Can You Take Prebiotics And Probiotics Together?

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can you take prebiotics and probiotics together?

Prebiotics and probiotics have taken the health world by storm these days. From gut health to immune health and mental wellness, many people are embracing the benefits of these two supplements.

With that said, have you ever wondered if you can take prebiotics and probiotics together? If so, is it okay to take them at the same time? Is this duo superior to taking just one?

Can you take prebiotics and probiotics together? 


Taking prebiotics and probiotics together is a wise choice because both work in harmony to keep your gut healthy. 

Using prebiotics and probiotics together is referred to as “microbiome therapy”.

What happens when you combine prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics enhance the survival and colonization of probiotics in the gut

A review published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology in December 2015 stated that a combination of prebiotics and probiotics had a positive impact on the survival of probiotic bacteria during their passage through the upper intestinal tract. This combination also led to more efficient colonization in the colon and promoted the growth of probiotics and existing gut bacteria, which all contributed to maintaining a healthy microbiota.

A study conducted on 35 healthy full-term infants showed that the abundance of Bifidobacterium increased significantly after they were given infant formula supplemented with galactooligosaccharides (GOS). Moreover, GOS stimulated the growth of indigenous Bifidobacterium and established a microbiota similar to that of breastfed babies.

Probiotics are devouring prebiotics and working more effectively

If you’re taking probiotic supplements but your diet lacks fibers, then your probiotic bacteria may be stranded in your gut without any food. This can prevent them from growing and metabolizing properly. 

To properly feed your gut bacteria, you need to consume prebiotic fibers in addition to probiotics. When your gut bacteria consume these fibers, they poop out metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like acetate, propionate, and butyrate. These SCFAs have numerous benefits, including providing energy to the cells lining your colon, supporting a healthy gut barrier function, and protecting your gut from harmful substances. Additionally, SCFAs can help modulate your immune response and reduce inflammation.

Research says “Teamwork is better”.

In a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers analyzed 68 studies looking at the effects of SCFAs in prebiotics alone and prebiotic-probiotic combination. They found that the greatest anti-inflammatory effects of SCFAs are achieved with a combination of pre-and probiotics.

taking prebiotics and probiotic together

This powerful duo has additional health benefits supported by science

  • Inflammatory bowel disease 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, is a persistent inflammatory condition that affects the gut. Patients with IBD often exhibit an abnormal immune response to their bacterial flora, which contributes to inflammation. 

Research has shown that a combination of Bifidobacterium longum and prebiotic psyllium is more effective in improving IBD symptoms and reducing C-reactive protein (CRP) levels than either therapy alone. Moreover, a mixture of prebiotics (FOS/inulin) and probiotic Bifidobacterium longum has been reported to improve active ulcerative colitis, as indicated by sigmoidoscopy scores and inflammatory markers. 

In a meta-analysis published in Nutrition Reviews, synbiotics (i.e., probiotic-prebiotic combinations) were found to enhance clinical indicators of ulcerative colitis. The evidence is compelling enough to suggest that synbiotics can provide benefits to patients with ulcerative colitis when used as a complementary therapy.

  • Lowering blood cholesterol

According to a study conducted in 2017, the use of synbiotics for 12 weeks can potentially improve insulin metabolism and increase good HDL cholesterol levels in individuals with diabetes and coronary heart disease. 

Furthermore, a similar study conducted in 2020 showed a reduction in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol after 12 weeks of supplementing with synbiotics. 

These findings suggest that the combination of prebiotics and probiotics may have a positive impact on blood cholesterol levels.

  • Reduced postoperative infection in abdominal surgery

In the realm of abdominal surgery, reducing the incidence of postoperative infection is of utmost importance. 

According to recent research, a combination of prebiotics and probiotics, known as synbiotics, can have a more significant anti-inflammatory effect than either prebiotics or probiotics alone.

The use of prebiotics, probiotics, and especially synbiotics can potentially enhance surgical outcomes by reducing inflammation and the occurrence of surgical site infections, thus serving as a valuable tool for medical professionals.

A guide on how to effectively combine prebiotics and probiotics 

combine probiotics and prebiotics

The idea of combining prebiotics and probiotics is fascinating, but how to combine them is challenging. 

Before delving into the best ways to take them, I’d like to touch on the limitations of this brilliant idea.


The ideal concept of taking a prebiotic with a probiotic is to enhance their benefits by having the prebiotic substrate selectively utilized by the probiotic when taken together. 

