How to choose a good probiotic – part 1

How to choose a good probiotic – part 1

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Each probiotic has different characteristics depending on the unique qualities of its good bacteria and the medium in which they are grown.

Probiotic means “promoting life”. Probiotics are good bacteria that flourish in the gastrointestinal tract to support healthy digestive and immune function. However, how does one choose between all the choices of probiotics? Generally, any good probiotic product has to have a clear answer to the following questions:

    1.       Where the probiotic is originally sourced from?

    • Most probiotics are originally sourced from the mouth or digestive tract of people. There are some studies that show evidence that probiotic bacteria that live naturally in the human mouth could in certain circumstances accelerate tooth decay, caused by the bacteria S. mutans.
    • Only a few probiotics are sourced from vegetables or flowers which means the bacteria in them does not naturally live in the human mouth and cannot be associated with any risk of tooth decay or other health risks and even fewer which has been grown on plants. (for instance PROVIOTIC® bacteria has been extracted from the European Snowdrop flower and was developed in pure vegetable juice).

2.       Are there major food allergens, such as lactose, gluten, soya or nuts that are part of the probiotic fermentation process?

o      Most probiotics on the market contain traces of one or more of the major food allergens: lactose, gluten, soya or nuts. Prior to using any probiotics, you should inquire whether the probiotic fermentation process yields a final product containing traces of lactose, gluten, soya or nuts. It is also important to note that probiotics that use milk as part of their growth solution cannot be vegan as they contain animal based proteins. These products are not vegan regardless of whether the probiotics are contained in vegetable or vegan capsules, as the major allergens and/or the animal traces are in the actual powder.

o      A good probiotic should not contain any of the major food allergens. Therefore, probiotics which derive from plants are preferable and suitable for those pursuing a clean-eating lifestyle or even following a vegan/vegetarian diet.


3.       Has the probiotic been researched by professionals from a reputable academic institution?

o      Many of the probiotics today do not have rigorous scientific research behind their products and very few of them have a prominent university as a research partner to verify the characteristics of their good bacteria. It is important to inquire about the scientific research that validates any probiotic product.

o      Any good Probiotic producer should first test the effectiveness of his product before going to market, thus ensuring the customer really gets what he/she is paying for. A good example how every probiotic should be tested is PROVIOTIC®  - its good bacteria L. bulgaricus GLB44 has been studied by one of the most prestigious academic institution in the United States incl. Harvard (for more see the project


4.       What is a CFU and how can one understand what these billions of CFUs actually mean?

o      CFU stands for Colony Forming Unit, or simply a bacterial cell. Thus, the number of CFUs tells how many bacterial cells are there in a probiotic serving. CFU is one of the very important features when comparing probiotics. However, this number does not tell us everything.

o      Since the bacterial strains vary a lot in terms of their size, their enzyme production, and their effectiveness, comparing only the number of CFUs across different strains is like comparing the strength of a group of mammals based purely on their numbers. Elephants and mice are both mammals; yet drawing conclusions about their comparative performance based on their count, not on individual qualities is flawed. This is also the case when it comes to comparing different bacterial strains.

o      That is why the bigger the size of the good bacteria, the stronger Probiotc’s effects are. Size factor is one of the explanations why Probiotics with bigger in size good bacteria are so effective against bad bacteria regardless of the CFU alone. For example, the size of PROVIOTIC® good bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus (Strain GLB44) is 14 mm in length, which is one of the biggest among the probiotics. Compared to Lactococcus lactis (1.5μm in length) it is like comparing a lion and home in size. TWhat are other evaluation criteria are important in the evaluation of a good probiotic?ome in size. TWhat are other evaluation criteria are important in the evaluation of a good probiotic?