In this day and age, the spotlight of digestive health marketing often shines on probiotics. Many of us who are gut health conscious are incorporating fermented foods or probiotic supplements into our diet. Prebiotic foods, however, are commonly lacking from the typical American diet. One difference between prebiotics and probiotics is lack of awareness around how important prebiotics are for your gut health.

First, consider the gut microbiome—a bustling ecosystem teeming with diverse microbial life. Prebiotics, in essence, are non-digestible fibers that serve as sustenance (food) for the beneficial bacteria inhabiting our gut. Unlike probiotics, which are live microorganisms, prebiotics nurture the growth and vitality of probiotics.

What Exactly are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics, or “oligosaccharides”, are small starch molecules (mostly fructans and galactans) that behave similarly to other forms of fiber.

Although all prebiotics are fiber, not all fibers are prebiotic. In order for an ingredient to be classified as prebiotic, it must show resistance to 1) the acidity of stomach acid, 2) hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes, and 3) absorption in the upper intestinal tract [1]. It must be fermentable by microflora in the large intestine. It must selectively stimulate the growth and activity of probiotic species known to promote health in the host [1]. A few examples of fibers that qualify are inulin, oligofructose, lactulose, and resistant starch. Strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are the probiotics most prebiotic fiber compounds target. These microbes exhibit a preference for oligosaccharides for consumption.

How Do Prebiotics Work?

These indigestible fibers traverse the digestive tract largely intact until they reach the colon, the hub of microbial activity. Here, they undergo fermentation by gut bacteria, yielding a bounty of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, acetate, and propionate [1].

We metabolize SCFAs in the liver. This breakdown helps to regulate electrolyte levels in the body, improve digestion, and supports regularity of bowel movements [2]. SCFAs also help to stabilize blood glucose levels and cholesterol synthesis [2].

The process of fermentation lowers pH in the gut, which allows for an increase absorption of dietary minerals, stimulates immune function, and further protects the bowels from harmful bacteria and other pathogens [2,3].

The products of prebiotic fermentation cause beneficial changes to the composition and activity of the gut microflora, allowing for better digestion and weight management, balanced immune function, hormonal regulation, and stress response, and healthier levels of cholesterol and inflammation [4-7].

Scientifically-Validated Health Benefits of Prebiotics:

  1. Augmented Digestive Health: Prebiotics emerge as a beacon of hope for individuals grappling with digestive issues like diarrhea and constipation. By promoting regularity and bolstering gut motility, prebiotics offer relief from gastrointestinal discomfort [8].
  2. Fortified Immune Function: A healthy gut microbiome lays the groundwork for a resilient immune system. Prebiotics, by nurturing the growth of beneficial bacteria, orchestrate a number of immune-regulating mechanisms, fortifying the body’s defense against invading pathogens [9].
  3. Aiding in Weight Management: Prebiotics may be an ally in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. They wield their influence by inducing satiety, curbing calorie absorption, and modulating appetite-regulating hormones, thus facilitating weight management endeavors [10].
  4. Nurturing Mental Well-being: The intricate interplay between the gut and the brain, the gut-brain axis, is accepted as a key pillar of mental health [10]. Prebiotics, by modulating neurotransmitter production and promoting healthy levels of inflammation, hold promise in enhancing mood and cognitive function [10].
  5. Mitigating Holistic Health Risks: A burgeoning body of research underscores the role of prebiotics in mitigating the risk of chronic ailments, including those related to the cardiovascular system, metabolic challenges, and cellular mutation [11]. By ameliorating metabolic health and inflammation, prebiotics emerge as formidable allies in the fight against many of our greatest, valid health fears [11].

Our Prebiotic Formula

Another difference between prebiotics and probiotics is how we provide these supplements. While our probiotic supplement is in capsules, our prebiotic supplement comes as a powder that you can mix into water (or any other beverage or food of your choosing). You can take both supplements together, or individually depending on your gut-health needs.

BioMaintenance Prebiotic + Fiber supplement is an excellent option for nourishing your healthy microbiome. In only 12 calories and six grams of total carbohydrates, this supplement is jam-packed with five grams of dietary fiber, isomalto-oligosaccharides, alpha galacto-oligosaccharides, xylo-oligosaccharides, and fructo-oligosaccharides.


Isomalto-oligosaccharides are a naturally occurring, plant-based, dietary fiber. It is prebiotic, soluble, and low on the glycemic index. “Soluble fiber” means it dissolves in water as opposed to “insoluble fiber” which does not. Only soluble fiber forms a gel like consistency in the stomach that slows stomach emptying, allowing the body to feel satiated for a longer period of time (yet another reason why fiber is so important to weight management). Soluble fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol absorption [12].


Derived from legumes, α-galacto-oligosaccharides (α-GOSs) are another variety of prebiotic, soluble fibers. They may be effective for appetite regulation, as fermentation of these prebiotics by microbes promotes the secretion of gut peptides that are known to affect both appetite and food intake control [13].


Xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS) can be found naturally in bamboo shoots, fruits, vegetables, milk, and honey. Fermentation of XOS leads to acidification of the colonic contents and the formation of SCFAs that serve as fuel for the function of different tissues, regulating cellular processes. XOS supplementation has been shown to significantly decrease the abundance of 3 different harmful bacteria species associated with metabolic issues [14].

Supplementation with XOS was also found to increase the abundance of beneficial bacterial species, Blautia hydrogneotrophica.


Asparagus, sugar beet, garlic, chicory, onion, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat, honey, banana, barley, tomato, and rye are all-natural sources of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), or plant sugars. Fructo-oligosaccharides are often used as sweeteners in diet foods, as these sugars are indigestible by the human gut and boast a low-caloric value. To greater benefit, however, dietary or supplementary FOS increases the population of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the colon and improves the absorption of both magnesium and calcium [15].

Now that you have more information on the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, we hope you feel empowered to make excellent choices for the health of your gut and holistic health!

Back to Nutrition Alert