What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Probiotics and prebiotics both play an important role in the health of your microbiome — but here's how to tell them apart.

Each person* has about 38 trillion bacteria living within their body. That’s 38,000,000,000,000 (whew.) These bacteria form communities of living organisms called microbiomes that reside in your gut, skin, mouth, vagina, and more. Despite their microscopic size, these microbes play a huge role in the strength of our immune system and overall health.

There are many ways in which you can care for your microbiome, but one you’ve likely heard about is taking a probiotic or a prebiotic. 

So what’s the difference? 

Probiotics are made of living bacteria. Though it sounds unsettling, these good bacteria actually help rebalance your microbiome and fight off bad microbes like harmful bacteria, archaea, viruses, or fungi. The most common strains of bacteria found in probiotics belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and they’re naturally found in fermented foods.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are specific carbs and dietary fibers that act as fuel for these good bacteria. Prebiotics can be found in foods like whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes.

Both prebiotics and probiotics are key to keeping your microbiome healthy and balanced. But since everyone’s microbiome is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all pre-/proobiotic solution. To decode your unique microbiome, you can use at-home tests (psst...like Evvy’s Vaginal Health Check!) to identify the types of protective bacteria you may be missing. 

*The 38 trillion estimate is based on a “reference man” defined as being between 20–30 years of age, weighing 70 kg, is 170 cm in height. Why a man? According to the study: “A major part of the available literature used in the derivation of human cell numbers was based on cohorts of exclusively or mostly men, and as we use these sources, our analysis starts with adult men.” ...Anyone else see a problem with this?

Since the vaginal microbiome plays an important part in the immune system of anyone with a vagina, we exist to build a world where the research default isn’t an adult man. You can join our waitlist to be part of our mission to redefine the default! 







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