Can You Take Prebiotics and Probiotics Together?

Consumers are increasingly mindful of their gut health, recognizing that the gut microbiome plays a crucial role beyond digestion. A healthy gut contributes to various health benefits, such as supporting the immune system, enhancing brain function, and promoting skin health.

Consequently, probiotics and prebiotics have gained popularity as dietary supplements among individuals seeking a spectrum of health benefits. But can you take both supplements at the same time? Many wonder if combining these two buzzworthy health boosters is safe and effective or if they are better taken separately.

The short answer is yes, you can take prebiotics and probiotics together. 

Multiple studies have shown taking prebiotics and probiotics together improves digestive health, immune function, weight management and more. The key is to take them properly by understanding when and how to take prebiotic and probiotic supplements to maximize the synergistic benefits for optimal gut health and total body wellness.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that maintain and support your gut microbiome. Some food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, kefir, pickles, and kombucha. Whether consumed through supplementation or natural sources, probiotics can help support our digestive system, produce vitamins, and aid in other critical physiological functions in our bodies.

People commonly associate probiotics with bacteria, leading to the misconception that they are harmful or akin to 'germs.' In reality, the microorganisms present in probiotics closely resemble the natural microorganisms inherent in our bodies.

The delicate balance of microorganisms in our gut can be disrupted easily by external factors like an imbalanced diet and daily stressors. Probiotics can help repopulate your gut flora with beneficial bacteria to promote digestion, enhance immunity, and contribute to overall wellbeing. 

Probiotic supplements consist of live microorganisms that can provide diverse benefits, contingent on the specific strains included. When searching for a probiotic, it's crucial to select a product with a broad range of probiotics strains (ideally 10 or more) and featuring well-researched genera. Commonly studied genera of probiotics, frequently present in supplement products, include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Bacillus. Within these genera, numerous strains exist, each offering distinct and unique advantages. 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

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Probiotics supplements can help boost your health beyond your gut. Below you will find some of the key benefits of taking probiotics. 

  • Improved Gut Health: Probiotics may enhance the diversity and balance of good bacteria in the gut. This improves gut barrier function, reduces inflammation, and promotes regular bowel movements.

  • Enhanced Immune System: 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Probiotics support immunity by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria in the gut that inhibit pathogens, improve gut barrier function, and regulate inflammatory responses.

  • Weight Management: Individuals with obesity may experience dysbiosis, an imbalance in their gut microbiota. Supplementing with probiotics can contribute to rebalancing the gut microbiome in overweight individuals. This rebalancing effect may help regulate appetite hormones, control cravings, manage blood sugar levels, and potentially influence fat storage. Therefore, incorporating probiotics into the routine of individuals with obesity could have positive effects on various aspects of metabolic health.

  • Overall Wellbeing: Probiotics are beneficial in encouraging a balanced microbiota, which is linked to improved mental health, heart health, skin conditions, urogenital health, and disease prevention.

While the above outlines some benefits of taking a probiotic supplement, it is advisable to consult the benefit claims of each supplement product before making a purchase, as some brands aim to offer more targeted benefits.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are indigestible fibers serving as a food source for gut bacteria. Common natural sources of prebiotics include garlic, onions, apples, bananas, chicory root, oats, and dandelion greens. These foods are particularly rich in inulin, a type of prebiotic that promotes the growth of certain healthy bacteria.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut metabolize and ferment prebiotics in your digestive system, yielding a range of healthy byproducts that contribute to overall gut health. Depending on the type of prebiotic, the process generates various short-chain fatty acids, offering a host of benefits such as enhancing cellular health, boosting immunity, and aiding in inflammation reduction.

It's essential to recognize that the gut microbiota comprises a highly diverse array of microorganisms, each playing distinct roles in gut function. Consequently, these microorganisms may utilize prebiotics in different ways, with each type of prebiotic potentially conferring its unique benefit.

Health Benefits of Prebiotics

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The gut microbiome is a crucial system in our bodies that plays a pivotal role in various key functions, primarily the breakdown of food and the production of essential nutrients. Properly nourishing the good microbes in our gut is essential not only for maintaining gut health but also for supporting our immune system and other vital functions in the body.

