Yes, you can take prebiotics and probiotics together, although for the best results they should not be taken at the same time. Prebiotic fibers help feed and strengthen probiotic bacteria so that they can more effectively colonize the gut. Taking the two in combination has numerous positive effects.
Probiotic supplements help replenish the good bacteria that naturally occur in a healthy intestine. Prebiotics are specific plant fibers that act like food sources for your gut bacteria. So if one is the food for the other, you may wonder whether prebiotics and probiotics can be taken together.
Certain probiotic supplements have prebiotics mixed in. The idea is that these prebiotics act as a food source for the probiotic bacteria when they reach the large intestine. In this case, the prebiotics benefit the probiotics and can very well be taken together.
Prebiotics can also be taken in larger quantities as a separate probiotic supplement. In this case, it’s best to take them at a different time of day than your probiotics. This helps avoid over-fermentation, which can lead to gas, bloating and digestive discomfort.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that are the food sources for the trillions of beneficial bacteria and yeast living in the human gut. Fibers are long chains of carbohydrate sugars which break down slowly and provide energy.
The most common prebiotic fiber is inulin and it’s produced in over 36,000 types of plants. Other typical forms of prebiotics are oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides, and resistant starch.
You can get these fibers from food, such as leafy vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria that naturally occur in the human intestine. These probiotic bacteria support many functions in the body, including digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, memory and mood.
Certain foods— such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha— contain probiotic bacteria. Probiotics can also be taken in the form of a supplement.
Different probiotic strains perform different tasks in the body, and increasing scientific evidence points to the fact that probiotic strains work in teams. That’s why it’s particularly important to maintain a healthy balance and diversity of bacteria in the gut.
The probiotic bacteria that live in our gut are split up into two groups: aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.
Anaerobic bacteria cannot live when oxygen is present. This means they cannot be manufactured into dietary supplements as they would die during the manufacturing process. Prebiotic supplements promote the growth of anaerobic probiotic bacteria, which are incredibly important for our health.
What are Synbiotics?
“Synbiotics” is a relatively new term. It refers to a supplement where probiotics and prebiotics are combined to help the probiotic bacteria be more effective. There are several synbiotics on the market today, including Omni-Biotic probiotics.
Health Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that naturally occur in a healthy human intestine and assist in many, important processes in the body. The modern lifestyle and external factors such as stress, inflammatory foods, and certain medications such as antibiotics can disrupt the healthy balance and diversity of the gut microbiome.
Taking a probiotic supplement can help restore and maintain microbiome balance and diversity, and offers a multitude of health benefits.
Healthy digestion and optimal bowel movements: One of the main functions of our gut bacteria is to support a healthy digestive system, nutrient absorption, and bowel movements. Probiotics have also been shown to be effective in helping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and diarrhea.
Immune function: The gut is the largest immune organ in the body. Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria is essential for a strong immune system.
Gut-brain support: The gut and the brain stand in direct communication with one another. The good bacteria in the gut play an important part in this communication, and also help to produce several hormones and neurotransmitters.
Prebiotics are specific insoluble fibers that serve as food for your gut bacteria. Prebiotics are especially important as they feed the anaerobic bacteria that live in the gut. This group of bacteria cannot survive when exposed to oxygen, which is why they cannot be manufactured into a probiotic supplement.
The health benefits of prebiotics include:
Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) production: Prebiotics have a fantastic effect on gut health because SCFAs tend to feed only helpful bacteria, while inhibiting potentially harmful or unwanted microorganisms.
This is due to the lower pH level that occurs in the colon as a result of the SCFA fermentation process, which harms pathogens (bad bacteria, viruses and fungi) and helps beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Fiber for digestive health: Prebiotics are insoluble fibers, which means they are not digested. These fibers help move along your waste products out of the body, supporting optimal bowel movements.
Immune function: Certain prebiotic fibers provide essential nutrients for anaerobic bacteria that are important for immune function. This is why we developed Omni-Logic Immune, a precision prebiotic designed to support immune function via the gut.
Weight loss: Fiber helps manage healthy weight by inducing a feeling of being full and curbing your appetite. Fiber takes longer to chew, which increases saliva and gastric acid, causing the stomach to distend and triggering a feeling of fullness.
To read more about prebiotics and their benefits, visit our blog post about prebiotics.
Benefits of Combining Probiotics and Prebiotics
Prebiotics serve as food sources for the probiotic bacteria. This is why some probiotic supplements also contain added prebiotics, usually in relatively small amounts.
