How we pick our products
In this latest article of our supplements guide, we introduce you to a very topical subject: using probiotics. Commonly found in supermarkets, pharmacies and herbalists, these products are often recommended for people suffering from intestinal disorders, such as abdominal bloating or flatulence. But do you actually know how they work?
Probiotics help you restore the balance of your microbial flora if you are under stress, have a poor diet, or take too much antibiotics. However, you will require some knowledge if you want to use this very delicate supplement successfully.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our selection: The best probiotic supplements in the market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about probiotics
- 3.1 What are probiotics exactly?
- 3.2 What are the criteria of probiotic supplements?
- 3.3 What are the benefits of using probiotics?
- 3.4 What are the different types of probiotics?
- 3.5 How should I take my probiotic supplement?
- 3.6 How should I preserve my probiotic supplement?
- 3.7 What are the side effects of probiotics?
- 3.8 What are the contraindications of probiotics?
- 3.9 How much do probiotic supplements cost?
- 3.10 What is the microbiota?
- 3.11 Which microorganisms make up the normal intestinal microbiota?
- 3.12 What are the functions of the intestinal microbiota?
- 3.13 What factors affect the composition of our intestinal microbiota?
- 3.14 What are the consequences of an imbalance of the intestinal microbiota?
- 3.15 How can I boost the growth of my intestinal microbiota?
- 4 Shopping Criteria
- 5 Summary
- These supplements contain living microorganisms from which your organism can greatly benefit.
- Different bacterial species and strains are available, each one being effective at treating specific symptoms and pathologies.
- Intaking probiotics is considered safe for most people, but you should know that they can trigger infections in immunosuppressed individuals.
Our selection: The best probiotic supplements in the market
Did you know that many “probiotics” available out there have little to no usefulness? If you want to reap all the benefits from this supplement, you need to choose safe and efficient bacterial strains. We’ve designed the following ranking to help you buy the best quality product on the Australian market.
- Blackmores Probiotics + Adults (90 capsules)
- Nature’s Way Restore Probiotic (30 capsules)
- Swisse Ultiboost Inner Balance Probiotic (30 capsules)
- BSC Probiotic Kombucha (60 capsules)
- Probiotic Bone Broth Concentrate (350 grams)
Blackmores Probiotics + Adults (90 capsules)
Blackmores is one of Australia’s most trusted brands when it comes to supplements and vitamins, offering top quality at interesting prices. Their Probiotics + Daily Health is no different, and this is why it is Amazon’s Choice for probiotics. Each of the 90 capsules contains 30 billion good bacteria, so you’ll be feeling the effects of probiotics for months to come.
This supplement contains 5 different strains of probiotics, including three from the Bifidobacterium lactis genus. The recommendation of use for adults is to take 1 capsule per day during a meal, while intake for children must be prescribed by a healthcare professional. Past customers have praised the value for money of Blackmores’ probiotic. This product was clinically trialed.
Nature’s Way Restore Probiotic (30 capsules)
American brand Nature’s Way was born from the desire to reap all the benefits of what the Earth had to offer, and their Restore probiotic does just that. With 30 billion CFU of good bacteria that will support your digestive health, this supplement contains 3 different strains.
One of them, the Howaru Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, is particularly known for its contribution to your immune system’s health, specifically during travels or illnesses. Including 30 capsules per pack, the safety of this product was clinically tested.
Swisse Ultiboost Inner Balance Probiotic (30 capsules)
Melbourne-based company Swisse specialises in vitamins and supplements tailored for our overall well-being, and their Ultiboost line includes everything you need from liver detox to these Inner Balance probiotics. With an incredible 35 billion CFU of good bacteria, you’re sure to reap all the benefits of this supplement.
It contains 3 different strains, with the Danisco Howaru bifido being particularly useful to boost your body’s natural defences. According to the manufacturer, this product is suitable for vegan and gluten-intolerant individuals. It must be stored in the refrigerator once opened. Clinically tested.
BSC Probiotic Kombucha (60 capsules)
Body Science is an Australian-owned fitness and nutrition brand based in Queensland, where they have been operating since 2002. This supplement isn’t just another probiotic, as one of its key ingredients is actually kombucha. This fermented tea-based drink is thought to have several beneficial effects for our health, and in particular that of our gut.