Research indicates that supplementing with prebiotics, including forms like inulin, has a positive impact on our microbiome. This supplementation effectively feeds the beneficial gut flora, ultimately promoting regular bowel function. Taking a prebiotic supplement can offer additional benefits, especially considering the challenge of obtaining an adequate amount of prebiotic fibers in our daily diets without making significant adjustments.

Side Effects of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Potential mild side effects may include gas, bloating, upset stomach, or diarrhea. If you experience any discomfort from either supplement, consider reducing the dose and gradually increasing it over several weeks to allow your gut to adjust. If the discomfort persists, it may be advisable to discontinue the use of the supplement.

If you have any existing health conditions or take antibiotics or any other medication, it is best to consult a physician or pharmacist prior to using prebiotic and probiotic supplements. A medical professional can also provide further clarification on the safety of taking the supplements together or separately. 

When should I take prebiotic and probiotic supplements?

For enduring benefits, it is advisable to incorporate probiotics into your daily routine. Prebiotics, on the other hand, can also be consumed daily, but there is an option to cycle them—taking them for a few weeks, then pausing before resuming the cycle.

Typically, both prebiotics and probiotics can be consumed with or without food. Nevertheless, for optimal effectiveness in ensuring probiotic bacteria reach the intestines, it is recommended to take the probiotic supplement on an empty stomach. While prebiotics can also be taken on an empty stomach, the choice may depend on personal preference, especially considering individual digestive sensitivity. 

Should I look for combined probiotic and prebiotic supplements?

Certain products incorporate both probiotic bacteria and prebiotics. Probiotics and prebiotics together can provide synergistic benefits to your health. Taking prebiotics with probiotics is often referred to as 'synbiotic.'

Some brands combine prebiotics and probiotics to create a 'synbiotic' product with a more robust range of health benefits. While opting for a supplement containing both can be effective and efficient, it's advisable to focus on the specific health benefits you seek.

Many probiotic and prebiotic products offer various advantages. Some are marketed or studied for specific health benefits. For instance, certain brands may feature probiotic strains supported by clinical studies in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), while others concentrate on overall digestive tract health, fostering beneficial gut bacteria and potentially reducing bloating.

If you aim for comprehensive health support, it can be advantageous to take them together due to their complementary role in the gut.

If I buy the products separately, should I take prebiotics or probiotics first?

If both prebiotics and probiotics are in capsule or pill form, it can be convenient to take them simultaneously. However, it's worth noting that prebiotic fibers are often available in powder format. In such cases, you may need to mix the prebiotic powder separately, which might require a different consumption routine than the capsule or pill form of probiotics.

If this is the case, take probiotics first, ideally on an empty stomach so the live bacteria can reach the gut. Take prebiotics with or without food after taking a probiotic supplement. Consider the format that aligns with your preferences and routine for ease of consumption.

Who should not take prebiotics and probiotics?

Individuals with compromised immune systems, short bowel syndrome, central venous catheters, cardiac valve disease, or any other health concerns should consult with a doctor before taking prebiotics or probiotics. Seeking professional medical advice ensures that the use of these supplements aligns with individual health conditions and requirements.

Wrapping Up: Should you take prebiotics and probiotics together?

Not only is it acceptable to take prebiotics and probiotics together, but it is often recommended. Pairing prebiotic dietary supplements and fiber-rich foods with daily probiotic supplementation creates a powerful combination for gut health.

Prebiotics promote the growth of probiotic bacteria, helping beneficial microbes flourish in your microbiome. Studies show consuming prebiotic and probiotic supplements together increases the abundance of beneficial strains better than either supplement alone.

Prebiotics act as a food, supporting the flourishing of probiotics in your digestive system and providing superior digestive and immune enhancement. This dynamic duo can contribute to improved digestion, immunity, weight management, and overall well-being, surpassing the benefits of either supplement alone.

Give your gut the prebiotic fuel and probiotic power it needs to keep your digestive system happy and healthy at its best with this winning pre + pro combo.

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