How to Choose the Right Microbiotic for You
There are numerous brands of live bacteria supplements (also known as probiotics or microbiotics) on the UK market today and deciding which supplement is right for you can be very confusing and time consuming. When you’re deciding which one will work best for you there are a few basic areas you need to assess:
Your age matters:
Simply put, choose a microbiotic that is age specific. From infant to grandparents your gut flora will change as you age and its best to choose a microbiotic supplement that has been formulated to represent the gut flora at your particular age.
Specific Strains for Health Issues:
It is recommended to favour Microbiotic formulations composed of many strains as these complexes better reflect our natural intestinal flora composition (what we already have in our body). Since microbiotic properties are different from one strain to another, each will have a specific inhibitive action against pathogenic micro-organisms. Multi strain formulas can also work better as each human’s intestinal flora has a unique bacteria community (very similar to fingerprints) and is personalised to each individual. Therefore, each person will react differently to the absorption of the same probiotic strain. For some individuals, L. acidophilus might be the most efficient strain while for others L. rhamnosus or L. casei might adapt more easily to their intestinal flora. This is why microbiotics complexes composed of a larger strain variety will likely be more effective than a single strain product.
The most researched and most important strains to be present in a supplement are:
• L. acidophilus
This is the most prominent strain of the Lactobacillus species found in the small intestines and it readily colonizes the intestinal walls. It inhibits yeast overgrowth, supports nutrient absorption, contains natural antibiotics which enhances the immune system and helps with lactose intolerance. It has also shown to decrease blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
• L. casei – best for: GI support and brain function
Found in the mouth and intestines, it is shown to reduce pH and improve digestion. It is also helpful for reducing lactose intolerance and improving the immune system.
• L. rhamnosus – best for: eczema, vaginal health and traveller’s diarrhoea
One of the most important strains for the health of adults digestive tract from the mouth to the small intestine. Especially beneficial in inhibiting the bacteria involved in vaginal and urinary tract infections. This strain also can help prevent traveller's diarrhea.
• L. fermentum – best for: inflammation
A transient strain from dairy origin, also found in human breast milk, has been shown to prevent colonic inflammation.
• B. longum
Like L. acidophilus, B. Longum is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall. It helps synthesis B vitamins, stimulates the immune system and is an active scavenger of toxins.
• B. bifidum
This strain, found in both the small and large intestine, is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products. This is especially important as you grow older and your natural ability to digest dairy declines. B. bifidum also is important for its ability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently. It produces SCFAs and B vitamins which helps the body in the completion of the digestive process, specifically in the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium.
What to Look Out For:
Check expiration dates, make sure the bacteria is live, and look for “CFUs” (colony forming units) in the billions. Anything less isn’t as potent. A good brand specifies the number of live organisms (see ‘Shelf Life’ below), and lists the exact strains used in their formula.
Once the strains are selected they then needs to be tested under quality control for certain criteria. Their natural gastric resistance and bile tolerance are tested as it needs to be guaranteed the strains of bacteria pass through the stomach and reach the small and large intestines. They also test for their antibiotic profile, enzymatic activities, colonizing capabilities and their compatibility vs other strains. This last one is of special interest since most Microbiotic supplements are composed of a variety of strains. In that sense, each strain has been tested for its compatibility to live well with all other strains included in the supplement.
Shelf life will vary from one product to another depending on the active cell concentration at time of manufacture and claimed concentration on the label. When kept in appropriate conditions Microbiotic Supplements will loose between 1%-2% in concentration per month. The label should specify the strength at manufacture and strength at expiry clearly to ensure the bacteria are still in the billions, active and able to reach your intestines.
*Written by nutritionist Mariana Sulic