How Do You Know Which Probiotic Supplement To Take?

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Well, you could ask your doctor. Whoops, doctors know little about probiotics. You can examine the motivation (profit or healing) of the company that manufactures them, look at how we ingested them when farms were organic and discern the likelihood the bacteria will be alive when you receive them.

Well, you could ask your doctor. I almost chuckle as I say this because my personal experience with doctors has been that they know little about probiotics. This is an area that is just not covered by most medical schools. And this is not just my experience alone. A study was conducted by a high school student and the results were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Edmunds L. The under use of probiotics by family physicians. CMAJ. 2001;164:1577). The student mailed a questionnaire to 100 medical doctors. He found that only 10% said they recommended probiotics when they prescribed antibiotics to their patients. (Antibiotics kill the beneficial intestinal bacteria which often results in diarrhea and/or a yeast infection.) Worse yet, only 18% of the doctors had any awareness that there was actually scientific research on probiotics. (Still, if you have a significant medical ailment please do discuss your plan to take probiotic supplements with your doctor before you take them.)

Really, you have to rely on yourself to choose a probiotic supplement.

It is important to look at the integrity of the company that is making supplements. Do they care about people's health or are they just making products that will bring a profit? Several years ago literally everyone I work with became ill with the same sore throat. Then my throat began to have a slight tickle and I thought I might catch what they had. I started taking Echinacea and I could tell it was helping. My Echinacea ran out rather quickly and I picked up some more at Sam's Club. Suddenly the Echinacea had no effect at all, it was like taking nothing. I asked Don Duranso, a chiropractor who also studies herbs, what happened. He said that mass market herb companies only put the cheapest part of the plant in their herbal products, not the parts that actually heal. I threw the bottle away and fortunately did not catch the sore throat. But now I personally want some assurance the company I buy from has a goal of making people healthy.

The other way to examine which probiotic supplement to take is just through common sense. How did people get their beneficial bacteria before we destroyed that process at the end of the 19th century? People either got the good bacteria from organic vegetables pulled from the earth or from fermented milk. Thus it strikes me that it may be important to have both soil-based and milk-based probiotics in my probiotic supplement. I actually chose Nature's Biotics® for myself because it was the only quality supplement I knew of that contain soil-based organisms. I suspect most manufacturers stick to milk-based products because they are readily available and easy to grow.

Also, if you use your common sense it will tell you that probiotic bacteria are living organisms. From the time the bacteria are first put into the product in the manufacturing process, they will start to die. The question here is which company is going to go through the trouble to see that they reach you in a viable state. Manufacturers have two choices, keep them refrigerated or put them in a state of dormancy. Of course, if you purchase them live then you also need to keep them refrigerated. I personally prefer a probiotic supplement that has been rendered into a state of dormancy. It is natural for many strains of bacteria to go into a state of dormancy to withstand harsh conditions and then come back to life when the conditions for life are favorable. It works for me to buy Nature's Biotics® because I know that I do not have to take special care of it and it will last up to five years.

Actually, it is more than just common sense that the probiotic products you buy may contain few living bacteria. Research has shown the same thing. One study (Shah NP, Lankaputhra WEV, Britz KL. Survival of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum in commercial yogurt during refrigerated storage. Int Dairy J. 1995;5:515-521) showed that some yogurt products contained no living Bifidobacterium bifidum at all after five weeks of storage.


Sally Robertson



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Sally Robertson