The Latests on Probiotics in 2020 - Probiotic benefits, uses, brand reviews

The Latests on Probiotics in 2020 - Probiotic benefits, uses, brand reviews

What are probiotics?

The official definition of a probiotic is a’ live microorganism which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. However, the use of the word probiotic is hardly regulated which can be confusing for consumers.

An important distinction to note also is a source of probiotic vs added probiotics.With consumers now understanding the benefits of probiotics,  food manufacturers are now  adding probiotics to many foods like drinks, cereals, energy bars and even chips, but this does not mean these functional foods can be a source of probiotics. Just like how manufacturers cannot claim ‘a source of Vitamin C’ if they add ascorbic acid (a form of Vitamin C) to preserve the food. 

Other names of probiotics that you will see are :

  • friendly bacteria
  • gut flora
  • microflora
  • good bacteria
  • friendly microorganisms

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Dr Udo Erasmus places probiotics as one of the 14 basic components of health.

“They are as important as the other 13, which include greens, minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids (from good oils), essential amino acids (from protein), fiber, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, phytonutrients, water, oxygen, light, and fuel.

Each of these 14 components of health must be present for optimum health to be possible. No component can substitute for any other.”

Why do I need a probiotic? 

  1. Here are my top 4 reasons why I always recommend a probiotic supplement.
  2. 70% of our immune cells live inside our gut
  3. we are overloaded with toxins, chemicals and pathogens
  4. our food system is severely void of nutrients and healthy bacteria
  5. There are more bacteria than the number of cells in our body. We better take good care of them.

In conclusion, all people of all ages would benefit from a probiotic supplement. 

Can we rely on fermented foods?

Fermented foods are great, but there are several issues that arise with foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut:

  1. some people are lactose intolerant and cannot take dairy
  2. some people get bloating from cabbage in sauerkraut and kimchi
  3. there are a lot of other ‘added ingredients’ in kimchi and sauerkraut that also make it high in sodium
  4. the sugar added to these ferments, particularly to kombucha may not have fermented fully and so you are left with a sugar drink
  5. you are not guaranteed the probiotic species, strain or strength in any foods
  6. the bacteria would have likely been killed off during the heating process. This is particularly true with yogurt where all dairy needs to be pasteurized (heated to kill off bacteria).
  7. you are not guaranteed that it will survive your stomach acid and reach your intestinal tract

Introduction of Genus, Species and Strains

Let’s take a common probiotic, Lactobacillus Acidophilus as an example.

  • Lactobacillus = genus
  • Acidophilus = species
  • HA122 = strain*

*there are many types of strains and it is hard to understand the benefits of every strain as the research is vast and ongoing.

I like to explain this by comparing it to our names.

  • family name = genus,
  • given name = species
  • personality or character = strain

Speicies v.s. Strains

Both strain and species can provide us with insights into how the probiotic can benefit us.

The probiotic species can give us broad spectrum insights

The specific strain can take us deeper into specific mechanisms and benefits the probiotic can have on our complex system.

For general health and conditions it is helpful to understand the benefit of the species without having to get into the science of the strains. 

Key Features of Common Probiotic Species

Lactobacillus usually stay in small intestine

Lactobacillus acidophilus (most researched on immune)

  • produces lactic acid which inhibits yeast growth
  • acts as a natural antibiotics which enhances immune function
  • eases symptoms of constipation and diarrhea
  • helps digest and absorb nutrients and dairy

Lactobacillus casei (found in the mouth and digestive tract)

  • a lactic acid bacteria
  • helps break down carbohydrates
  • inhibits the growth of pathogenic and putrefactive bacteria in the small intestine.
  • studies suggesting : anti-microbial effects and its role in cellular immunity

Lactobacillus plantarum (major species found in the intestinal tract)

  • beneficial anti-microbial activities
  • produces antibodies that attack bad bacteria in the body
  • supports the immune system

Lactobacillus rhamnosus (primarily found in small intestine and vaginal tract)

  • one of core species for health from mouth to small intestine
  • beneficial in inhibiting vaginal and urinary tract infections.
  • coating mucous and preventing toxins from reaching the blood
  • stimulates immune response
  • studies suggesting : positive effects on weight management

