Probiotics and Prebiotics

Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle

May 27, 2015

Probiotics and prebiotics… What is all the hype?

These nutrients found in everyday foods have become increasingly popular in the nutrition realm lately, but what are they really? What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Are they really that beneficial to our health? What types of foods contain them? How can I make sure I am getting enough? How do I know if I need more?

What are probiotics and prebiotics?

The short version is that probiotics are friendly microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract, aid digestion, and may give additional health benefits, while prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible carbohydrates that serve as food for probiotics.


Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, specifically your digestive system. While bacteria typically has a connotation of being a bad thing, your body is made up of both good and bad types of bacteria. The bacteria in probiotics is a good bacteria. There are a several different types of probiotics, but the most commonly consumed strains are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is the most common of these and is found in yogurt and other fermented products. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who cannot digest the lactose sugar in milk. Bifidobacterium can also be found in dairy products and can be helpful for individuals struggling with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


Prebiotics are the food sources that help probiotics thrive in your digestive system. Most prebiotics are some form of fiber and are often fermented. Our bodies do not digest fiber, however, the bacteria in our digestive tract including probiotics digest this fiber. Feeding these helpful bacteria will aid in improving the function of the digestive system.

What are good sources of probiotics and prebiotics that I can include in my diet? How much do I need?


  • Yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy products that say “live active cultures” on the label
  • Raw/Soft Cheeses
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Raw sauerkraut
  • Raw kimchi
  • Other fermented vegetables such as pickled carrots or beets
  • Probiotic supplements

The minimum recommended daily intake of probiotics is roughly 10 CFU(Colony Forming Units) per day, however, the actual dose you want to consume will be much higher than that due to many of those organisms being destroyed in the process of digestion. To add onto that, most commonly the foods that are naturally high in probiotics or have probiotics added to them during the manufacturing process have a lower dose of probiotic bacterias due to their short shelf life and any heat added to them during the manufacturing process. Supplements are a good way to add probiotics into your diet because of the high doses, so they are more likely to have a higher number of CFUs actually make it through digestion and into your gut. Some of the most popular and extensively studied probiotic supplements and their dosage recommendations are: Culturelle, active probiotic Lactobacillus GG, with 10 billion active cultures per dose; Florastor, active probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii lyo, with 250mg per dose; and Align, active probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, with 1 billion active cultures per dose.


  • Raw chicory root
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke
  • Raw dandelion greens
  • Raw garlic
  • Raw leeks
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Radicchio
  • Endive
  • Jicama
  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s Organic for example)

The minimum recommended daily intake of prebiotics is 4-8g for maintenance or up to 15g or more for someone who has an digestive disorder. The foods listed above are the best option for consumption of prebiotics. There are also several prebiotic supplements available on the market today if you are looking for a more concentrated dose, including; Prebiotin, containing inulin prebiotic fiber and oligofructose, with a dose 1 g per day gradually increasing to up to 8g per day; Fiber Choice, containing inulin prebiotic fiber, with a dose of 3g per day working up to 9g per day; and Zarbees, with a multivitamin and prebiotic supplement that contains 1g per day of inulin.

How will probiotics and prebiotics benefit me?

A diet that contains an adequate amount of probiotics and prebiotics will aid in keeping you healthy. A properly functioning digestive tract, with higher levels of “good” bacteria, is key to developing a healthy immune system and preventing the opportunity for pathogen forming bacteria to reside in your body. In this case, you really are what you eat. If you are consuming foods that are high in “good” bacteria, your body will maintain a positive environment for those bacteria to form and will help fight off things that will make you sick. Whether you are consuming probiotics and prebiotics only from food sources or if you are also including them in supplemental form, ensuring you are consuming the recommended daily value of each will help keep you healthy and well.

If you are interested in learning more of the science of probiotics and prebiotics, please check out the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, a leading collaboration of scientists dedicated to the advancing the science of probiotics and prebiotics. 

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One Response to “ Probiotics and Prebiotics ”

  1. Wayne Says:

    June 20th, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Excellent article. Would be even more helpful if it included how much each food source contained. For example, how many CFU in a given amount of sauerkraut. Or, how many g are in a banana.

    Reply would be appreciated.
    Thank you.

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