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As StyleCaster’s (unofficial) resident supplement nerd, I like to think that I stay on track with trends and launches in the wellness realm. We’ve all heard about the expansive laundry list of health benefits that probiotics have to offer, but prebiotics seem to be the latest rising star within the current discourse surrounding gut health. So what’s the deal with prebiotics vs. probiotics, anyway? According to registered dietitian, author and Bulletproof ambassador Jessica Cording, “Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers found in many plant foods such as asparagus, bananas, chicory, garlic, leeks, and onions (just to name a few), and they help to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract as they ferment in the colon, breaking down into short-chain fatty acids that provide energy for the cells lining the gut wall. Prebiotic fibers act as food, so to speak, for the beneficial probiotic bacteria.”
Essentially, ingesting prebiotics helps to nourish the “good” probiotic bacteria in our GI tract, which in turn promotes improved digestion, enhanced brain-gut communication, gives our immune system a boost, and can even help improve our mood and focus. “We have a ‘second brain’ in our gut, the enteric nervous system, so when our gastrointestinal health is intact, this helps promote clear gut-brain communication, which is important for our mental and emotional health,” says Cording.
As someone who has struggled with digestive and gastrointestinal issues since I was a teenager, I can personally speak to how incorporating a blend of probiotics and prebiotics has improved not only these issues, but my wellbeing as a whole, frankly. Aside from my anecdotal assertion of the crucial connection between gut health and overall wellbeing (you’ll often see this referred to as the “gut-brain axis”), there’s also ample clinical research illustrating the vital role that the condition of our gut plays on not only our GI tract, but also our nervous system, brain, skin and even our hormones.
And, as a huge fan of Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil, I was thrilled when I learned my favorite wellness brand had launched their own prebiotic supplement, but still had a few questions. So, I went directly to the source (a.k.a. Bulletproof’s founder and CEO, and “Father of Biohacking,” Dave Asprey) to get the lowdown on how prebiotics improve our health, and how to get the most out of adding them into your current supplement rotation.
1. First of all, what exactly is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Your gut microbiome is made up of a variety of bacteria — both good and bad. Probiotics are the good gut bacteria that are normally found in your intestines. They help digest food, produce vitamins, and destroy microorganisms that would otherwise make you weak. Prebiotics help push out the bad guys while serving as food for the good probiotic bacteria.
Think of prebiotics as fertilizer for the probiotic bacteria in your gut: They deliver powerful nutrients to feed this bacteria, help them flourish, and make your gut biome more diverse. Prebiotics are also generally more robust than probiotic supplements. Many probiotics die off when they come in contact with stomach acid or heat. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria already living in your gut without getting destroyed during digestion.
2. Can you explain what synbiotics are and how they work?
Synbiotics combine probiotics and prebiotics in one supplement. When you combine probiotics and prebiotics, you introduce specific strains to your gut flora along with the food they need to flourish. It’s a good idea in theory, but a lot of beneficial strains don’t stay alive very long in a capsule.
I’ve found that it works better to provide the right kind of prebiotic “food” for the gut bacteria that you want, and starve what you don’t want. For example, if you want less yeast, cut out sugar and it will start to die off. If you want more of the organisms that are found in the digestive tracts of thin people, eat more vegetables and the right prebiotic fiber so it can grow and take the place of harmful strains.
3. What are some of the most compelling benefits of supplementing with prebiotic fibers?
Since prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your system, getting more of them help you collect all the benefits of a balanced gut. Good gut health helps with nutrient absorption, immunity, and fat metabolism — plus, it just makes you feel better (and more regular).
4. Is there an ideal way to take prebiotic supplements to ensure proper absorption?
A good diet goes a long way toward making your gut healthier, but eating pounds of veggies comes with its own challenges. It’s hard to do when you’re traveling, transitioning to a better-quality diet, eating fewer carbs, or get tired of preparing the same greens over and over.
A supplement can be a huge help, but look for one with a variety of prebiotics that won’t make you bloat (or worse, give you disaster pants [editor’s note: he’s talking about diarrhea here]), and make sure it has no flavor so you will actually use it. We designed InnerFuel with these benefits. Just add 1-2 scoops of a supplement, like InnerFuel, to your Bulletproof Coffee, smoothies, or bone broth. Since it mixes into hot or cold liquids and contains 0 net carbs, you’ll have no trouble adding it to your daily routine.
5. How does Bulletproof’s InnerFuel Prebiotic differ from other prebiotics on the market?
InnerFuel was born from the insight that people have a hard time getting enough fiber, especially those on a low carb or keto-based diet, and this can lead to a range of digestive issues with widespread effects. Fiber is often overlooked, yet critical to digestive health. The gut is now being called the second brain and the two are connected through the gut-brain axis, which impacts everything from your mood, to hunger levels and quality of sleep. Supporting your gut with the right types of fiber can have a powerful impact on your body and brain.
I began supplementing with acacia fiber in an effort to support my digestive health while traveling and noticed some stark improvements. Through research and development, the Bulletproof team and I blended three clinically-backed prebiotics together to make InnerFuel: organic acacia, guar fiber, and larch arabinogalactan. These three prebiotics together support a diverse microbiome, and diversity is what makes a strong gut. In addition to effectiveness, we also formulated this specific blend to be extra gentle, and it does not cause gas and discomfort like you might experience with typical fiber supplements.
6. What is your favorite way to consume InnerFuel?
I love adding InnerFuel to my Bulletproof Coffee in the morning. Bulletproof Coffee already contains the right fats that make me feel energized and full, and when I added the right blend of prebiotics to the blender, I was even less hungry.
Bulletproof InnerFuel Prebiotic Powder
While I do add my InnerFuel to smoothies, I also find it’s the best for adding to my morning cup of joe to feel a bit more full and helps me focus. Unlike other powders, it dissolves instantly and doesn’t change the taste or consistency of my coffee.
Bulletproof The Original Ground Coffee
My favorite coffee to wake up with (and to add my InnerFuel powder to).
Cosaki All-in-One Powder Supplement
This matcha-infused powder seriously makes any smoothie taste amazing. Trust me. In addition to being jam packed with prebiotic fiber, it also contains beauty-enhancing ingredients including biotin, collagen, and hyaluronic acid for glowing skin from within.
Prebiotin Prebiotic Powder Supplement
This “full spectrum” prebiotic powder also easily mixes with your smoothie, coffee or even water. It’s classified as “full spectrum” because it contains two strains of powerful prebiotic fibers: Inulin, which helps deliver the good bacteria to the left side of the colon, and Oligofructose which delivers the good bacteria to the right side of the colon.
Dr. Tobias PreforPro Ultimate Prebiotic Supplement
A great option for travel or to keep at your desk when messy powders aren’t exactly a convenient choice.
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