What Are Pre and Probiotics?

Both prebiotics and probiotics play a key role in your gut health. Prebiotics are special types of fiber that feed and stimulate the growth of probiotics (the “good bacteria”) found in your bowels.

Pre and probiotics have several important functions in the body. They help break down food, fight off bad bacteria, reduce inflammation, and release chemicals into your bloodstream that positively impact other organ systems. Both pre and probiotics can be taken in food or supplement form. Speaking with your healthcare team is the best way to know which approach is best for you.  

Where to Find Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics are naturally occurring and can be found in many of the foods we eat. Because the amount of pre/probiotics found in food can be low, supplements can be a good option for additional gut support. It is important to discuss any supplements with your care team prior to initiating them. 

Prebiotics can be found in foods such as: 

Probiotics can be found in foods such as: 


Jerusalem artichokes 










Risk Factors to Taking Pre/Probiotics as Supplements? 

Research on the use and safety of pre/probiotics is still underway. Most studies show that side effects are minimal, but may include diarrhea, bloating, and gas. In addition, there are certain conditions where pre and probiotic supplements should not be used, such as following a stem cell transplant or during acute pancreatitis.

Pre/probiotics are sold as dietary supplements which means they are not regulated by the FDA. This makes it even more important to review these supplements with your oncology care team to ensure your safety. 

Benefits of Pre/Probiotics for Cancer 

Studies evaluating the effectiveness of pre/probiotic use in cancer patients are limited. Current research has shown some effects of probiotics stopping cell replication amongst other things. However, much of the data is inconsistent and can vary based on the different types and amounts of bacteria in the probiotic supplement.

Pre/probiotics may still be helpful in aiding your overall gut health and immune system, but be sure to check with your oncologist.