Combined with 10 billion FCU of Lactobacillus acidophilus, it is ideal to detoxify your body and improve your digestion, amongst other benefits. This product is vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Note that it is recommended to take 2 capsules per day.
Probiotic Bone Broth Concentrate (350 grams)
This probiotic concentrate is a little different from other products on this list. Developed by New South Wales company Best of the Bone, this supplement is a bone broth; broth is obtained by boiling animal bones and connective tissues with herbs and/or spices to take advantage of the collagen, minerals and amino acids found in them.
This particular product includes ingredients with 8 different probiotic strains, and is made with 100% grass-fed Australian cattle. Its health benefits include improved digestion, muscle building and stress relief. It is naturally not vegan-friendly and contains vegetable sweetener.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about probiotics
We immediately think of diseases upon hearing the terms “bacteria” and “microorganisms”. In reality, however, many microbes are part of our flora if we are healthy, and they offer great benefits to our health. We can heal our flora – also called microbiata – with probiotics supplements if it is dying.
What are probiotics exactly?
Probiotics are often mistaken for what we call prebiotic supplements, which are non-living compounds that help or contribute to the creation of an environment suitable for the growth of a healthy microbiota. Your normal flora receives energy from these carbohydrate compounds.
What are the criteria of probiotic supplements?
- Scientific evidence: Recognised scientific studies must have clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of probiotics.
- Safety: Under no circumstances should the probiotic’s microorganisms become aggressive and lead to infections in a healthy individual.
- Vitality: Any probiotic bacteria or yeast must remain alive once encapsulated.
- Survival: At least half of the probiotic’s microorganisms must survive the ingestion, digestion or application of the product to arrive alive at their destination.
- Stability: The microscopic organisms contained found in the product must stay alive once packed, and remain active until past the expiration date of the probiotic.
- Appropriate strain: Several strains or subtypes further divided each bacterial species – like different members of the same family. You’ll need to choose the active strain most beneficial to you, like for example strain 431 of the L. casei species (L. casei 431®).
- Labelling: The label with all information regarding the probiotic should be clearly visible, easily readable and understandable.
Probiotic use having gained in popularity, many pharmaceutical laboratories have developed new strains that supposedly present wonderful benefits. Unfortunately, most of these bacteria don’t meet the standards of quality probiotics. Always inform yourself carefully on a specific product before buying it.
What are the benefits of using probiotics?
- Lighter and faster digestion
- Decrease in flatulence
- Improvement of intestinal transit
- Reduction of abdominal girth
- Normalisation of body weight and blood cholesterol levels
- Lower incidence of infections
- Lower incidence of allergic reactions
- General improvement of symptoms of anxiousness
- Increased levels of folic acid, cyanocobalamin and vitamin K
- Increased fertility (in women)
- Reduced pain associated with menstruation (in women)
Using probiotic supplements containing several bacterial species can help you improve your overall quality of life. On the other hand, we encourage you to opt for probiotics with specific strains if you want to address more concrete issues. There are for example products on the market that target weight loss or building defences against infection.
What are the different types of probiotics?
|Symptom to treat||Recommended probiotics (bacteria and strain)|
|Acute diarrhea (associated with gastroenteritis)||Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938, Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-7454 and Lactobacillus gasseri CP2305|
|Diarrhoea (following medication use)||Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-745|
|Heartburn (Helicobacter pylori infection)||Lactobacillus johnsonii LA1 and Lactobacillus gasseri OLL2716|
|Constipation||Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938, Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Propionibacterium freudenreichii CIRM-BIA 129 and Lactobacillus gasseri CP2305|
|Irritable bowel syndrome||Lactobacillus acidophilus AD031, Lactobacillus acidophilus SDC 2012,2013, Lactobacillus casei DG, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v and Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001|
|Common cold and viral infections||Lactobacillus casei Shirota and Streptococcus salivarius K12|
|Cavities and gum problems||Streptococcus salivarius M18|
|Obesity and high cholesterol||Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17, Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 and Bifidobacterium animalis GCL2505|
|Symptoms of depression||Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001|
|Symptoms of anxiety||Lactobacillus gasseri CP2305, Lactobacillus rhamnosus NCC4007 and Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001|
You should know that this table is just a quick peek into the incredible world of probiotics. Consulting your healthcare provider is the best way to choose the right supplement when you’re looking to treat more specific problems like menstrual disturbances, diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease.
