6 myths about probiotics explained
Update May 2016: We've since added a section to the website all about Probiotic Myths ...BUSTED - be sure to check it out here!
There are so many probiotic supplements on the market today that it can be very difficult to find the best product to suit your individual needs. Below is a discussion on how best to debunk some of the most common misconceptions regarding probiotics.
1. The More Strains The Merrier.
In this day and age, everyone always assumes that the higher the number (of anything!) the better quality the product - it’s a clever little marketing tool that makes us thinks we are getting more. Sometimes though, more is actually less! Now stay with me, I am going to explain this. For instance, there is no use going for a product that advertises a really high number of probiotic strains in the product if they are not well-researched. Remember, they are not all the same. The best thing to do is choose the product which contains synergistic strains who will work well together and which are tested to survive together in a capsule. Tests on low quality probiotics have shown that various strains can compete against each other and less resistant strains might die off in a capsule before consumption.
2. The Higher the Number of Billions, the Better.
Whilst on the subject of numbers and quality, think about this question - if you are having a party, do you want to invite a small group of trusted friends that you know will have a good time/respect your place and contribute positively to your gathering, or do you invite all of your Facebook contacts, not knowing who will turn up and what will happen? More friends does not usually mean better friends, and we all know it is better to go for quality over quantity! It is the same with choosing a probiotic supplement - going for a product that advertises a really high billions count of friendly bacteria which are not well researched (and therefore don't have the evidence that they are good for specific health conditions) does not mean it will be a better product.
On this point, it is also important to note that sometimes the count on the pack refers to the number of probiotics in the product at the time the product is manufactured. This is known as a 'time of manufacture guarantee' (whereas the number of billions in the product at the time of consumption may actually be a lot lower). Look for a product that guarantees the numbers till the end of sell by date.
3. The Best Probiotics are Kept in the Fridge.
There is a common misconception that probiotics kept in the fridge are better than those that are shelf-stable. Now this may have been the case in the past, but modern sophisticated freeze-drying techniques such as lyophilisation ensure that the probiotics remain viability at room temperature. Remember with shelf stability of your probiotics comes the convenience to travel with them, keep them at your desk or even at your bedside table so you don't forget them in the morning! So don’t just automatically walk to the fridge when looking for a probiotic, go looking on the shelf instead.
You don't need to keep probiotics in climates like this for them to work.
4. Wait to Finish Your Antibiotics Course.
Doctors used to advise people on antibiotics to wait until after their antibiotic course to take probiotics, because the antibiotics are thought to kill off all bacteria, including the good. But actually, you may be best taking probiotics alongside your antibiotics (just 30 minutes afterwards). If you wait until your course is finished, it may be too late! If you want some more information explaining the reasoning behind why we suggest that you take antibiotics and probiotics at the same time, have a look here.
5. One Size Fits All.
When it comes to supporting different health conditions with probiotics, the answer is a resounding no! Different probiotics actually have different properties and benefits for human health. For example, lots of research supports the idea that the strain Saccharomyces boulardii is great for supporting gut health in those with diarrhoea, and research into members of the Bifidobacterium genus have shown they can be great for supporting regular bowels. Humans are complex creatures and so are the friendly bacteria that reside in us, so it makes sense to go for a product which is specifically designed for your condition, whether that be bloating, problems with the immune system, and many other health conditions. Take your pick!
6. Cheap = Good Value.
It’s no secret that labelling and packaging can be confusing when it comes to working out which product offers the best value for money. The cheapest probiotic you can find isn't necessarily going to be the best, as there may be very little (or no!) research on the species and strains.
What's more, there are plenty of other factors to consider when trying to analyse how much you're truly paying. For example, if the product mentions ‘billions per gram’ rather than capsule, it can make the product seem like a higher dose than it actually is! Also look out for small pack sizes with high daily doses as this is a common practice too. The best way to work out value for money is to divide the retail price by the course length and then again by the billions count per capsule or sachet (it's not too hard to work out!). Taking into account this in combination with the points outlined above will ensure you are indeed getting for ‘bang’ for your probiotic ‘buck!’
So there you have it. Some common myths about probiotics explained. You might find yourself more savvy when it comes to making the best choice about finding the right probiotic supplement for you.
Healthcare professionals can take a look at the fully referenced, in depth pages, Probiotic Myths ...BUSTED.