Prebiotics are a type of soluble fiber that provide nourishment to the healthy bacteria in your gut, thereby facilitating proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
There are many different types of prebiotics, but not all help promote a healthy gut biome.
Our research team put dozens of today’s most popular brands under the critical microscope and determined that the following represent the 10 best prebiotics of 2021.
1. 1MD Complete Probiotics with Prebiotic Fiber
Prebiotics and probiotics are two sides of a single digestive coin. But not all supplement makers do such a great job combining them. 1MD Complete gets it right. The prebiotics here are the ideal complement to the probiotic load of 51 billion colony forming units (CFUs).
What we like: Together this potent combination of probiotics and prebiotic fiber turn your stomach into an efficient digestive machine. All those CFUs have the fuel they need to get busy, while the NutraFlora prebiotic strains ensure a healthy mucosal barrier along the stomach wall.
Flaws: If you have a sensitive stomach make sure to take it with food.
2. Performance Lab Prebiotic
Inulin is widely understood to be one of the best prebiotic fibers for promoting a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics in the stomach use it to fuel their digestive efforts. Performance lab is not messing around with their Lab Prebiotic. It’s all inulin all the time. And that’s good news for a distressed gut.
What we like: A troubled digestive system can often be traced to low levels of prebiotics. The probiotics don’t get the nourishment they need and digestion suffers. Performance Lab Prebiotic should take care of that problem in a hurry.
Flaws: Not the best prebiotic for dealing with constipation.
3. Align DualBiotic Prebiotic + Probiotic
Align DualBiotic Gummies address the matter of gut health from both sides. There is plenty of prebiotic fiber to nourish a healthy biome and plenty of probiotics to fill any digestive gaps you may have.
What we like: The prebiotic fiber used here is inulin, which many consider to be the most effective type of food for hungry digestive bacteria. The Probiotics are also well-represented, with 10 billion CFUs per gummy. They taste pretty good too.
Flaws: The combination of pre and probiotics can cause upset stomach in a small number of people.
4. Garden of Life Organic Fiber Prebiotic
Garden of Life Organic Fiber Prebiotic powder provides a nice balance of soluble and insoluble prebiotic fibers. It’s the ideal combination to restore a healthy gut microbiome while also alleviating constipation and restoring order.
What we like: The soluble fiber provides nourishment to the probiotics in your gut, enabling them to realize their potential. At the same time, the insoluble fiber moves through your digestive tract restoring order, alleviating constipation, and getting you back on schedule.
Flaws: You might have to do a bit of extra work to make it dissolve properly.
5. Life Extension Florassist Prebiotic
Not everyone who needs prebiotics wants to swallow a big capsule. Life Extension Florassist Prebiotic makes it possible to avoid that unpleasant prospect with their Florassist Prebiotic Chewable.
What we like: Swallowing a big capsule can be a burden, especially for older folks and kids. Florassist Prebiotic chewables from Life Extension let you bypass the pill and enjoy a mild strawberry treat while you get the nourishing prebiotic fiber you need.
Flaws: Contains both xylitol and stevia for flavor. Some may consider that problematic.
6. Prebiotin Prebiotic
Prebiotin Prebiotic Fiber is a powder you mix with your favorite non-carbonated beverage. It provides 4 grams of inulin, perhaps the most effective of the prebiotics when it comes to fueling a health gut biome.
What we like: A scoop of Prebiotin Prebiotic once a day is all you need to restore digestive integrity to your system. This is an all-natural product, free of gluten, soy, GMOs, and other food allergens. Just enriched inulin derived from chicory root.
Flaws: For some folks mixing the powder into their favorite beverage wears thin after a while.
7. Dr Tobias Prebiotic
Dr Tobias Prebiotic supplement provides a robust dose of high-quality prebiotic fiber to nurture and nourish a healthy gut biome. There is no funny business here. No funky additives, no artificial flavors or preservatives. Just inulin fiber to feed your hunger digestive microbes.
What we like: This is a simple, effective prebiotic supplement that won’t make you feel bloated and won’t turn you into the flatulator. All Dr Tobias supplements are 3rd party tested and contain no GMOs.
Flaws: The capsules are pretty large.
