotics and probiotics!