How should I take my probiotic supplement?
- When? You can take it at any time. We recommend taking your supplement half an hour before your meal if its goal is to improve your digestion.
- How? You can simply take your probiotic with food or water. Avoid taking it with acidic foods or very hot liquids, as both acid and heat can destroy its microorganisms.
- How much? The dosage of each specific probiotic must be clearly stated on its label. The general recommendation for first-time users of probiotics is 15 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU).
Takin medication while supplementing with probiotics can be a bit of a challenge. You should be aware that the bactericidal substance present in antibiotics is harmful to probiotic microorganisms. We strongly suggest you wait at least two hours between taking your medicine and your probiotic.
How should I preserve my probiotic supplement?
On a similar note, don’t overlook the expiration date of your supplement. Although you have more flexibility with the expiration date of inert elements (such as minerals or vitamins), it is not the case with probiotics. They are only effective as long as they are alive, which is not very long after their expiration date.
What are the side effects of probiotics?
There have been some rare cases where probiotics generated severe infections. This unusual complication appears in individuals affected by some type of immune deficit or with an underdeveloped immune system. On the other hand, generally healthy people are unlikely to suffer any complications from the use of probiotics.
What are the contraindications of probiotics?
- Immunosuppressed individuals: Probiotic use is contraindicated in the case of immunosuppression caused by HIV infection, transplants or genetic alterations. This is because sepsis – a severe infection that spreads throughout the body – may be triggered by the microorganisms.
- Babies: Some probiotics are specifically designed to relieve diarrhoea in infants. However, there have been isolated cases of sepsis reported in critically-ill neonates. This is why probiotic use in children must be closely monitored by their paediatrician.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: While you can find products tailored for pregnant women, we generally recommend consulting your doctor or midwife before adding any supplements to your diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with aortic valve implantation: Studies have found evidence of endocarditis (a severe infection affecting the heart) induced by the colonisation of artificial valves by probiotic microorganisms. People undergoing cardiac surgery should use these products with great caution.
While infections resulting from probiotic use are rare, their consequences (sepsis, endocarditis and fungal invasion) are potentially serious. Regular monitoring from your doctor and choosing strains presenting expert-confirmed effectiveness will help you avoid any such complication.
How much do probiotic supplements cost?
You have to know that several other factors will also determine the cost of probiotics; it will be increased by aspects such as the quality of the packaging or the use of vegan capsules. Certain manufacturers use exclusive strains that are developed in their own laboratories, therefore selling their products at steeper prices.
What is the microbiota?
According to several scientific studies, the development of the microbiota begins in the hours following birth. During labour, the child comes into contact with the maternal flora and certain microorganisms found in his external environment. These yeasts and bacteria colonise the newborn, leading to the growth of a unique and personal microbiota.
The microbiota settles on the mucosal and surfaces that are in contact with the external environment, hence forming the following microbiota: cutaneous, intestinal, vaginal oral and ocular. The intestinal flora affects the well-being of your entire organism, which is why it is considered particularly interesting for supplementing.
Which microorganisms make up the normal intestinal microbiota?
- Firmicutes: This phylum makes up to 70% of all microorganisms of our normal microbiota. It includes the Lactobacillus bacteria, the most well-known of which is the Lactobacillus casei (L-casei immunitas).
- Bacteroidetes: They represent 20% of our normal flora. The best-known bacteria of this phylum belong to the Bacteroides genus (Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides ovatus and Bacteroides dorei).
- Actinobacteria: While the proportion of this division is much smaller (5%) than other phyla, we find inside it the vital Bifidobacteria (“active Bifidus”).
For instance, studies have demonstrated that the proportion of Firmicutes is above average in individuals suffering from obesity. Experts have therefore come to the conclusion that not only the total amount of microbes but also the proportion of these phyla gives our intestinal microbiota the capacity to regulate our metabolism.
What are the functions of the intestinal microbiota?
