Gut Health – Buying Probiotics?

A Probiotic is a supplement of bacteria that humans can eat or drink that positively impacts our health. They come in capsules, powder or drink forms.

A Prebiotic is a food. Note the ‘Pre’ and ‘Pro’ difference.

Can you imaging asking your Health Store or pharmacist for the following criteria before you buy a probiotic supplement?

To qualify as a probiotic, certain criteria need to be met: a bacterial strain must be fully identified, be safe to eat, stick to the gut wall, make a home in the gut ‘colonise’, and have proven health benefits.

A probiotic should be delivered in a formulation that is stable when stored. The bacteria must survive in high enough numbers getting through the stomach acid and bile in the upper part of the intestine before they reach the small intestine and colon. Otherwise it is a waste of your money.


The best buys are those that require fridge storage, have a stamped sell-by-date on the product and at least 10bn live bacteria per capsule. For example, research trials use probiotics with 225bn -3600bn billion bacteria per dose on patients with active inflammation.

There are different strains that will suit various health conditions e.g. bloating or constipation or IBS or Crohn’s. One probiotic will not suit all. For example, take a look at this table from The Journal of Nutrition *published paper of bacteria strains tested on infants with allergic conditions. Always ask you specialist, health store or pharmacy for advice.

*(The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 140, Issue 3, March 2010, Pages 713S–721S,)

Every often, it is trial and error. One client was taking Vivomixx and it helped some issues but caused bloating. She then switched under professional advice to Saccharomyces Boulardii (a friendly yeast) and peppermint and found a solution for her.

Look for products that have invested money into research, running trials in humans. You can search under google scholar online and enter the strain number for the bacteria (will be on the label) and see if there are published trials on sizeable amounts of people for specific conditions.

Here are a few examples I have worked with and heard clients talk about –

Symprove – a refridgerated, water-based, 4 strain probiotic with some research to back it up.  –

ref: Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Volume 40, Issue 1, pages 51–62, July 2014 – trial completed on 152 patients with IBS symptoms and a 12 week programme taking 1mL/kg/day significantly reduced their IBS symptoms. 

The health shops usually recommend Udo’s Choice – Super Eights with 30 billion(2013) upgraded to 42bn ( in 2015) bacteria per capsule.

The pharmacies in Ireland used to sell VSL3’s with 450billion bacteria per dose. There was good scientific research backing up VSL’s when I was in college 2007-2011 and I see recent trials investigating their effect on mood on a small number of patients. This product may now be called Vivomixx and is available online and in pharmacies. 2 of my clients have taken it with benefits.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE BEFORE setting out on a health programme

What are Antibiotics

Antibiotics inhibit the growth of bacteria and/or kill bacteria and are a life-saving medication.  I always take a probiotic supplement after an antibiotic as it will have killed off many of my good bacteria.

Keep a note of each antibiotic that you take and the date you take it. Overuse of antibiotics will lead to a resistance in the long-term and we might really need them when we are older. Try to live healthily so as to avoid taking antibiotics and save them for when you will really need them.

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