This results in better survival and colonization of probiotics in the gut, which is known as synergy. The health benefits of this perfect pairing are superior as one plus one becomes greater than two. Scientific evidence is required to demonstrate their synergism in delivering targeted health benefits. 

Unfortunately, research in this area is just beginning, but there is hope as more studies are being conducted to develop synergistic prebiotic-probiotic pairs.

So, how can you obtain the microbiome therapy?

Synbiotic: An innovative pill that combines the health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics

According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), 

A synbiotic is a mixture of live microorganisms (probiotics) and substrates (prebiotics) that are selectively utilized by host microorganisms and provide health benefits to the host. 

How does a synbiotic work?

  • A synergistic synbiotic is composed of a prebiotic and a probiotic which are designed to work together. The prebiotic is selectively utilized by the co-administered probiotic to enhance the health benefits provided by that probiotic.
  • A complimentary synbiotic comprises a probiotic plus a prebiotic, working independently to achieve one or more health benefits. Nearly all commercially available synbiotics are in the complementary form. 

Breast milk is proof of how a synbiotic can be beneficial.

Breastmilk is a natural blend of prebiotics and probiotics, with oligosaccharides being an instance of prebiotics in human milk and bifidobacteria being an example of probiotics in breast milk. The health advantages of breast milk have been scientifically established, which is why there is a trend toward making infant formula more akin to breast milk by incorporating synbiotics.

Not all combinations of prebiotics and probiotics provide health benefits. Nonetheless, well-formulated and tested synbiotics can offer the ideal blend of specific prebiotics and probiotics in the precise ratio required to enhance the targeted health benefits. 

Taking separate prebiotics and probiotics supplements

For those seeking to optimize their gut health, taking two distinct prebiotic and probiotic supplements concurrently is a viable option. However, it is crucial to consider that the prebiotic you consume may or may not work in tandem with the probiotic taken simultaneously.

The resulting benefit is more important than how they work

Nonetheless, the prebiotic supplement will nourish the existing beneficial bacteria in your gut, while the probiotic supplement will introduce additional good bacteria. Together, they will work towards maintaining a healthy microbiome balance.

Can I take my prebiotics and probiotics at the same time?

You can take them at the same time. But not necessarily because as I have clarified, they are more likely to function independently rather than synergistically.

Incorporating prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet

If you’re not keen on taking supplements, don’t worry. A great way to improve your gut health is by slowly incorporating prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet. 

Make a delicious recipe blessed with health benefits.

A simple breakfast option could be a serving of yogurt with some fresh fruit or a handful of nuts. You can even find some tasty recipes that combine both prebiotics and probiotics for a delicious and nutritious meal.

  • Best probiotic foods

Probiotics are found in fermented products such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, cottage cheese, and sourdough bread.

  • Best prebiotic foods

Plant-based foods, whole grains, and legumes are the best natural sources of prebiotics. The types of prebiotics commonly found in foods and supplements are inulin, fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and starch-derived oligosaccharides.

Is it safe to take them together?

No evidence to date suggests that mixing prebiotics and probiotics causes additional adverse effects or any special health risks. However, there can be unwanted effects from each ingredient.

Be aware of allergic reactions!

You may need to watch out for allergic reactions especially if you are taking a synbiotic. 

Most synbiotic products contain prebiotic inulin. Some people are allergic to inulin and may experience anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening. Inulin is also not suited for those following a low FODMAP diet.

Are there any side effects of combining prebiotics and probiotics

probiotics and prebiotics side effects

As with any supplement, it is important to be aware of potential concerns and side effects.

Can you imagine your probiotics throwing a big party and indulging in their favorite foods in your gut?  Of course, this feast can come up with unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, and loose stool. 

However, the symptoms occur especially in the first few days and usually ease with time.

Personal advice

When it comes to incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your daily routine, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. 

  • Firstly, it’s essential to choose the appropriate prebiotic fiber and probiotic strain for your individual needs. 
  • Secondly, opt for high-quality supplements that are backed by science and are free from any additives or preservatives. 
  • Thirdly, it’s wise to start with a low dosage and gradually increase it to prevent any adverse effects. 
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to maintain a balanced diet that’s rich in fiber and fermented foods to support the growth of healthy gut bacteria. 

To sum up, the consumption of prebiotics and probiotics can offer significant advantages, but it is “not compulsory to take both”. It is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare expert to determine which option suits your specific requirements best.

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Dr Tun Min is s GP working in NHS UK and writing articles about supplements and vitamins based on personal clinical experience and clinical research.

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