A quick history of probiotic
Pharmaceutical companies spend billions to come up with new drugs and supplement each year. Past 2010, we’ve seen the rise of probiotic supplement – but it’s really not a new thing. The benefits of gut bacteria were discovered in the early 1930s. Dr. Minoru Shirota first cultivated the Lactobacillus casei Shirota bacteria and the first commercially available probiotic was sold in Japan in 1935, branded as Yakult. It helped with nutrient digestion, stomach bloating, and generally recommended by gastroenterologists.
However, the bacteria couldn’t survive a warm temperature and had to be sold cold. Today’s technology enables new brands to sell “good bacteria” that have longer expiry dates and no longer required a specific temperature to survive. But do they work just the same? We headed to Costco and Walmart to review the top selling and affordable digestive supplements they have on the shelves:
|POPULAR BRANDS||CLAIMS||STRAIN VALUE||PRICE PER COUNT|
|Align 24/7 Digestive||1 Billion CFU; Bifidobacterium 35624||✔||$1.00|
|Culturelle Probiotics||10 Billion CFU; Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG||✔||$0.37|
|Nature’s Bounty Probiotic 10||20 Billion CFU
10 Probiotic strains; Lactobacillus (plantarium, paracasei, bulgaricus, brevis, salivarius, acidophilus, casei); Bifidobacterium lactis
|Schiff Probiotic Gummies||50 Billion CFU; Bacillus coagulans
100 Times better than yogurt
|Trunature Probiotic||12 Strains
10 Billion cultures; Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, L Rhamnosus GG
Watch out: Sales pitch of large pharma
Based on the juxtapose, it will appear that the higher the strains or the more expensive the brand, the better the quality. It’s not that simple. The delivery system is important and unless these brands can demonstrate it is effective, choosing the right probiotic will initially depend on the type of strains and CFUs (Colony-Forming Units, or CFU).
Look for these strains and important enzyme
There are specific probiotic strains that truly benefits us, but a higher CFU does not mean it’s better. Having more strains does not equal better, but there are certain ones that are most beneficial:
1. Lactobacillus Acidophilus – The most important strain of Lactobacillus. It resides in the walls of the small intestine and helps with the digestion of dairy foods and nutrient absorption.
2. Bifidobacterium Longum — Like L. Acidophilus – The most common bacteria that helps neutralize toxins in the stomach.
3. Bifidobacterium Bifidum – Found in the small and large intestine, it helps with the digestion of dairy products, specifically helpful for lactose intolerant. It also has the ability to help break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and proteins.
4. Bacillus coagulans – Ideal for diarrhea, including infectious types such as rotaviral diarrhea in children; traveler’s diarrhea; and diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Its also good for digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), a bowel disorder called Clostridium difficilecolitis, excessive growth of “bad” bacteria in short bowel syndrome, and infection due to the ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori. (WebMD)
5. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – FOS is not a bacteria strain but an important prebiotic enzyme from plants that compliments probiotics. FOS is recommended for infants because of its prebiotic effect that supports intestinal microflora that helps absorb nutrients, lower cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Don’t waste money
Truth is, it doesn’t matter which one you buy, you might actually have no need for it if you eat the right food and exercise. If CFU count is extremely low and has very long or no expiry at all, don’t buy it. The strain should be able to cross the stomach barrier without dying that is why billions of CFU is required – may the best strains win. Most importantly, avoid products that have been exposed to heat. Don’t leave it inside a hot car and its best to keep your capsules in a cool place like the fridge.
Do you really need it?
This type of supplement is ideal for those who frequently take medication that can give you high stomach acidity. Drinking alcohol also disrupts the normal flora of the gut. A probiotic supplement is best taken with alkaline water.
Depending on your need, Schiff (for kids or adults) with its price is effective enough for nutrient absorption. Nature’s Bounty beats most of them with its cheap price and the number of strains it contains. However, as to the quality of these bacteria (number of live ones after the manufacture date), cannot be determined in their product information.
If you can pay extra, consider other brands available at Walgreens and online shops: Floracil 50 that has multiple strains and LifePharm Digestive plus with a single but very important strain. Floracil 50 appears better because of its high CFU and type of strains but it is very expensive. However, LifePharm Digestive Plus only has Bacillus coagulans but it also contains Fructooligosaccharides (prebiotic blend) which are equally important enzymes for a healthy gut, that others do not have.