If you’re looking for the ideal probiotic supplement, you’ve probably noticed the broad array of brand-specific focused information and ingredients available in forms that include capsules, powders, and liquids. Trying to make comparisons between brands can be confusing, unless you know what to look for. That's what Richard's expert associates are here for! But just in case you're not at Richard's it's always good to learn more!
If you're not familiar with Probiotics here's the rundown on our mighty microbiome. Your microbiome is a wonder of nature. You share your body with trillions of microbes. About a thousand species of bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses live in your mouth, in your gut, and on your skin. It’s estimated that the average human body is inhabited by as many non-human cells as human cells. So, the microbiome of our gut is a complex ecosystem. It relies on a balance between the good and bad bacteria to function optimally. With our growing knowledge of the microbiome, an increasing number of companies are seeking to use microbes to benefit human health. Probiotics (the good ones) help combat invasive bacteria (the bad ones) and help support a healthy immune system. Probiotics also assist in the processing of nutrients, and serve as a gatekeeper at the cellular level.
So how do we find the ones that actually work for us? Let's examine some key factors that can help you make a more informed choice.
Colony Forming Units (CFU counts); Is More Always Better?
Probiotics are actually colonies of living organisms that are measured in Colony-Forming Units (sometimes referred to as CFUs). Manufacturers are required to list the number of CFUs per dose on their product label, so most people would believe this can serve as the best point of comparison between brands. Frequently, I see products that will boast of their higher CFUs, making them the better the product, right? Not exactly. It is simply not true that more CFUs is better. To be clear, the CFUs count that is listed on the label only reflects the number of living probiotic bacteria in the product at the time of manufacture. As we know probiotics are living little critters, they can much better provide their health benefits to us when they are alive and healthy when they reach the gut. Probiotics need to be packed with the proper safeguards to ensure their survival, if you really want to receive the working benefits of these tiny but effective bacteria. The ability to keep the CFUs alive is key to their effectiveness. A probiotic’s delivery mechanism, and its ability to stay cool until consumed are critical.
Robust Probiotic Strains—Only the Strong Survive
All probiotic bacterial strains are not created equal. Some are hardier than others, and thus are capable of withstanding more environmental challenges while in transit. Rapid changes in temperature (especially sustained heat) are lethal to most antibiotic strains. The more robust the strain, however, the more likely that a beneficial number of CFUs will survive the journey from the manufacturer to you. You also may be looking for specific strains for specific ailments or to target specific benefits they provide.
The most commonly utilized probiotics are strains of two main species because these are the most studied genus.
Bifidobacteria [bī-fə-(ˌ)dō-ˌbak-ˈtir-ē-əm] Bifidobacterium is a genus of the bacteria kingdom that reside in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, vagina and mouth of mammals. These beneficial bacteria digest dietary fiber, help prevent infection and produce vitamins and other important chemicals.
Bifidobacterium lactis is an extremely versatile strain found in foods such as yogurt and fermented milk. Specific strains of B. lactis are linked with the following benefits; support digestion, support a healthy immune system and relieve occasional constipation.
Bifidobacterium bifidum is one of the most common probiotic found in your gut and has naturally lived there since you were an infant. Specific strains of B. bifidum have been associated with the following benefits; support digestion, support a healthy immune system, and aid in lactose digestion.
Lactobacillus [lak-tō-bə-ˈsi-ləs] This species of bacteria produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar. These bacteria also produce lactic acid. Lactic acid helps control the population of bad bacteria. It also serves as muscle fuel and increases the body’s absorption of minerals. Lactobacillus bacteria are found predominantly in the upper digestive tract and vagina
Lactobacillus acidophilus is arguably the most widely recognized and used species in probiotics. Its history can be traced back to the 1920’s where it was used in milk in part to support digestive health. This species helps the body absorb nutrients and digest dairy foods and support the body’s immune system. Studies have suggested the species plays a role in supporting vaginal and immune health.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is found naturally in your body as well as many dairy products. The species has been extensively studied in adults and children. Studies suggest that specific strains of L. rhamnosus are linked to the following benefits; Support digestive and immune health, assist with healthy weight management, support women’s health.
The probiotics listed above are a mere sample of the trillions of bacteria living in your gut! Keep in mind that much research needs to be done to substantiate and strengthen the correlation of probiotics to the reported benefits.
Prebiotics—Food for Life
Like all living organisms, probiotics need food to survive. Prebiotics are compounds that probiotic bacteria “eat” while in transit. Products that include prebiotics, like inulin, are more likely to provide you with living, healthy, and effective probiotic colonies.
Storage and Shipping Methods—Keeping Your Chill
Because probiotic bacteria are so sensitive to changes in their environment—particularly sudden or sustained warmth—their survival while in transit depends to a large degree on the shipping method used by the manufacturer. You’ve probably noticed, that the labeling on some probiotic products recommends that they be refrigerated during storage. But were they refrigerated during shipping or while they awaited shipment in a warehouse? Probiotics shipped Cool and Protected have a far greater chance not only of surviving their journey to you, but also of being healthy enough to confer their health benefits when consumed.