8. Bio Nutrition Pre-Biotic
Xylooligosaccharides (XOS) are extracted from plant fiber and are one of the most effective foods for fueling your digestive bacteria. Bio Nutrition Pre-Biotic provides 1400 mg of XOS in every capsule to restore your gut to optimal efficiency.
What we like: This is a well-considered prebiotic supplement that leverages the nourishing power of XOS. The pills are easy to swallow, there are no nasty artificial ingredients, no sugar or GMOs, and they are very easy on the wallet.
Flaws: The capsule is pretty large and may be difficult for some to swallow.
9. BioSchwartz Ultra Premium Advanced Prebiotics
BioSchwartz Ultra Premium Advanced Prebiotic provides 1000 mg of XOS prebiotic soluble fiber in each gelatin capsule. They also toss in a bit of vitamin C for its antioxidant properties and a bit of oryza sativa (Asian rice) to get things moving.
What we like: The XOS prebiotic fiber is gobbled up by the digestive bacteria in the gut and used for fuel. At the same time, the oryza sativa moves through your entire digestive tract clearing things out and restoring order.
Flaws: They recommend you take 4 capsules per day.
10. Pinnaclife Olivamine Prebiotic Fiber
The last of our best prebiotics is from Pinnaclife. Their Olivamine Prebiotic Fiber is a powder you mix with water, or any other non-carbonated beverage, once a day.
What we like: From a mixing standpoint, this is one of the more agreeable powders on the market. It won’t turn you into a gas factory, and it doesn’t saddle you with lots of artificial ingredients. Though there is a bit of sugar thrown in to make it more palatable.
Flaws: Despite the sugar, the taste is nothing to write home about.
Who Needs Prebiotics?
Everyone needs prebiotics. But some people get enough from their regular diet to meet their needs. That said, if you suffer from digestive disorders, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, malnutrition, or leaky gut syndrome, or if you have been prescribed or finished a long course of antibiotics, you should consider prebiotics.
Prebiotics have also shown promise as a treatment for poor immune system function, type II diabetes, obesity, chronic stress, and a host of other maladies. And – looking at the long-term, big picture – prebiotics may also play a role in preventing colorectal cancer, preventing heart disease, and treating autoimmune diseases like arthritis by way of their anti-inflammatory properties.
How We Ranked
Ranking prebiotics is not necessarily as difficult as it may seem. They have a clear role in the establishment and maintenance of a healthy digestive biome, and there are a relatively small number of things that influence whether they perform that role in a satisfactory way.
All prebiotics are a form of soluble fiber, but not all make good food for the digestive microbes in a person’s gut. When determining if a product warranted inclusion on our list, we wanted to see prebiotics that are probiotic-friendly. Inulin is one such prebiotic. Others include xylooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and resistance starch.
There are other types of prebiotics whose role has less to do with feeding probiotics and more to do with helping keep your digestive tract clean and waste products moving through on a regular schedule. They include things like psyllium husk, and fructooligosaccharides. For the most part, though, we focused on those prebiotics that empower probiotics and their crucial digestive role.
In some cases, we included supplements that contain both prebiotics and probiotics, because people who need one often need the other as well. However, if a supplement included probiotics, they must contain live bacterial cultures, or the point of combining the two is effectively lost.
Finally, we looked at capsule size and dose, the recommended serving size (i.e., the number of capsules or the amount of powder they expect you to consume), and whether the supplement included any potentially troublesome additives like sugar or artificial preservatives.
Prebiotics restore healthy gut flora. The digestive system is extremely complex and dependent on beneficial microbes. Those microbes do most of the food processing for your body, but they themselves need to run on something. That something is prebiotics. Sometimes the levels of prebiotics in the gut can fall below necessary levels, perhaps because a person has taken a lot of antibiotics. Whatever the cause, prebiotic supplements can restore healthy gut flora, which will provide a wealth of cascading benefits.
Prebiotics help your body absorb nutrients more efficiently. A poor diet is not the only cause of poor nutrition. Poor nutrient absorption can play just as big a role. Poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of chronic disease (1). So maintaining a healthy gut flora is crucial. By taking prebiotics, you ensure the probiotics in your gut are properly nourished and thereby optimize nutrient absorption.
