Probiotics, how do I know which to buy?
We all have a general sense of what a probiotic is. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are supposed to have health benefits when consumed. They are not to be confused with prebiotics which are fibers that feed the probiotics. They can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products. So they’re basically just good bacteria that sits in your gut and helps you process food better along with other benefits. There have been studies done that show promising results to probiotic supplements. The results mostly help specific needs like in the case of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. There is not enough research in healthy adults to determine if it’s worth taking. The gut’s important to your health, we know this. What you probably don’t know is what is even in your probiotic supplement and how you know if you have a good one. This leads people to just buy a generic brand and hope for the best. Well I am here to help you get a better grasp on what a good probiotic should have.
Why it’s important
Probiotics can be classified as a supplement or a drug. If it is categorized as a supplement it is subject to the same regulation as pre-workouts…and we all know how well regulated that is, right? If the product uses ingredients already in existence it does not have to perform studies to prove its effectiveness. Meaning it’s up to the manufacturer to test their own product.
What types of probiotics are there?
The seven core genera of microbial organisms most often used in probiotic products are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus
Lactobacillus – Lactobacillus reuteri increases the number of Treg cells in the intestines, which can then be absorbed back into the blood to benefit the rest of the body.
Bifidobacterium – Bifidobacteria are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the gastrointestinal tract microbiota in mammals.
These will be the most common ones you see.
Streptococcus – is a genus of gram-positive coccus (plural cocci) or spherical bacteria that belongs to the family Streptococcaceae, within the order Lactobacillales (lactic acid bacteria), in the phylum Firmicutes.
Enterococcus – is a large genus of lactic acid bacteria of the phylum Firmicutes
Escherichia – Escherichia is a genus of Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped bacteria from the family Enterobacteriaceae.
Bacillus – Bacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria, a member of the phylum Firmicutes, with 266 named species.
Let me tell you why probiotics are so confusing
Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU), which tell you the number of viable cells. Amounts may be written on product labels as, 1 x 109 for 1 billion CFU or 1 x 1010 for 10 billion CFU. Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more. However, higher CFU counts do not necessarily improve the product’s health effects.
So you may think to yourself, there’s only seven major probiotics used in supplements. That’s easy to fact check for myself! Let me tell you the horror that is researching this supplement. When it comes to Lactobacillus, there are over 180 species and that encompasses a wide variety of organisms. The worst part is, every strain can have a different effect. So all 180 can do a different thing, making it troublesome to do research on all of the strains. So this applies to all seven of the common groups of probiotics used in supplements. They all come with a different amount of strains with different effects.
The worst part is, research is limited. So dosage recommendations can vary a lot. For example, research doses of Lactobacillus reuteri are in the range of 1×109 to 1×1011 (one billion to one hundred billion) colony-forming units (CFU) taken over the course of a day. Supplements usually have anywhere from 10 to 100 billion CFU per serving.
So, let me wrap this up for you so you can understand my frustration. Probiotics are listed in groups that have hundreds of different strains that have different dosage requirements and can all have different effects, and some strains may not even survive digestion by your stomach acids. This makes choosing a probiotic a very frustrating process.
To make it as simple as possible:
- Check the label first.
- Make sure it has a total of at least 40 billion CFUs per serving.
- 9 different strains of probiotics (this gives you a variety).
- A prebiotic to feed the probiotic (in case you have a poor diet).
-I’m over it.