Despite the Greek origins of the word probiotic that directly translates to the phrase ‘for life’, many probiotic supplements on the market today are anything but.
As consumer knowledge about the benefits of probiotics continues to grow, health-conscious shoppers are taking notice. Sales of probiotic supplements have grown by 14% every year since 2003, making them a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States alone. Yet, customers aren’t getting the levels of beneficial bacteria they think they are, as most bacteria in many probiotic supplements are dead before they’re even ingested.

The Problem with Mainstream Probiotics

By scientific definition, probiotics are live strains of beneficial bacteria that alter the natural microbial balance in the intestines when ingested. By boosting the levels of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, probiotics can enhance your immune system, improve digestive function, fight food-borne illnesses and more.

Though most probiotic supplements have labels that reveal the predicted amount of bacteria in every serving, these numbers are often far from reality. In fact, the testing of eight probiotic supplements by ConsumerLab.com found that each product had less than 1% of the live bacteria their packages claimed.

Most companies’ claims about bacteria counts refer only the levels at manufacture and don’t account for the time that passes before customers use them. In many cases, supplements spend months sitting on shelves, which can expose them to heat, moisture, and oxygen that quickly kills off the sensitive bacterial strains. This “die off” of bacteria makes probiotics significantly less effective and a waste of money for the consumers that buy them.

Even in ideal conditions, most probiotics lose approximately 5% of their live bacteria every month. While refrigeration can help maintain the viability of probiotics, most people store them in the kitchen or bathroom, two environments notorious for being warm and humid, which dramatically shortens their lifespan.

Death by Stomach Acid

Making the problem worse, the probiotics that remain alive in supplements often perish inthe digestive enzymes and acids in the stomach. While many products claim to have upwards of 30 billion strands of bacteria, a lack of an advanced delivery system means that few, if any, of these probiotics make it through the harsh conditions of the stomach to colonize the intestines.

 

The Alternatives for Probiotic Health

Dealing with dead bacteria isn’t inevitable in the world of probiotics. It’s entirely possible to invest in strains that stay alive, so long as you know what to look for.

The stability of probiotic formulas is dependent on a variety of factors, including the packaging, temperature and their age before you take them. However, the biggest factor is the strains of bacteria used. Some probiotics have a longer shelf life than others and remain viable for months after manufacture. Below are three strains of probiotics that are known to last.

IS-2 Bacillus Coagulans: B. coagulans is a gram-positive, catalase-positive, rod-shaped form of bacteria that’s highly resistant to antibiotics. Used to restore the natural balance of gut microflora, B. coagulans can survive stomach acid, making it useful for treating pain, diarrhea and bloating. In the same way, B. coagulans naturally works to ramp up the immune system and prevent the spread of cancer cells. This probiotic is approved for use in many kinds of commercial food, including baked goods, beverages, breakfast cereals, and coffee.

Bacillus Clausii: This rod-shaped, gram-positive form of bacteria naturally forms symbiotic relationships with the host organism it lives in. Though originally found in the soil, B. clausii has been used as a probiotic in Europe since the 1960s and is renowned for its ability to withstand both antibiotics and high acidity. In studies, B. claussii has shown potential for fighting off staph infections before they become established. This probiotic is also useful for treating diarrhea because it’s resistant enough to acid that it easily reaches the small intestine.

Bacillus Subtilis: As a thin, rod-shaped form of bacteria, B. subtilis grows well with and without oxygen. Often considered an ideal probiotic, B. subtilis can survive extreme conditions for months on end, even in acid. This hardy bacterium stimulates the immune system to create antibodies that fight off infections in the body. Commonly found in the soil, air, and water, B. subtilis naturally stimulates the immune system and improves the functioning of the digestive system.

The Takeaway for High-Powered Probiotic Treatment

Unfortunately, thousands of people are spending money on probiotics that die before they even leave the bottle. In order to avoid the expense of paying for products that don’t work, it’s important to look for probiotics that contain strains of bacteria that remain viable longer, meaning that they won’t die before you can use them.

 

When buying probiotics, make sure you choose a reputable manufacturer that gives a guarantee of the number of probiotics available at the time of consumption (not just at manufacturing), look for stable strains of bacteria that are known for lasting at least 12-18 months, and store your supplements in the fridge after opening them.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure that your money won’t go towards probiotics that are dead before you use them.

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