Bifidobacterium usually stay in large intestine

Bifidobacterium bifidum

  • helps the body’s absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals. 
  • studies suggesting: reduction in the incidence of acute diarrhea in infants, beneficial in the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and relieves symptoms of lactose intolerance
  • can improve the immunological and inflammatory response in seniors

Bifidobacterium breve

  • enhances immune responses
  • studies suggestion: can colonize the immature bowel of infants and is associated with better weight gain in Very Low Birth Weight infants

Bifidobacterium infantis (important for infants)

  • most important microorganism found in the large intestine of infants
  • effective adjunct therapy in the treatment of acute diarrhea.
  • studies suggesting : efficacy on pathogens : Clostridia, Salmonella, and Shigella. B.
  • stimulate the production of immuno-modulating agents

Bifidobacterium longum

  • helps to synthesize B-complex vitamins
  • stimulates the immune system, through its effects on immunoglobulin A (IgA).
  • found to improve lactose digestion and constipation
  • protects DNA from carcinogen damage

How do we choose a probiotic supplement?

When buying a probiotic, here are some things you should be asking:

1. Are you getting what is promised to you and printed on the label?

Some labels may claim 25 or even 50 billion, but is this at manufacturing or expiration?
What potency and species or strain do they guarantee?

A 2005 Consumers Choice study that looked at leading probiotic brands and found that all but one,  failed to contain the CFU (colony forming unit) count that was printed on the label. The only probiotic brand that could keep to its claim, was Udo’s Choice.

2. Stability

How stable are these strains to survive your stomach acid?

Have these species and strain been researched to reach your gut and colonize?

3. Human Adapted

Are the strains used adapted to colonate in the gastrointestinal tract of humans? Some strains are taken from animals which won’t necessarily adapt to our human bodies. 

4. Do I need targeted strains or species?

Every bacteria does different things and with the 100 trillion bacteria living in our body, variety is key.

How many varieties of species and strains does the probiotic have? 

Probiotic Brand Comparison

1. Udo’s Choice Adult Probiotic

  • CFU Count: 17 Billion 
  • CFU Count Guarantee at Expiry: Yes
  • Number of Species: 6
  • Specify Strain: Yes
  • Survive Stomach Acid: Yes
  • Format: Capsule
  • Price: $380/60 caps ; $6.33/serving

Other ingredients: potato starch, silicon dioxide (to keep dry/ prevent damage to probiotics), ascorbic acid (as an antioxidant), stearic acid.

⭐Comment: 

  • Specified for age rather than ‘symptom’

2. Bifina S (50+10)

Bifina S (50+10)

  • CFU Count: 6 Billion 
  • CFU Count Guarantee at Expiry: N/A
  • Number of Species: 2
  • Specify Strain: No
  • Survive Stomach Acid: Yes
  • Format: Powder
  • Price: $299/30 packet ; $9.96/serving

Other ingredients: erythritol, edible oil, gelatin, maltodextrin, Bifidobacterium, glycerin, acidulant, emulsifier, flavor, citrus pectin, coloring (gardenia, carotenoids ), partially soy bean and milk constituent contained

⭐Comment: 

  • Low species and count
  • A lot of added ingredients

 3. Life Space (Broad Spectrum)

Life Space (Broad Spectrum)

  • CFU Count: 32 Billion 
  • CFU Count Guarantee at Expiry: N/A
  • Number of Species: 15
  • Specify Strain: Yes
  • Survive Stomach Acid: N/A
  • Format: Capsule
  • Price: $195/60 caps ; $3.25/serving

Other ingredients: NIL

⭐Comment: 

  • No acidophilus strain, the most researched strain

 4. Culturelle Digestive Health Daily

Culturelle Digestive Health Daily

  • CFU Count: 10 Billion 
  • CFU Count Guarantee at Expiry: N/A
  • Number of Species: 15
  • Specify Strain: Yes
  • Survive Stomach Acid: N/A
  • Format: Tablet
  • Price: $288/24 caps ; $12/serving

Other ingredients: Mannitol, Inulin, Silicon Dioxide, Sucrose (Contains Sucrose Which Adds a Dietary Insignificant Amount of Sugar. Not a Reduced Calorie Food), Maltodextrin, Sodium Ascorbate

⭐Comment: 

  • Only one species
  • A lot of added ingredients including sugars (mannitol, sucrose)


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