The idea behind this is that the healthy bacteria encounter prebiotic food sources as soon as the probiotics reach the intestines. This helps feed the bacteria and allows them to reproduce so that they can fight off harmful bacteria in the gut microbiome.
For optimal gut support, you can also combine probiotics with a prebiotic supplement. This approach has two primary benefits:
- Helping probiotic bacteria survive the journey to the gut and colonize the intestines
- Supporting the good anaerobic bacteria, which cannot be made into dietary supplements
However, not all prebiotic fibers provide the same quality of support. For best results, the added prebiotic “food” should be specifically selected for the probiotic bacterial strains in the formulation. All Omni-Biotic formulations contain specific prebiotic fibers and nutrients selected to support the proliferation of the probiotic bacteria in the blend.
If you’re taking a fiber supplement in addition to your probiotics, then it’s best to take these two supplements apart from one another.
Fiber supplements usually supply prebiotic fibers in relatively large amounts. If you combine this with a probiotic supplement, your healthy bacteria may very well be having a feast and reproduce a little too quickly. This can lead to digestive discomfort such as bloating and gas.
Prebiotics Help Probiotics Survive and Colonize the Gut
Prebiotics help probiotics colonize the gut because the prebiotics serve as food sources for the probiotic bacteria.
When probiotic supplements are swallowed (usually as a capsule), the capsule has to travel through the gastrointestinal tract until it reaches the large intestine. When the capsule opens and the probiotic bacteria are released, the prebiotics in the capsule provide immediate food sources.
This allows the bacteria to “feed” on the prebiotics, making them strong so they can reproduce and colonize the gut.
However, not all probiotics have the same effect. For example, if the probiotic capsule opens too early— in the stomach or the small intestine— the beneficial bacteria have to contend with an environment that is very acidic. This often means that the probiotic bacteria die before they can successfully reach the large intestine where they can reproduce.
For highest survival rates and efficacy, you want the bacteria to start consuming the prebiotics before they travel all the way through the digestive tract. That’s why we’ve developed a unique delivery mechanism at Omni-Biotic: a powder that has to be activated in water before intake.
The freeze-dried bacteria “wake up” and eat some of the prebiotics to get strong for the passage through the intestinal tract. This ensures a significantly higher survival rate of the probiotics and a much more impactful supplement.
Prebiotics Help Feed Anaerobic Bacteria
A subset of your gut bacteria are anaerobic which means they die when they come into contact with oxygen. As a result, they cannot be manufactured into dietary supplements.
Prebiotic supplements promote the growth of these anaerobic bacteria, which are incredibly important for our health.
Just like people, different probiotic species have different favorite foods (i.e., prebiotics) and eating these ensure optimal livelihood. Mindfully formulated prebiotic supplements, such as Omni-Logic, help provide the necessary nutrients that anaerobic probiotic bacteria need to thrive.
Are There Risks and Side Effects to Taking Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Most prebiotics and probiotics can be safely consumed without side effects. It is possible to experience some gas, bloating or digestive discomfort for the first few days while the gut bacteria get used to the supplement.
Another reason for initial discomfort may be that the probiotic supplement kills off certain bad bacteria or fungi in your intestine. As the good bacteria colonize your gut and the bad bacteria die off, the discomfort should ease with time.
Prebiotics feed the bacteria in your gut. If you are experiencing bacterial overgrowth, such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), consult with your healthcare provider for medical advice on the best approach.
Conclusion: Combining Prebiotics with a Probiotic Supplement has Many Positive Effects
Prebiotics and probiotics both provide important benefits to maintain a healthy gut flora, digestion and overall wellbeing. Some probiotic supplements include a small amount of prebiotics to provide important nutrients to these healthy bacteria.
Different bacteria prefer different food sources, so it’s important to combine the right prebiotics with specific probiotic strains. In addition, adding prebiotics to a supplement only works if the supplement is delivered intact to the large intestine. If the probiotics get exposed to the harsh environment of the stomach or small intestine, many die off without being able to colonize the gut.
If you’re taking a prebiotic supplement separately, it’s best to take this at a different time of day than your probiotic. This helps avoid digestive discomfort.
Omni-Biotic probiotics contain a small amount of specifically selected prebiotics. During water activation, the probiotics consume these prebiotic fibers, which makes them strong for their journey through the gastrointestinal tract. This ensures significantly higher survival rates and efficacy.
In addition, we offer a line of precision prebiotics, Omni-Logic. In these supplements, prebiotic fibers are mindfully combined with specific micronutrients to provide essential food sources for important anaerobic bacteria that cannot be manufactured into supplements.