What are probiotics and prebiotics?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria (normal microflora) in the body. Prebiotics are foods (typically high-fiber foods) that act as food for human microflora. Prebiotics are used with the intention of improving the balance of these microorganisms.

Probiotics are in foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Prebiotics are in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes. In addition, probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and available as dietary supplements.

Research is ongoing into the relationship of the gut microflora to disease. The health benefits of currently available probiotics and prebiotics have not been conclusively proved.

However, side effects are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics to their diets. Future research may lead to advanced probiotics with greater potential to improve health.

If you're considering taking supplements, check with your doctor to be sure they're right for you.

July 10, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. A Very Happy Brain
  2. Acupuncture for back pain?
  3. Alternative cancer treatments: 10 options to consider
  4. Aromatherapy: Is it worthwhile?
  5. Candida cleanse diet
  6. CBD safety
  7. Chronic fatigue: Can a natural remedy boost my energy?
  8. Colloidal silver supplements
  9. Colon cleansing
  10. Considering complementary therapy
  11. Cupping therapy: Can it relieve fibromyalgia pain?
  12. Detox foot pads
  13. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  14. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
  15. Prickly pear cactus
  16. Ear candling
  17. Ear infection treatment: Do alternative therapies work?
  18. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  19. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  20. Herbal supplements: Not risk-free
  21. Herbal supplements: Safety first
  22. Supplements and heart drugs
  23. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  24. Integrative approaches to treating pain
  25. Integrative medicine: Different techniques, one goal
  26. Integrative medicine: Find out what works
  27. Kombucha tea
  28. Kratom: Unsafe and ineffective
  29. Kratom and pregnancy: Not a safe mix
  30. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  31. Learn to reduce stress through mindful living
  32. Massage
  33. Medical marijuana
  34. Meditation 2.0: A new way to meditate
  35. Mindfulness exercises
  36. Mindfulness practice: Can it reduce symptoms of MS?
  37. Miracle cure or marketing scam?
  38. Natural aphrodisiacs
  39. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  40. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  41. Pet therapy
  42. Fish oil supplements
  43. Tai chi
  44. Tai Chi and Cardiac Rehab
  45. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  46. Tai chi
  47. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  48. Alternative psoriasis treatments
  49. What is hot yoga?
  50. What is reflexology?
  51. Wheatgrass
  52. Why aromatherapy is showing up in hospital surgical units
  53. Yucca: Can it relieve arthritis pain?
  54. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?