Prebiotics may help prevent colorectal cancer. By ensuring better digestion and enhancing the microflora activity in the colon, prebiotics may have a role to play in fending off colorectal cancer (2). Of course, there are no guarantees, but prevention is all about minimizing risk. And a number of studies indicate that prebiotics can help minimize the risk of colorectal cancer.
Prebiotics are useful for those watching their weight. It is well-known that fiber can make a person feel fuller for longer (3). By doing so, it helps minimize the temptation to snack between meals, or eat larger than necessary meals. As prebiotics are basically fibrous in nature, they can play an important role in helping those watching their weight stick to their program and achieve their goals.
Prebiotics can bolster your immune system. There is a close relationship between the digestive system and the immune system. It is now known that the immune system begins interacting with nutrients right at the walls of the gut (4), not later, as was formerly believed. By taking prebiotics, you help ensure the digestive microbes in your gut make the most of the food you eat. And that, by doing so, your immune system is operating at full capacity.
Prebiotics may help prevent IBD. Because they nurture and enhance digestive microflora, prebiotics play a role in creating a healthy mucosal barrier. This, in turn, can help fend off the development of inflammatory bowel disease (5) or IBD. But that’s not all. By nurturing a healthy mucosal barrier, prebiotics can also help prevent other conditions like ulcerative colitis (6), and irritable bowel syndrome (7).
Prebiotics relieve constipation. Most prebiotics are fibrous in nature. As such, they can relieve constipation. This is not the only role prebiotics play in your system. It is not even necessarily the most important. But it is a valuable benefit, nonetheless.
Prebiotics can lower blood triglycerides. Triglycerides are little known but potentially dangerous compounds that course through your blood. Triglycerides play a role in the digestive process by storing unused calories for later retrieval. But too many triglycerides in the blood can lead to heart disease (8). Because prebiotics are intimately involved in the digestive process, they have the ability to reduce the number of triglycerides in the blood and lower your risk of heart disease.
Prebiotics can help improve your mood. It is no secret that good health tends to produce good feelings, and that poor health and depression are often closely linked (9). By restoring proper gut flora and improving nutrient absorption, a person’s overall health should markedly improve, leading to a more upbeat, positive outlook on life. It will not happen overnight. But with consistent use of prebiotics, it is not only possible, but likely.
Prebiotics can help alleviate stress. Researchers are just beginning to understand all the ways the gut impacts the rest of the body. One thing that has recently come to light is the connection between gut health and stress hormones (10). In laboratory tests, animals with compromised gut microbiota showed a noticeably higher susceptibility to stress inducers than those with healthy guts.
Prebiotics may help lower cholesterol. A side effect of prebiotic metabolization is their binding to phospholipids, which decreases levels of cholesterol in the blood. Prebiotic metabolization also produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are helpful in reducing blood pressure.
Prebiotics are a good idea if you are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics proved to be a healthcare game-changer from the moment they were introduced. But they are not without their downside. Antibiotics work by attacking and destroying invasive bacteria, or by preventing those bacteria from reproducing. However, they have also been known to attack beneficial bacteria, like that found in the gut and digestive tract (11). This can lead to issues with nutrient absorption. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, you may also want to consider taking prebiotics.
Prebiotics are good for your heart. Because prebiotics help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and because they remove excess triglycerides from the blood stream, they provide a range of benefits for the heart (12). Making sure you get the prebiotics you need to ensure proper digestion and nutrition could literally add years to your lifespan.
Prebiotics are largely free of side effects. Although they provide a range of health benefits, prebiotics are not medicine. They simply help your digestive system live up to its potential, which, in turn, helps you live up to yours. Most people will not experience any adverse side effects from taking this kind of supplement. However, it is possible that those new to prebiotics may experience loose stools or flatulence until their body adjusts.
Prebiotics can lower inflammation. Inflammation is a natural part of the autoimmune response. Yet excess or chronic inflammation is also the cause of a great deal of physical distress and plays a role in arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and other major health conditions. Prebiotics help reduce inflammation both in the gut and in the body at large (13). This does not mean it is a magic pill or cure for cancer. But it may prove useful in helping to prevent an array of health problems.
