Prebiotics and Probiotics

The New Yorker has an October 2012 article, “Germs Are Us” and it mixed up the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. It says in their abstract, “Some can envision a time when patients take not just antibiotics, but also probiotics, which are designed to encourage the growth of some bacteria.”

Uhm no, it’s prebiotics, not probiotics that encourage the growth of bacteria. Probiotics ARE bacteria, and any other life-forms living with the host in a symbiotic relationship, such as helminths, yeast, viruses, and fungi.

The New Yorker October issue

Prebiotics can be fibrous vegetables that act as food for the bacteria to feed on. By feeding on them, they produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which is the main fuel for the colon, keeping it healthy.

Probiotics are the microbes that feed on prebiotics, producing vitamins, enzymes, modifying human genetic expression (epigenetics), calming inflammation, and fighting pathogens.

Let me know if you’ve read “Germs Are Us” and if it’s worth a read.