There are quite an overwhelming number of probiotic supplements on the market. Pharmaceutical companies are aware of their vital importance in the human digestive and immune system. They each advertise their product as being the best, dazzling the consumer with various miraculous health claims neatly written on the labels. Choosing a good probiotic can be overwhelming and frustrating. I have poured over many labels in food stores, on line, and in various catalogs. There really isn’t a perfect one that carries every single member of the probiotic family. But we can try to purchase one that carries at least the most important bacterial strains. ( To read part I of the Probiotics series go here)
Here is some advice, based on my own struggles to find a good probiotic to rejuvenate and heal my gut flora:
When you are purchasing a probiotic, go for the one that has the most diverse strands of bacteria, maybe a few members of each family. They were all designed by mother nature to work synergistically in your gut. More often than not, you will see probiotics that only have one or two members of the lactobacilli family or individual strains of the Saccharomyces boulardii yeast.While even such a limited amount of bacteria is great to offer your body, look for the ones that are worth your money and your health.
Not sure what to look for? Doctor Natasha Campbell holds a degree in both Neurology and Human Nutrition. She has done extensive research on the connection between the human gut and mental development. Below is a list of the most well-understood probiotics strains, and those most commonly employed in supplements:
Some of the most famous members are: L. acidolophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. salivarious, etc.
Apart from lactic acid they produce a plethora of active substances: hydrogen peroxide – a powerful antiseptic; anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents which do not allow pathogens to to get a hold in the gut. Lactobacilli engage immune system and stimulate activity of neutrophils, macrophages, synthesis or immune-globulins, alpha and beta interferon, interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor. They are involved in orchestrating the cell renewal process in the gut, keeping gut lining healthy and intact. Natasha Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Page 167
B bifidium, B breve, B longum, B infantis, etc.
In an adult gut they are about seven times more numerous than Lactobacillli and fulfill
many useful functions. They actively synthesize amino-acids, proteins, organic acids, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, vitamin B1, B2, B 3, B6, B12, assist absorption of Calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Natasha Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Page 167
Escheria coli or E.coli
Physiological strains of E. Coli fulfil a number of beneficial functions in the body: they digest lactose, produce vitamins ( vitamin K and group B) and amino acids, produce antibiotics-like substances, called colicins and have a powerful stimulating influence on local and systemic immunity. They are very active against various pathogenic microbes including pathogenic members of their own family. Natasha Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Page 168
Enterococcus Faecium or Streptococcus faecalis
As the name would imply these bacteria, as with all other probiotics, were isolated from human stools.They normally live in the bowel where they control pathogens by producing hydrogen peroxide and reducing the pH balance to 5.5.They break down proteins and ferment carbohydrates. Natasha Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome,Page 169
Bacillus subtilis or soil bacteria
B. licheniformis, B cereus, B mesentericus, B pumilis, etc.
Soil bacteria are not indigenous to humans, they are transitional microbes, which do not colonize the gut but go through it doing a lot of work on the way. We humans used to consume soil bacteria in large amounts when we were drinking water from wells and streams. In the process of evolution the human gut has developed a need for these transitional bacteria. One possible need is keeping the gut clean. B. subtilis species are used in waste management because they have a great ability to break down rotting matter and to suppress putrefactive microbes. Natasha Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Page 169
Probiotics are highly sensitive bacteria. It is rather unfortunate that more than half of them are sold on non-refrigerated shelves. By the time that the customer purchases a bottle of probiotics, most of them are dead. Amazingly, even dead these little guys will benefit your gut lining, however they are much, much more powerful when alive. A golden rule is to always look for refrigerated probiotics.
Antibiotics will kill both pathogens and good bacteria. If you are currently on antibiotics, don’t take probiotics immediately before or after taking the antibiotics, as they will likely kill the vast majority of the organisms.
While supplementing with good probiotics can really benefit you gut flora, the best way to ensure that you are eating the widest variety probiotic families is fermented foods: lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, homemade kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sprouted grains ,etc. If you are choosing to buy any fermented food from the store, make sure the label says “live cultures” or something to that effect.
I really wanted to offer my readers the perfect brand for probiotics; a brand that contains every member of all the probiotic families, is affordable, and is non-dairy based for those of you who are lactose-intolerant. So I emailed doctor Katherine Shanahan, the author of Deep Nutrition, about her favorite probiotic brand. This is her response:
I don’t have a favorite brand… possibly because everywhere I live they’ve carried completely different brands in stores. Don’t worry about the actual bacteria either b/c we’ve got thousands of species in our guts and the capsules only have a handful so it’s not like there’s any hard science to it. Probiotics that come out of a fridge when you buy them are more likely to be alive. Kinda like the same reason we keep yeast in the fridge–it preserves them in a more viable state.
Doctor Kate is right: pills contain a pitiful quantity of bacteria. Yet, I do believe that the combination of both fermented foods and probiotics makes a huge difference in our gut health. The miraculous recovery of my digestive system is living testimony to that. Likewise, I do believe that there are certain brands that are better than others.
After some investigation and research here are two brands that I have worked great for my family: Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women they also carry one for men Garden of Life Raw Probiotics For Men, which has helped my husband tremendously and Gutpro probiotic. Remember to order these with ice packs!