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Prebiotics vs Probiotics and Healthy vs Healthful

Created date

September 13th, 2018
Joel D. Posner, M.D., F.A.C.P. Medical Director, Maris Grove Glen Mills, Pa.

Joel D. Posner, M.D., F.A.C.P. Medical Director, Maris Grove Glen Mills, Pa.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. Dr. Posner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., and his medical degree from the University of Montpellier in Montpellier, France. He completed his internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal, Canada, and his residency at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Posner also completed a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa. He is board-certified in internal medicine, pulmonary diseases, and geriatrics. Posner joined Maris Grove in June 2009.

Q. What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

A. Prebiotics are nondigestible ingredients in food that stimulate the growth and activity of certain beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. They are naturally occurring in many vegetables, fruits, and grains—especially high-fiber varieties and types containing resistant starch, which is a type of starch that isn’t broken down (or broken down very slowly) in your body. Some examples of high prebiotic foods are bananas, beans, peas, lentils, oats, and whole-wheat bread. Probiotics, on the other hand, are microbes themselves, which can help add to the population of healthy bacteria in your digestive system. Food sources include those that are fermented, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso soup, and sour pickles.

Prebiotics and probiotics also come in supplements, but like most nutrients, it is best to get them from food sources. Although naturally occurring prebiotics and probiotics have been shown in studies to help conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, and vaginal infections, supplements have not been proven by the Food and Drug Administration to improve health, and they may interact with medications you take. Talk to your doctor before trying any prebiotic or probiotic supplements.


Q. Is there a difference between something being “healthy” or “healthful?”

A. These terms do in fact have different meanings. Healthy means being in a state of health; whereas, healthful means something that may impart health.  You may see healthy used incorrectly, such as “apples are healthy,” which technically means the apple itself is in good health. But in fact the apple is healthful, which means it contains ingredients good for your health. Generally speaking, although the terms have technically different meanings, most people know what it means if someone says “apples are healthy,” and thus the term is used in that context very often.