Prebiotics promote the growth of short-chain fatty acids. As we mentioned briefly earlier, prebiotics are metabolized into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids play a key role in establishing a healthy microbiome in the gut and are directly involved in a host of metabolic processes.
Prebiotics are good for your bones. Because prebiotics enable you to optimize nutrient absorption, your bones get the minerals they need to stay strong (14). Calcium, magnesium, and iron, along with collagen and other essential proteins, are delivered to the bones in sufficient quantities to stave off osteoporosis and perhaps reduce the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
Prebiotics can help stabilize blood glucose levels. Because prebiotics bolster the number and effectiveness of probiotics, they play an indirect, but important, role in stabilizing blood glucose levels and perhaps fend off the development of arthritis (15). Research indicates that some types of prebiotics reduce how much glucose is made available for potential absorption by the body. Prebiotics are also thought to minimize blood sugar spikes after eating.
Prebiotics are safe for kids. It is important that children get off on the right foot healthwise. Failure to do so can have numerous harmful long-term effects and may lead to the development of various chronic diseases (16). Prebiotics are considered perfectly safe for otherwise healthy kids. They help ensure proper nutrition, make sure enough calcium gets to those growing bones, and even help prevent constipation, a common problem for children.
Q: What are prebiotics?
A: Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible food that is fermented by your gut bacteria and used as a fuel source. There are several different kinds of prebiotics, including xylooligosaccharides (a type of plant fiber), fructooligosaccharides (a type of carbohydrate), inulin (a type of carbohydrate often referred to as a fructan), and galactooligosaccharides, (the product of an enzymic reaction).
Q: Are prebiotics and probiotics the same thing?
A: Prebiotics and probiotics are two sides of a coin. As we just saw, prebiotics (17) are used by probiotics (18) as a fuel source. That is crucial because probiotics are the digestive microbes that deliver nutrients to your body, and they must always be properly nourished. You wouldn’t last long without probiotics. And probiotics wouldn’t last long without prebiotics to feed on.
Q: Can you use prebiotics and probiotics together?
A: Yes, you can use prebiotics and probiotics together. And in many cases, it is recommended that people do so. The two complement and boost the effectiveness of each other. If you have a shortfall of prebiotics, there is a good chance you also have a shortfall of probiotics. You might want to try prebiotics only for a while and see if it produces the results you are after. If not, try a supplement that contains both.
Q: What is the right amount of prebiotics to take?
A: The right amount will depend on your size, age, overall health, and the condition you hope to address by taking them. The smartest approach is to start with a small amount and gradually build up to the recommended amount. If the recommended amount is not providing the relief you need, you should probably consult your doctor before deciding to take more than is recommended. There may be something else causing or contributing to your problem other than just a shortage of gut flora.
Q: Which is better: prebiotics or probiotics?
A: It is not a matter of one being ‘better’ than the other. Both are necessary to maintain a healthy digestive tract and ensure proper nutrition. But they work in different ways. Prebiotics are a type of food that the beneficial microbes in your gut feed on, and probiotics are those beneficial microbes. The bottom line is that you cannot have a healthy digestive tract without both.
Q: What is the best source of prebiotics?
A: There are many natural sources of prebiotics, including asparagus, onions, leeks, and more. However, if you are experiencing a shortfall, it is unlikely you will get all the prebiotics you need from regular dietary sources. That is where prebiotic supplements come in. They enable you to fill the prebiotic gap and avoid nutritional shortfalls that can lead to elevated cholesterol, type II diabetes, tooth decay, high blood pressure, heart disease, dermatitis, and other vexing health conditions.
Q: How do prebiotics maintain a healthy gut?
A: The heavy digestive lifting in your gut is done by beneficial microbes called probiotics. But probiotics, like all living things, need to eat. That is where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are probiotics’ favorite food. By supplying plenty of them, you ensure your probiotic population is robust and healthy. This, in turn, ensures proper digestion and better all-around levels of nutrition.
Q: Should I consult my doctor before taking prebiotics?
A: The average person who is in generally good health should not need to consult a doctor before taking prebiotics. That said, if you are currently taking prescription medication for any reason, you should consult your doctor. Also, since prebiotics can enhance immune system function, you should consult your doctor if you are currently being treated for an autoimmune condition.
Q: Do everyday foods contain prebiotics?
