Probiotics and Prebiotics

Stephanie Mandel by Stephanie Mandel

Probiotics and Prebiotics

November 11, 2020

This is the second article in our “-biotics” series, where we explain the differences between and benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics and postbiotics. 

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria themselves, like the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species, which mainly colonize your small intestine and large intestine, respectively. Prebiotics are foods — primarily types of carbohydrate and fiber — that you can’t digest, but your microbes can. They feed your probiotic bacteria and help them flourish.

Some of the wonderful things your friendly probiotic flora do for you include:

  • Interfere with the growth and survival of pathogenic microbes in the gut — in other words, they help keep the “bad guys” at bay
  • Improve mucosal barrier function of your intestines (think healing leaky gut) 
  • Help strengthen and balance your intestinal mucosal immune system (think fewer food allergies)
  • Support systemic immune balance — since 70-80% of your entire immune system sits just outside the gut lining, waiting to deal with invading microbes
  • Produce beneficial nutrients like vitamin K2, short-chain fatty acids and more

Prebiotics include numerous fermentable carbohydrates, including:

  • Several types of dietary fiber
  • Phenolics and phytochemicals (plant compounds)
  • Conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid with cardiovascular and blood sugar balancing benefits
  • Wide range of oligosaccharides, complex carbohydrates with benefits related to cholesterol, insulin levels and more

Get them in your diet and through supplements: 

Probiotic foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, active-culture yogurt, miso, fermented vegetables, kombucha* (*find out why kombucha isn’t right for everyone - link in blog)

Probiotic supplements: There are many! Some of our favorites include:


Daily Flora Immune

Essential Formula by Dr. Ohhira



Prebiotic foods*: onions and other onion-family vegetables like leeks and scallions, garlic, apples, asparagus, dandelion greens, jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchokes), chicory root, jicama root, inulin, acacia gum, mushrooms (especially shiitake), plantains, potatoes (especially those that have been cooked and cooled)

Prebiotic supplements*: These often come in the form of powders. Some that we like include:

TruFiber Prebiotic Fiber Powder

Acacia Fiber 

* Caution with these! If they cause excessive gas, bloating and discomfort, this could signal an imbalance in gut flora that should be addressed with a functional practitioner.


Be aware, individuals at certain stages of gut healing actually do better without supplemental probiotics; it is important to consult your integrative health practitioner to determine what is best for you. 


Want more support?

Our team of integrative practitioners is happy to help you identify the underlying causes of health imbalances, and the best foods and supplements to rebalance your system. Call our office to find out more: 212-989-9828.

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