- Defence against harmful bacteria (pathogens): It prevents or hinders the gastrointestinal system’s colonisation by pathogenic bacteria that can lead to infections.
- Regulation of immunity and inflammation: Bacterial species of our flora can regulate the body’s immune reaction, which attenuates the inflammatory response and prevents potential intolerance and allergies.
- Metabolism and digestion: Bacteria of the intestinal microbiota allow some compounds present in food – like starches – to be digested by human beings. Our flora also plays a role in the synthesis of compounds that are essential for us, such as biotin, folic acid and vitamin K.
- Interaction with medicine and toxins: The flora can alter the function or completely deactivate certain medicines and toxic substances.
- Neuromodulation (“brain-gut-microbiome” axis): The complex neuronal network of our intestine is in direct contact with our brain. This relationship is influenced by the microbiota, which regulates the production of chemicals essential to the normal functioning of our nervous system.
You need to have a diverse flora if you want all these processes to occur. Each phylum has one or several different roles to play in balance with the rest of the microbiota.
The table below illustrates the most relevant effects of the main microbial bacteria:
|Bacteroides fragilis||Bacteroidetes||Defence against harmful bacteria|
|Bacteroides melaninogenicus||Bacteroidetes||Defence against harmful bacteria|
|Bacteroides oralis||Bacteroidetes||Defence against harmful bacteria, metabolism and digestion|
|Bifidobacterium bifidum||Actinobacteria||Defence against harmful bacteria, regulation of immunity and inflammation, metabolism and digestion|
|Lactobacillus||Firmicutes||Defence against harmful bacteria, metabolism, digestion and neuromodulation|
|Prevotella||Bacteroidetes||Defence against harmful bacteria, metabolism and digestion|
What factors affect the composition of our intestinal microbiota?
- Anatomy: The condition of the digestive tract (such as the alterations in the bile or gastric acid production) defines which type of bacteria will become part of the normal microbiota
- Genetics: Individuals from the same family have shown similar microbiota; this is particularly true for twin siblings.
- Age: Children have a less diverse flora. New species of bacteria become part of our intestinal microbiota over the course of our life.
- Diet: Extreme dieting – like strictly vegan or carnivore diets – will lead to the disappearance of certain species generally present in the flora of individuals with a varied diet. The condition of your intestinal bacteria is also negatively impacted by the use of sweeteners.
- Medication: As mentioned before, the indiscriminate intake of antibiotics can destroy a great part of your flora.
- Toxins: Tobacco is responsible for several changes in the variability of normal flora.
- Stress, anxiety and depression: Changes in the microbiota may accompany emotional stress and other mental alterations. There is a debate as to whether microbiota alterations are a cause or a consequence of emotional distress.
The farther away your flora composition is from standard levels, the more likely you are to face long-term metabolic imbalances. An excessive increase in Bacteroides fragilis may for example lead this a priori harmless microorganism to become pathogenic, potentially leading to infections like appendicitis.
We want to remind you once more of the great importance diet plays for your health. If your diet is inadequate and composed of much fats, sugars and sweeteners, the proportion and overall quantity of the different populations of your flora will be altered, which may indeed contribute to the appearance of various conditions.
What are the consequences of an imbalance of the intestinal microbiota?
- Changes in digestion: You may have difficulties digesting certain compounds, such as fibres. This supports the onset of abdominal discomfort, constipation, diarrhoea, and flatulence.
- Overweight and obesity: Experts have observed that diets rich in fat and sugar cause an increase in bacterial levels of the Bacteroidetes phylum. By boosting fat absorption, these bacteria contribute to the appearance of overweight, obesity, hypertension and a rise in blood cholesterol levels.
- Infections of the digestive tract: Intestinal dysbiosis promotes the development of pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria. Generally harmless, these microorganisms take profit of your weak defences to become aggressive, potentially causing gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and even colitis.
- Inflammation: Studies have demonstrated that microbiota imbalance can provoke to persistant inflammation. This can lead to unpleasant consequences like flatulence and abdominal swelling; other more serious repercussions have also been witnessed, such as increased incidence of colon cancer.
- Nervous system disorders: Dysbiosis can produce changes in the brain-gut-microbiome axis, causing and promoting various conditions affecting the nervous system (e.g., anxiety, depression and insomnia).