A: There are certainly some common foods that contain prebiotics. If there weren’t humans would not have lasted as long as they have. Some of those foods include whole grain bread, onions, bananas, oatmeal, asparagus, leeks, and raw garlic. However, fulfilling your prebiotic requirements this way can require eating a lot of asparagus or onions. So supplements are a good way to fill the gap.
Q: Are all types of fiber prebiotics?
A: No. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Prebiotics are soluble fiber (19) such as inulin, galactooligosaccharides, and fructooligosaccharides. These soluble fibers help promote regularity while at the same time providing nourishment to the gut microbes that conduct digestion. Because soluble fiber absorbs water, it is important to increase the amount of water you drink while taking prebiotics.
Q: Will a prebiotic supplement give me gas?
A: It might, especially at first. In most cases though flatulence will become less common once the body fully acclimates to the new supplement. You can minimize the odds of flatulence occurring by starting out slowly and gradually increasing the amount you take. Also, make sure not to exceed the recommended maximum, even after your body acclimates.
Q: How can prebiotics help my immune system?
A: The lining of the gut is where the food we eat transitions into the nutrients we use to produce energy and maintain physiologic health. Along the stomach lining, a series of complex interactions take place that include preliminary interactions with representatives of the immune system. Healthy stomach flora is essential to ensure the right amounts of the right nutrients get through to optimize immune system functionality. Prebiotics aid in this process (20).
Q: Are prebiotics safe?
A: Prebiotics are considered generally safe for most people. It is important, however, that when you are just starting out that you do so gradually. For instance, take half the recommended amount for the first week or so until your body gets used to the prebiotics. Taking too much, too fast, could cause excessive gas or even diarrhea. Remember, when you start to increase the amount, increase your water consumption as well.
Q: Do prebiotics produce side effects?
A: For the most part, the only side effects of prebiotics are the positive ones listed above. Adverse side effects are extremely rare for people in relatively good overall health. In some cases, however, especially when a person is taking larger than average amounts of prebiotics to address a specific condition, they may experience bloating, gas, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. That can also happen if a person takes too much right out of the gate.
Q: How do I know if I need prebiotics?
A: First of all, the best time to do something positive for your health is before you develop a problem (ounce of prevention = pound of cure, and so forth). That said, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease (21), metabolic syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, obesity, malnutrition, or a host of other conditions, you should consider adding prebiotics to your diet. If you have any specific concerns, consult your doctor.
Q: How long before I see benefits from prebiotics?
A: How long it will be before you see results from prebiotics depends on several things, including what benefit you hope to obtain, your size, age, and overall health and the type and amount of prebiotics you take. If it is just a matter of alleviating constipation, you may see results in a couple of days. But most benefits of prebiotics are long-term benefits (healthier immune system, weight loss, stronger bones, etc.), and these will take time to manifest.
Q: Can I give prebiotics to my kids?
A: If a child has no underlying health conditions, a normal immune system, and has experienced no developmental issues, there should be nothing preventing you from giving them prebiotics. But you should discuss the matter with your doctor or pediatrician first to ensure you give them the correct amount.
Q: If I am taking antibiotics should I take prebiotics too?
A: Antibiotics have saved countless millions of lives over the past century. But they have a nasty habit of destroying both bad and good bacteria, including the good bacteria in the gut (22). As such, it is a good idea to take prebiotics both during and after antibiotic treatment to ensure your gut flora remains at healthy levels. In fact, you may want to take a supplement that supplies both prebiotics and probiotics to ensure you have all your bases covered.
Prebiotics play a vital role in maintaining a healthy microbiome in the gut. Their role is to provide probiotics the energy they need to digest food and extract nutrients. When a person is not getting enough prebiotics from their regular diet, it can lead to all manner of health problems.
Prebiotic supplements can make up for any shortfall and restore healthy gut flora. That, in turn, will pay short and long-term benefits for your heart, immune system, bones, blood glucose levels, and much more.
All of the prebiotics on our list have proven their worth and are manufactured by trusted supplement makers in Good Manufacturing Practices facilities in the US. There are subtle differences between the products, so use the information in this guide to determine which prebiotic supplement is right for you.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended prebiotic supplement, click here.