In previous blogs about probiotics (check them out below if you’re ‘new’ to my postings), I’ve listed functions performed by probiotics, both our own natural ones and those helped with high quality supplements, along with explanations; a list of conditions attributed to Dysbiosis (the causes of an imbalance between the harmful and good bacteria), and a listing of the symptoms and/or warning signs of Dysbiosis; and in my most recent blog, a list of factors that can upset the balance of good and bad intestinal flora.
Now, as promised, I’ll address factors to look for when choosing the most effective probiotic product:
· Must deliver the flora alive. First and foremost, you should expect the produce to be shelf-stable without refrigeration for up to three years. (With a refrigerated product, you have no real idea how carefully it has been handled along its delivery route or how effective it will be when you take it in and out of the refrigerator which attracts moisture. Blister packs are best.
· The best bacteria are the ‘alive’ ones. The strength of the bacteria is more important than the total count of them. You want ‘critters’ that will thrive (i.e., alive) and that will, in most cases, adhere to the digestive tract. (A product with freeze-dried type that doesn’t arrive alive, or can’t be reawakened or are weak, cannot do the job that live bacteria can do.)
· The species you use must be proven useful and natural to humans. If the species produced by a probiotic company does not meet this test, no amount of marketing hype will make up for this lack. There are products, for instance those made from organisms in the soil, which create a big effect, but they often cause diarrhea. (This isn’t surprising given that this is how the body gets rid of things it doesn’t like – it flushes them.) See next bullet.
· Look for a blend of a number of beneficial lactic acid bacteria strains. Each strain has its own unique and distinct benefits. Ideally, you’ll want to look for organisms that fight deadly smart bugs which would serve to protect the body against antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, H. pylori, E. coli and the other bacteria that can cause food poisoning. (Check my next blog for a list of examples of friendly bacterial strains, along with some of their roles.)
· The form of the product should be able to protect the bacteria until they reach the lower intestine. I recommend and ‘enteric coating’ to help keep digestive juices from destroying the bacteria before they get to the intended place.
· Product should be milk-free and hypoallergenic.
· Product should guarantee the inclusion of colony-forming units (CFU) of at least 1 to 1.5 billion per gram.
· The safety and efficacy of the product should be known to be well-researched with both in-vivo (human) and in-vitro (laboratory) scientific studies (not just stories, but actual scientific tests).
· The product should contain robust, naturally-occurring organic acids. These are necessary to correct and maintain the proper “acidic” pH environment in the colon. (Consider this: the good guys are called “lactic acid bacteria”, and a pH level of 5.2 – 6.5 is essential for their proper proliferation and adhesion.
· A probiotic product is best if supported with natural-occurring fructooligocaccharides (FOS). This prebiotic nutrient is important to the health and long life of lactobaccilus (LAB).
· A few quality-assurance factors you should insist on include a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with the highest standards of quality as analyzed by third-party authorities.
· Other important qualities to look for include: non-GMO; free of chemicals, preservative, and artificial additives. The product should be totally vegan, including the capsule material.
· Check for the product’s inclusion of naturally-developed micronutrient by-products such as amino acids, hydrogen peroxide, enzymes and bacteriocins, and anti-fungals – one way to fight the bad guys.
· For the best results, the product should contain the nutritional medium in which the culture was actually grown. This will assure a stable growth base, remembering that the bacteria may not like what you ate for dinner.