Probiotics Learning Lab Impartially created by the experts at OptiBac

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.

too many cooks
Familiar with the saying 'too many cooks spoil the broth?' More is not always better!

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.



  • Actually some of the best probiotics on the market right now are refridgerated. I would be so bold as to say that more of the quality products are refridgeration recommended. One of the most popular on the market VSL#3 has a massive amount of bacteria and part of the reason it has the effect it has is because of that mass amount. People with colitis (IBD) have actually achieved remission with the VSL#3 product. So your argument about different people have different needs contradicts your argument about more "facebook" guests at your party isn't better. Some people need exactly that. More bacteria! Also even within your point #2 about more isn't better you said to watch out because you may not get as many live bacteria in some products. Well if having more bacteria didn't matter then that wouldn't matter either. I personally feel like garbage on 30 billion pills and great on 80 billion. Also most of the studies of use of probiotics for mental health issues deal with upwards of 100 billion used. It was interesting to learn about the advances in freeze dry process but I think you tried to debunk a lot of things ineffectively just for the sake of saying everyone is so wrong and only I get how it really is. Anyway there is my two cents

  • Probiotics Learning Lab

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for sharing your views with us.

    Regarding the issue of whether live cultures should be refrigerated: yes, the advanced freezing technique of lyophilisation has allowed for greater stability and viability in these supplements and avoids the need for them to be refrigerated. But as to whether only the 'best' strains of live cultures require refrigeration, I'd probably have to disagree with that, though it depends on how you determine which ones are the best.

    We would say that the most reliable standard of quality is the weight of 'gold standard' clinical evidence supporting the use of a bacterial or yeast strain. Using this criteria as a benchmark, then of the top ten most well-researched strains or products, the only one that needs to be refrigerated is VSL#3.
    Another reason why certain supplements need not be refrigerated is because the strains they contain are themselves naturally more robust and hardy, and can therefore withstand higher temperatures.
    You can read more about this subject in our new section, 'Probiotic Myths: Busted!' - 'The Fridge Myth'

    I'd absolutely agree, however, that everyone is an individual, and therefore may respond better to certain strains of probiotic cultures than others. There's also no evidence to suggest that you can 'overdose' on probiotics, so it's fine to experiment with dosages and if you find that you're better on a higher dose then this is fine. So dosage can be important and therefore, to pick up on your point about guaranteeing the number of live cultures in a product, it is definitely worth choosing a product with a 'Time of Manufacture Guarantee' to ensure that there will be the stated number of billions in the product right up until the date of expiry.

    But in addition to the number of billions, we would say also that it's even more important to try and find the best strain of probiotic for your individual needs. Emerging research has revealed that certain strains of probiotics may have specific actions in the body, and it may therefore be advisable to select a product based on the type of bacteria it contains rather than the amount. Research suggests a role for certain probiotics in female intimate health, bowel regularity and even, as you mention, mental health.

    You may also wish to take a look at some of the articles we have published about strain specificity, or take a look at the 'Cure-All Myth' in the 'Probiotic Myths Busted!' section (

    We don't try to 'debunk' commonly held views for any other reason that to try and present people with the facts, as it can save them money if they learn that they may not need to spend extra on a very costly high-strength product, when the same results may be achieved by using a lower dose, and by using the correct strain for their needs.

    I hope that this answers your questions, and once again, thank you for sharing your opinions with us.

    Wishing you the best of health,

    Nutritional Advisor

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