Will buying Probiotics help your health? If so, how do you know which ones to buy?!

Are you thinking of buying probiotics to help your health but are really unsure if they will really work and and if so which ones to buy?

7 years ago I was in the same situation. I was given the advice to take a probiotic supplement for my candida albicans overgrowth, but the advice was just not specific enough. I was told I needed to take acidophilus, but not in what form, or why that particular strain and with no direction as to when to take it.

When I considered buying probiotics for the first time, I went into my local chain health food shop I bought some that were not kept in the fridge and they did no good at all.

I then went into my local independent health food shop and was given some from the fridge and was told to keep them refridgerated which was a step in the right direction.

However, these still only made a very mild difference to the uncomfortable bloated and irregular issues that come with candida and ibs problems.

In the end before I wasted any more money I really felt that I needed to dicover as much as I could about buying probiotics.

I found these three main important issues:

  • Which strain or strains of probiotics do I need?
  • what makes a supplement work
  • When do I take them and for how long
So which strains of probiotic should we take?

As I stated on my 'probiotics-the basics' page, our bowel is inhabited by over 700 species of good bacteria, which would be impossible to put in a supplement. There are specific probiotic strains that do help different areas of health such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, allergies etc.

However, after his research, John R tayor, in his great book "The Wonder of Probiotics" recommends that a probiotic supplement should have at least 5 of the 12 strains listed below to be of real benefit for most of these health issues:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 (very important)
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Bifidobacteria bifidum
  • Bifidobacteria longum
  • Bifidobacteria coagulans
  • Bifidobactera infantis
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus salviarius
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
I plan to do a page in more depth on the different strains, what they do and the research that has been done but very briefly, before buying probiotics, here are 2 most important strains and the key points:

Lactobacillus acidophilus

This aids digestion as it helps in the absorption of nutrients by helping breakdown food. When it breaks food down it produces substances such as lactic acid that produce an acidic environment for harmful organisms so thereby protecting against infection.

It has one other role that is really important and that is it kills off and helps prevent yeast and fungal infections. Candida Albicans infections that originate in the gut are usually the cause of recurrent fungal infections and many IBS problems.

Bifidobacterium strains

These have a very similar role to acidophilus. They also help with the breakdown of food, this also adds to the acid environment and consequently help protect against harmful organisms.

However, once you know what strains to look for when buying probiotics, what makes it work any better than the thousands of other supplements on the market?

There are 3 major points to a good probiotic.

  • How many probiotics are in it
  • in what form is it taken
  • Who made it and how it is packackaged and stored

So... How many probiotics should be in the capsule?

Firsly, as stated above you really need to have at least 5 of the strains above, but the probiotic must include Lactobacillus acidophilus as this is the most important strain and should be the basis of any probiotic supplement. (John R Tayor)

Secondly, when buying probiotics, the supplement should specify how many bacteria it contains by stating the amount per billion of each strain that are alive (viable) in each dose at the expiration date of the supplement. This could be anything from 1 to 10 billion and this does depend on what form they are in and how they are packaged.

It is usually thought the higher the better, however, be warned that buying probiotics cheaply from manufactures that boast really high numbers could be a waste of money. These companies can boast high numbers, but all the bacteria could be killed off in the stomach acid and could be of no use to your health depending on how they are encased.

In what form is it taken?

There are probiotic supplements on the market in many forms such as powders, capsules, tablets and liquids. When buying probiotics, by far the best is the capsule form. This protects the bacteria from oxygen and moisture during storage. Powders can be used if you can't swallow tablets but the best ones are in individual packets so as not to let in moisture or oxygen to the rest of the packet.

Another really important fact to know about a supplement is what is the casing made of. Can it pass through the stomach acid and a long way into the digestive tract before the casing of the capsule is brokendown?

The majority of problems people have with their digestive system is in their large colon, so it is vital that the bacteria are released here. The really good probiotic supplements won't only contain the probiotics themselves but have food for the bacteria to survive on from the point of manufacture to the expiry date or until then reach your colon.

There are only a few manufactures, usually those that have been established a long time, that have the technology to produce an effective supplement that will get the bacteria where it is needed before the casing is digested.

Packaging and storing the supplement

When buying probiotics it is really best to go with a company that has a long standing good reputation. The best probiotic supplements should be packaged in such a way so that no oxygen can get to them as they are anaerobic organisms and can be damaged by exposure to oxygen. This is usually in a high density plastic container or in plastic and foil packets.

Heat can also destroy the bacteria so although there are now some excellent new probiotic supplements that do not need to be kept in the fridge due to the way they are encased it is still advisable to keep them in a cool dry place and in the fridge if possible. These probiotics are great for traveling.

So.. when do you take it and for how long?

When buying probiotics, it is better to start using them straight away as they are 'live' products that have a short shelf life. Manufactures can differ as to what time of day to take them. Some need to be taken before each meal at the start and then you can often decrease how many times you need to take them during the day once you start feeling better.

The another important point is not to take them with chlorinated water as this kills off the bacteria.

One final key point to take on board is that all of the reccommendations below have precautionary points, particularly to check with a doctor if you are pregnant or nursing.

So...from my research and taking different brands I have a some recommendations for you if you are considering buying probiotics. I have included as much detail as possible about each supplement in relation to the important points raised..

The first is 'Probiotic Advantage' by Mountain Home Nutritionals Supplement details:

Each capsule contains 10 strains of probiotics (9 of the 12 recommended by John Taylor):

probiotic advantage, buying good probiotics
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Bifidobacteria bifidum
  • Bifidobacteria longum
  • Bifidobactera infantis
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus salviarius
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Lactobacillus gasseri

Other good points about these:

  • The number of probiotics at expiry is 1 billion in each beadlet
  • The probiotics are encased in a triple layer protective casing which allows the probiotics to pass through the stomach undamaged
  • Due to the coating they do not need to be kept in the fridge
  • The supplement also contains inactive ingredients as food for the bacteria

Cost: 30 beadlets to take 1 a day at: $17.99

If this supplement interests you then you might want to look at Dr Williams site with this supplement. He is a world leader in natural and alternative medicine having written many articles in this area.

The Second I want to mention is a slightly more controversial probiotic, called Threelac

Threelac has had very mixed reviews. This is due to 2 issues:

1)Some of their affiliates blatantly advertise false health benefits from taking it.

2)Secondly it contains different probiotics that are not found in standard probiotic supplements and have had bad press. I believe from my research that this is due to a lack of understanding of the different strains. There are harmful strains of the bacteria that are in threelac but threelac only contains the helpful strains.

Threelac probiotic, buying probiotics

The strains in the threelac probiotic are

  • Bacillus Subtilis
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Bacillus

Personally, I haven't taken threelac, but there are some great success stories from people that have candida that have taken it. This is due to the 3 strains of probiotics that are in it. They are strong antifungal strains often found in different sources like the soil. However, it is a powder but comes in individual sachets.

Cost: 60 sachets to take from 1 - 4 a day at $49.95 or £38.75

If you want to look into this in more detail I strongly suggest you look at the Finchley Clinic site as they have a good page for frequently asked questions on threelac and go into more detail about the supplement and the issues surrounding it. You can then decide if it is for you..

I really hope this page has helped you. I would really recommend that you also take a look at my Aloe Vera page and the benefits that it can bring to all bowel issues and candida.

Resources and additional recommended reading:

The Wonder of Probiotics by John R Taylor
All Star Health review on buying Probiotics

Go to 'Aloe Vera the basics' Page from 'Buying Probiotics' Page

Go to 'What is Candida' page from 'Buying probiotics' page