If you have done any research on health and well-being within the last few years you are likely to have come across something on probiotics, and rightly so.
Scientific research is proving that probiotics are a powerhouse when it comes to optimal health, and that the type of probiotic even matters! So which probiotics are right for you?
So, what are probiotics?
Probiotics are micro-organisms that help the ‘good’ bacteria in our bodies’ to thrive.
But bacteria is bad I hear you say? Bacteria has been given a bad rep and is often associated with sinister conditions such as disease or infection.
Did you know that we have over 500 species of live bacteria within our gut which helps keeps our digestive system healthy?
The positive effects of this ‘healthy’ bacteria goes far beyond just our digestive system, with more and more research is showing this bacteria can influence your metabolism, aid immune function[i] and even help with allergies.
With all of the above in mind, it’s important to keep your healthy bacteria in check. Lifestyle factors such stress, lack of sleep and antibiotics can affect the healthy gut flora, thus leading to overall poorer heath.
So, what type of probiotics should you be taking?
With so many products on the market, choosing the right probiotic for your condition can be a little overwhelming.
Good news; we’ve done a little research for you.
Check out our list of the most common digestive health issues with some recommended probiotic supplements that will help with your symptoms.
Here you can see the probiotics name and brand name where appropriate.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Combination probiotics (VSL#3-8 various species[ii])
VSL#3 is a strong probiotic which has been shown, in separate studies, to reduce bloating[iii] and flatulence[iv] in subjects (hooray for that!). However, not said to help other symptoms such as abdominal pain
Lactobacillus GG (Culturelle®)
Has been shown to help the abdominal pain associated with IBS in children and infants[v]
Probiotic: Bifidobacterium infantis(Various brand names)
Lactobacillus plantarum299v (UltraFlora™ Intensive Care)
Reduces frequency and intensity of abdominal pain in IBS sufferers[viii] at a dose of 10 billion CFU per day
Bacillus coagulans (Digestive Advantage® Intensive Bowel Support)
Another probiotic shown to be effective in the relief of IBS symptoms such as bowel movements and pain with significantly significant results versus placebo over an 8-week period [ix]
High doses (3.6 trillion cfu/day) of this probiotic have been shown to ease symptoms in those suffering from mild-to-moderately active UC, with one study showing significantly higher remission rates[x]
Traveller’s Diarrhea (Bali belly anyone?):
This probiotic has been shown in studies to be an effective in the reduction in severity and duration of ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’[xi], however there is not enough evidence to suggest that probiotics can prevent the onset
Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 (ProbioMax DF™ by Xymogen/UltraFlora™ Acute Care by Metagenics)
Studies have shown this strain increases frequency of bowel movements as effectively as fibre, effectively improving constipation and reducing flatulence
Alongside these oral probiotics you can find certain probiotics in food products such as yogurt, infant formula, cheese, fermented vegetables and some soy products.
The above list is by no means comprehensive but is a good place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices available.
Determine which symptoms you wish to treat and always follow the on-pack instructions for dosage, unless of course a higher-dosage is needed for therapeutic effects, in this case you should usually not go be taking this as a long term solution.
[i] Macpherson AJ, Harris NL. Interactions between commensal intestinal bacteria and the immune system. Nat Rev Immunol. 2004;4:478–485.
[ii] Streptococcus thermophiles; Bifidobacterium breve; Bifidobacterium longum; Bifidobacterium infantis; Lactobacillus acidophilus; Lactobacillus plantarum; Lactobacillus paracasei; Lactobacillus delbrueckii, subspecies bulgaricus
[iii] Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003;17:895-904.
[iv] Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2005 Oct;17(5):687-96.
[v] Horvath A, Dziechciarz P, Szajewska H. Meta-analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders in childhood. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;33:1302–1310.
[vi] O’Mahony L, McCarthy J, Kelly P, et al. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in irritable bowel syndrome: symptom responses and relationship to cytokine profiles. Gastroenterology. 2005;128:541–551.[PubMed]
[vii] Whorwell PJ, Altringer L, Morel J, et al. Efficacy of an encapsulated probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006;101:1581–1590. [PubMed]
[viii] World J Gastroenterol. 2012 August 14; 18(30): 4012–4018.
[ix] Postgrad Med. 2009 Mar;121(2):119-24.
[x] Sood A, Midha V, Makharia GK, et al. The probiotic preparation, VSL#3 induces remission in patients with mild-to-moderately active ulcerative colitis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;7:1202–1209. 1209, e1201. [PubMed]
[xi] Szymanski H, Pejcz J, Jawien M, et al. Treatment of acute infectious diarrhoea in infants and children with a mixture of three Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains–a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006;23:247–253. [PubMed]