Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Aug 04, 2023 DigestionFiberProbiotics 5 MIN

Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Prebiotics and probiotics both support digestive health, but they're a bit more complicated than your simple Vitamins A, B, C, and so on. Not only that, but their names are also confusingly similar! Taking that next step to support your gut can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be, and the benefits of knowing when and how to use both probiotics and prebiotics are worth the effort. So, let's dive right in with the first question that's on everyone's mind.†

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Are they the same thing? How much difference can one little vowel make? Quite a lot! It's essential to know the difference between "pre" and "pro" to get the best benefits of both. They share at least one thing in common: they work best in concert. But to understand why and how they work together, first we need to know what they do separately.

@naturemadevitamins Meet Melissa, one of our extremely talented Registered Dietitians at Nature Made! Did you know the difference between a Probiotic and a Prebiotic? Melissa explains it all, and did we mention we offer a great Prebiotic Fiber Powder and Probiotic Gummies? Check out the link in our bio to shop! 🔗 #dietitianreacts #registereddietitian #prebiotics #probiotics ♬ original sound - Nature Made

What are probiotics?

Have you ever picked up a cup of yogurt at the grocery store, seen a label advertising it as "rich in probiotics," and asked yourself what that means? Wonder no more! Probiotics are a beneficial type of bacteria, known as the "good bacteria," that live in your gut. More specifically, they are "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."[1] These bacteria make up a part of our gut microbiome, which is essential to our digestive health and can affect us in complex ways. The bacteria, or probiotics, found in our intestinal tract play an important role in supporting our digestion.†

How do probiotics help?

Probiotics are widely known as "good bacteria," but what is it they do that makes them so good? One simple benefit of probiotics is that they take up space. Our gut microbiome is filled with all sorts of bacteria, some good and some bad. By reinforcing your gut's population of good bacteria, you crowd out potentially harmful bacteria, protecting you from their negative effects. Different strains of probiotics confer distinct benefits. Nature Made® specially formulates our probiotics to support your gut in different ways. Nature Made® Digestive Probiotic + Energy* B12 Gummies provide Bacillus coagulans IS-2 to naturally help support your gut, with additional Vitamin B12 to help convert food into cellular energy. For wide range support, Nature Made® Ultra Strength‡ 12 Strain Probiotics provide comprehensive coverage with 12 probiotic strains that help support healthy gut flora and are specially formulated to help relieve occasional gas▲, bloating▲, abdominal discomfort▲, constipation+, and irregularity+.†

Where can I find probiotics?

Probiotics naturally exist in our gut, a part of the complex "microbiome" of bacteria. They provide beneficial effects, but they need support, and it's essential to reinforce your digestive health with probiotic foods or supplements. Thankfully, there are plenty of tasty probiotic foods to choose from! One of the most common sources of probiotics in your diet is fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir. The fermentation process of yogurt produces probiotic bacteria.[2] Packing your lunch with a cup of yogurt can give your body a dose of essential probiotics. There are also non-dairy sources of probiotics, such as spicy Korean kimchi, savory sauerkraut, and tasty tempeh. If your diet lacks fermented foods, Nature Made® has various probiotics to help supplement your diet, including Digestive Probiotics Advanced Dual Action Capsules and Digestive Probiotics Ultra-Strength‡ Gummies.†

What are prebiotics?

We've talked about the "pro," now let's talk about the "pre." Prebiotics are types of fibers that can’t be fully digested by your body – but that can be used by your gut bacteria. Prebiotics, by definition, resist dissolving in stomach acid and beneficially stimulate the growth and activity of intestinal bacteria.[3] To put it simply, prebiotics can be thought of as “food” or fuel for probiotics!†

What do prebiotics do?

Prebiotics act primarily as fuel for the bacteria in our gut. Providing the friendly bacteria in your gut with beneficial prebiotic fibers can also result in another health benefit - the production of short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are produced when the good gut bacteria break down & ferment prebiotic fibers.[3][4] Short-chain fatty acids have several health benefits, including being the main source of energy for the cells lining your colon.[5] Prebiotics provide a one-two punch of support, both by promoting beneficial bacteria growth and supporting the production of healthy fatty acids.†

Where can I find prebiotics?

A balanced diet should be your first source of prebiotic fiber: apples, onions, bananas, and garlic are all rich in prebiotics. Sometimes due to food availability or other reasons, your diet may need more sources of prebiotic fiber. In that case, you can supplement your diet with Nature Made® Prebiotic Fiber Drink Mix Powder, which provides 3 grams of soluble dietary fiber in one scoop, giving you an easy source of prebiotics that can be mixed into any non-carbonated drink. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found naturally in oats, nuts, beans and apples. Another option is Nature Made® Fiber 5g Gummies, which provide 5 grams of inulin prebiotic fiber per serving. Any way you want it, Nature Made® has your back.†

Why should I take probiotics and prebiotics?

When people look into the issue of prebiotic vs probiotic, they'll often ask which one they should take. With such similar names, is taking both truly necessary? But the truth is that it's usually not an either/or situation! Prebiotics and probiotics work best in conjunction, providing your gut with the beneficial bacteria it needs and ensuring those good bacteria are well-fed with prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fibers have been studied in conjunction with probiotic strains to improve probiotics' growth.[6] Providing your body with adequate sources of probiotics and prebiotic fibers, whether through healthy foods or supplements, is an excellent step towards a healthy gut!†

‡2X the CFUs of other Nature Made® Digestive Probiotics Adult Gummies (4 billion CFUs).

*B12 helps convert food into cellular energy.†

▲Lactobacillus plantarum 10 Billion CFU

+Bifidobacterium lactis 2 Billion CFU

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2014;11(8):506-514. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66
  2. Prasanna PHP, Grandison AS, Charalampopoulos D. Bifidobacteria in milk products: An overview of physiological and biochemical properties, exopolysaccharide production, selection criteria of milk products and health benefits. Food Research International. 2014;55:247-262. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2013.11.013
  3. Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92. Published 2019 Mar 9. doi:10.3390/foods8030092
  4. Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL. Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018;2(3):nzy005. Published 2018 Jan 29. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy005
  5. Xiong RG, Zhou DD, Wu SX, et al. Health Benefits and Side Effects of Short-Chain Fatty Acids. Foods. 2022;11(18):2863. Published 2022 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/foods11182863
  6. Pranckutė R, Kaunietis A, Kuisienė N, Čitavičius DJ. Combining prebiotics with probiotic bacteria can enhance bacterial growth and secretion of bacteriocins. Int J Biol Macromol. 2016;89:669-676. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2016.05.041


Graham Morris

NatureMade Copywriter

Graham has a degree in film with a focus on screenwriting from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He enjoys learning new things and finding the best, most engaging way to communicate them to a wide audience. Graham appreciates simplicity in life and nutrition, and wants to find the easiest, no-stress ways to stay healthy.

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Kalyn Williams, RDN

Science and Health Educator

Kalyn is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Science & Health Educator with the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. Her experience in the field of nutrition prior to joining Pharmavite has included community and public health education, media dietetics, and clinical practice in the areas of disordered eating, diabetes, women’s health, and general wellness. Kalyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed her dietetic supervised practice in Maricopa County, AZ, with an emphasis on public health. Kalyn is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she is an active member in addition to memberships in Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Women’s Health Dietitians, and the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians.

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