Probiotics are micro-organisms, or live bacteria, that are believed to have a positive impact on your health when consumed. The World Health Organization‘s 2001 definition of probiotics is “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host”.
There are hundreds of probiotic supplements on the market and to be honest the research into whether any of these supplements actually work is limited. However, if you look at any probiotic products on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com you can read plenty of reviews with anecdotal accounts of various products having benefitted people. For example, Amazon’s number 1 best seller in Probiotic Nutritional Supplements, Bio Kult, has 428 five star reviews.
According to Karl Seddon, the founder of a new high-strength probiotic product called Elixa, conventional probiotics have failed to fulfill their potential effectiveness for several reasons:
- Miniscule Daily Doses. The human gut contains 100 trillion A single capsule or yoghurt drink containing 10 billion bacteria is outmatched 1:10,000. That’s a drop in a bucket!
- Insufficient protection. Bacteria are tiny, delicate organisms. They must be grown, freeze-dried, encapsulated, and packaged, all with extreme care. Most supplements fail in one or more of these areas.
- Ineffective species of bacteria. Countless probiotic supplements contain bacteria and yeasts that are not adapted to reside in the human gut. Cheap bacteria borrowed from the dairy industry is commonplace.
- Almost all other probiotic supplements recommend taking the product continuously for months on end. This is an impractical and costly treatment strategy.
Hyper-biotics – high-strength probiotics
Elixa is one of a new ‘breed’ of probiotic supplements that aim to deliver very high doses of probiotic bacteria. Elixa delivers 50 times the dose of the average probiotic – half a trillion CFUs, versus the conventional average probiotic only containing 10 billion CFUs.
Why is that dose superior?
As you’ve already learned, the average probiotic is outmatched by a ratio of 1 :10,000 when compared to the total number of microorganisms residing in our gut. That’s a drop in the ocean! If you want more than a drop – Elixa is your answer. With a strength of half a trillion CFUs (that’s 500 Billion!), this is an entire probiotic army.
Below we compare some of the best high-strength probiotic supplements on the market:
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How do probiotics work?
Most probiotic companies claim that their products can “colonise the gut”. As probiotics are viable microorganisms they SHOULD be able to survive in the gut for prolonged periods of time and colonise the gut, but research shows that many probiotic strains are not detectable in the stool 1-4 weeks after consumption is ceased.
For example, McNulty and colleagues recently evaluated a fermented milk product with probiotic strains matching the commercially available Activia (Dannon, White Plains, New York). The investigators showed that the probiotic product did not change the gut’s overall bacterial composition, but instead altered gene expression patterns relevant to carbohydrate metabolism in the host’s resident gut microbes.
The changes noted by the researchers were transient and only confined to the time the probiotics were being consumed. The research concluded that if continued benefit from the consumption of probiotics was desired then continued use of the probiotics would be required.
Essentially, in order to see the most sustained benefits from many probiotics, it is advised that you consume them regularly and for a prolonged period of time. Stopping taking probiotic supplements will likely result in the changes and benefits experienced, dissipating.
Karl Seddon has another theory on how high dose probiotics work:
“Lactic acid bacteria will benefit the large intestinal microbiome in several specific manners but also at least one ‘broad-spectrum’ manner: by the mechanism of lowering the pH in the large intestine. Now….what happens is this: if you look up optimal proliferation rates for several lactic acid bacteria, you will see that there is a huge spike in their proliferation and acidification once their environment reaches about pH 5-5.5. This takes time to achieve. The lactic acid bacteria lower the pH (mainly via lactic acid production). Proliferation is slow until the pH hits around 5.5. At which point they have essentially created their own optimal environment, like some kind of terraforming human colony on Mars suddenly having created the right atmosphere and their numbers can boom.
While Elixa does not contain the 100s of species that would comprise the ultimate probiotic, it does however contain species which create an acidic environment. This will favour the majority of beneficial bacteria, whereas the non-beneficial tend to not thrive as well at the similarly low pHs.”
This is why Elixa only needs to be taken for a short period of time since it should allow beneficial bacteria to quickly proliferate, while simultaneously creating an unfavourable environment for pathogenic strains. This should go some way to correcting a dysbiosis in the gut, even if the bacteria in the probiotic do not actually colonise the gut.
Other Probiotics worth Considering
As already mentioned, there is limited research showing whether individual brands of probiotics actually have beneficial effects. There are a few brands that do have some scientific research behind them and these include the following:
- Symprove is a water-based multi-strain supplement with an Unique Delivery System (UDS™) that contains 4 unique strains of live activated bacteria. These include: L. rhamnosus, E. faecium, L. acidophilus, and L. plantarum. Research has shown that at least in vitro, Symprove survives the acidic stomach conditions better than 7 other popular probiotic supplements. According to their website “Independent research by University College London (UCL) shows Symprove can Arrive, Survive and Thrive in targeted areas of your gut quickly and effectively.”
- Optibac – this company produce a large range of probiotic supplements with links to research backing up the effectiveness of their products – read more here: http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/scientific-research
- Prescript Assist – soil based organisms. According to their website, Prescript Assist is “Supported by a peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial – including a one-year follow-up study, verifying long term efficacy”
- Equilibrium by General Biotics – 115 interdependent strains
A few others to consider:
- Bacillus coagulans – I like Inner Me’s probiotic which contains 15 billion CFU’s of B. coagulans per capsule plus psyllium husk to act as a prebiotic. Thorne also produce a B. coagulans probiotic which contains 2 billion CFU’s per capsule.
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a type of beneficial yeast that may help fight candida overgrowth
- An interesting product I have recently learnt about is PrePhage a proprietary prebiotic formulation combining four types of bacteriophages, which are benevolent viruses that exclusively infect bacteria. Highly specific bacteriophages may be classified as prebiotics since they are able to enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
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