You might be wondering if I’ve gone completely off the deep end by saying this. But the reality is most people have the whole subject on probiotics all wrong – including practitioners. Oooof…that’s going to ruffle some white lab coats. But listen, I’m all about making sure that my people are well informed so that they can make an educated decision. Now this post isn’t intended to bash other companies but rather to give you the truth on what you need to know and what to watch out for.
But a probiotic scam Melissa?
Yup, I’m going there so buckle up sweet soul and let’s breakdown what you need to know when buying probiotics
Private labelling and buying in bulk
You may not realize what “private labelling” means when it comes to probiotics. Essentially it’s when the probiotics itself were produced offsite and sold to multiple companies by a generic factory. So your professional probiotic that your ND or Nutritionist reco’d could be from the same pickings as another company sold on store shelves for less. Once those probiotics are picked from that generic factor, the company then smacks on a label and brands it as theirs. Is this so bad? In my opinion, yes, because where’s the quality control in this?
And trust me when I say, I’ve been approached by companies to create my own line. And while sure, this would mean more profits for me, I’m not convinced that the quality has been retained and that matters to me because I’m not about to scam people for a buck.
Let’s take private labelling for example like in the case of, “Dr. Formulated Probiotics by Garden of Life”. This was formulated by Dr. Perlmutter someone who I actually respect quite a bit in the field of endotoxicology (in other words, the study of endotoxins – toxins which are produced within the body). However I’m a little mystified by the combination of two strains that he likely cherry picked: Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifido bacterium. While both strains are intended to work in the large intestine, L.plantarum actually inhibits B.bacterium.
Multi-strains are better, right?
Not necessarily. According to microbiology, all bacteria are antagonistic, meaning they kill off each other. So throw a bunch of strains together in one capsule and there’s no telling if they’ll actually survive.
Aren’t all acidophilus strains the same?
Here’s another big nope-a-roo. The most researched bacterial strain is L.acidophilus (DDS 1). The L.acidophilus DDS 1 is the most studied organism and has been around for 60 years. It creates natural antibiotics without damaging the integrity of the body. So if someone tells you they’ve got L.acidophilus, its like saying, “hey we’ve got a red sweater too!” Except one is made of polyester and the other made of high quality silk.
But is that enough?
The handling of probiotics
So maybe someone does have the L.acidophilus DDS 1 strain but is it handled properly? Here are things you should know. If they’re in a plastic bottle or soft gels, roughly 25% of moisture can accumulate and those bacteria buddies will die. Probiotics are incredibly sensitive to light, moisture and heat. So probiotics need to be stored in dark, glass bottles, shipped in a cold pack and stored in the fridge.
In fact there was one company (who I won’t name) who decided to begin their new probiotic line with the strain B.infantis. Not a smart move given that it’s a strain that’s incredibly difficult to grow. This company’s probiotic strain was exposed to contamination where yeast grew and it killed a baby and the family was rewarded 20 million dollars in a class action law suit.
Is enteric coating enough?
There are absolutely no independent studies to show it works and there are no guarantees that it won’t release microbes into the digestive system. Will it protect against stomach acid? Maybe. But not exactly against bile.
What about Soil Based Organisms (SBO)?
Sorry guys but personally, there is absolutely no way that I’d consume bacteria that’s origin is from soil. You have no idea how the bacteria will interact with our own microbiome. And let me be clear on what the term, “microbiome” actually means:
The microbiome is the sum total of all the genetic material found in the hundreds of trillions of microbes. That genetic material controls 99% of our genetic expression.
Any time you have an upset of your bacterial balance (and remember we’re 90% bacteria folks), you could be switching on millions of genes on or off which can be good or bad (think of breast cancer for example).
So wait…what does this have to do with SBO? Well personally I’m not comfortable in consuming bacteria from soil when I have no idea how it will interact with my bacteria and how it could potentially turn on or off any of my genes.
Is Lactobacillus safe if I have a lactose intolerance?
Yes in fact it would be. The only time that it’s not safe is for those with a casein allergy.
Does more bacteria mean better?
I won’t buy into probiotics just because they state 80 or 100 billion on their labels like Renew Life (which was recently acquisitioned from Clorox, the same company known to make bleach and plastic bags). Truthfully more doesn’t necessarily mean better. How it’s stored, protected in the capsules and the strains used, are what matters. Otherwise you could have a bottle of dead probiotic pills. It’s why I’ve seen people have detox reactions from lines that only have 6 billion when they previously took professional lines that stated 30, 60 or even 80 billion on their labels.
There should be full disclosure
I have had people push various brands like VSL#3 for example, saying, “this is what’s used in hospitals Melissa” (allow me to remind you they also serve orange Smart Gels in hospitals too). My beef with brands like this is that if you look carefully at the label it says, “Each dose contains 450 billion live lactic acid bacteria…” This does not tell you the potency of how much you’re getting of each strain. And as a consumer, you deserve to know because each strain reaches specific intestinal areas having their own function. And truthfully as a consumer you deserve to have full disclosure on labels so that you’re aware of how much of each probiotic strain you’re ingesting. When I don’t see that listed, red flags go up for me immediately.
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My final thoughts
Personally if I’m going to buy probiotics, I’ll go with a company who only makes probiotics and have made it their life’s work. There’s a lot of dollars spent towards marketing in the health industry, so ask questions. You are entitled to be an informed consumer so you know exactly what you’re paying for and what you (and potentially your family) are consuming.
If you’re interested in hearing more about what to look for when buying probiotics, download my FREE Probiotic Buying Guide here.