Prebiotics, Probiotics, Synbiotics and Postbiotics Explained – Makia's World

The names sound similar: prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, and postbiotics.

But they're quite different and contribute to your health in different ways.

1. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria (2,4), mainly in the large intestine and colon. 

  • Support immune system
  • Weight loss through an increased feeling of fullness
  • Cancer prevention

Foods with prebiotics:

  • Asparagus
  • Wheat bran
  • Garlic
  • Banana
  • Onions
  • Potatoes (cooked and cooled)
  • Leek bulbs
  • Jerusalem artichokes

2. Probiotics

Probiotics are live and bacteria that improve gut bacteria balance (2,4). Probiotics use prebiotics as a food source and let them survive for a longer period than would otherwise be possible (3). They are mainly associated with bacteria in the small intestine.

  • Gut health (treats diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc.)
  • Relieving lactose intolerance
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Cancer prevention
  • Fights allergies, and respiratory and UTIs

Foods with probiotics:

  • Yoghurt
  • Sour cream
  • Kefir
  • Natto
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Pickled veggies (non-pasteurised)

3. Synbiotics

Synbiotics are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics (2,4). When consumed together, they enhance the effect of supporting the digestive and immune system. 

    • Improved survival of probiotics
    • Stimulates probiotic growth by prebiotic components

    Prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotic can be added as dietary supplements to enhance the gut microbiome in children and adults. They have shown benefits for people after liver transplant, with asthma and atopic dermatitis, and manage lactose intolerance (3).

    4. Postbiotics

    Postbiotics are the byproducts released by probiotic bacteria, including parts of dead bacterial cells (5). They are suggested to be anti-inflammatory, antiobesogenic antihypertensive and antioxidant activities when taken together with probiotics (1). Postbiotics include:

    • Enzymes 
    • Vitamins 
    • Amino acids 
    • Neurotransmitters 
    • Immune-signaling compounds 
    • Short-chain fatty acids

    Key Takeaway

    Prebiotics are the “food” for bacteria, probiotics are the bacteria themselves, synbiotics are a combination of the food and the bacteria, and postbiotics are the byproducts of the bacteria.


    What's the Difference? Prebiotics, Probiotics, Synbiotics and Postbiotics Explained

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    1. Aguilar-Toalá, J. E., Garcia-Varela, R., Garcia, H. S., Mata-Haro, V., González-Córdova, A. F., Vallejo-Cordoba, B., & Hernández-Mendoza, A. (2018). Postbiotics: An evolving term within the functional foods field. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 75, 105-114.

    2. Pandey, K. R., Naik, S. R., & Vakil, B. V. (2015). Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics-a review. Journal of food science and technology, 52(12), 7577-7587.

    3. Sekhon, B. S., & Jairath, S. (2010). Prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics: an overview. Journal of pharmaceutical education and research, 1(2), 13.

    4. Shukla, S., Shukla, A., Mehboob, S., & Guha, S. (2011). Meta‐analysis: the effects of gut flora modulation using prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics on minimal hepatic encephalopathy. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 33(6), 662-671.

    5. Talakoub, L. & Wesley, O. N. (2019). Probiotic, prebiotic, and postbiotic skin care. MDEdge | Dermatology. Sourced from:


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