For decades, we have underestimated how important our intestinal bacteria was to our health, and misuse of certain antibiotic treatments was frequent. This has favoured the appearance of dysbiosis and its consequent emerging diseases: obesity, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.
How can I boost the growth of my intestinal microbiota?
- Balanced diet: Experts have noted that a diet low in fats and sugars helps the development of a balanced flora, with omnivorous diets also being recommended. On the other hand, individuals with strict vegan, vegetarian or carnivore diet should be more careful in maintaining their intestinal microbiota in good health.
- Avoiding sweeteners and polyols: Nowadays, many people want to decrease their free sugar intake by adding sweeteners like stevia or sucrose to their diet. However, the development of intestinal dysbiosis has been associated with such products; sugar and sweetener-free diets are considered much healthier.
- Increasing fermented food and fibre consumption: The growth of many microbiota species is promoted by fibres. Fermented products – like yoghurt, kefir, miso and kimchi – contain microorganisms beneficial to your health and that can strengthen your intestinal microbiota once ingested.
- Quitting alcohol, tobacco and other toxins: It has been demonstrated that these toxic substances can alter and destroy your flora. As you know, you will reap benefits that go well beyond your intestinal well-being if you give them up.
- Adopting an eat-rest-exercise routine: Having a regular eating schedule also favours your flora’s balance. Sleeping and exercising regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle creates an environment favourable for the growth of your microbiota.
- Only using medically-prescripted drugs: Alterations in your microbiota’s balance can be caused by antibiotics, and to a lesser extent other medications like anticonvulsants and neuroleptics. You must always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medication.
The use of a probiotic is recommended if the measures listed above fail or if you are sure that your microbiota will be irreversibly destroyed; the latter may for example be the case if you need to take a very potent antibiotic treatment. In the section below, you’ll find out more about these supplements capable of reviving your intestinal microbiota.
It isn’t easy choosing the right probiotic for your needs, but worry not: after having read the first part of our article, you should be able to know which probiotic strain is the most suitable for you. Let’s now move on to learning more about the shopping criteria, which will be key in your final decision:
- Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
- Intolerances and allergies
- Number of microbial species
- Quantity of CFU
- Value for money
Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
The substrate of most probiotics is of animal origin, while the development of these microbes is generally favoured by the use of milk or milk-based products. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, we therefore encourage you to search for supplements featuring a small vegan seal; this will guarantee you that the product is made entirely from plant sources.
In that regard, the composition of the capsule will also be relevant. Vegan and vegetarian individuals cannot take tablets made from gelatine, as this material is synthesised from animal-based collagen. The good news is that you can now find vegan capsules made from cellulose.
Intolerances and allergies
Factories where probiotics are manufactured may use gluten, lactose, fish or nuts. You must search for a supplement with a label clearly stating the absence of these allergens if you present intolerances to any such product. Consult your doctor immediately if any unexpected symptoms occur while taking probiotics.
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Learning how much influence our gut health has on our mental health has been life changing for me. For so long I looked at Mental Heath completely wrong! In school I was taught a MH diagnosis was a death sentence that was incurable and only somewhat manageable. However, science is discovering more and more everyday how influential and detrimental our gut is to our mental health! . . Not only do gut microbes have neurotransmitters that allow them to communicate with our central nervous system (CNS), but they’re perfectly positioned in our GI tract (which is barely separated from your immune system cells) to gather and receive information from our brains -95% of our serotonin is made in our GI track- This means that our gut microbes know the very moment we feel stressed (and exactly how stressed we are), happy, anxious, frustrated, excited, nervous, or angry. In other words, what starts out as a thought in the brain creates a feeling or emotion that travels straight to our gut. Similarly, Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS) triggering mood changes. . . When our gut is healthy, the lines of communication between our gut and brain will also function properly. Adequate serotonin is produced, the correct hunger and satiety signals are sent to and from our brain, proper nutrients are synthesized, and so on. As a result, we’ll feel energized, calm, and experience an overall greater sense of well being. This could also help us respond to mental stress better. That consistent, “happy for no reason” feeling? That’s a sign of good gut health. . . However, certain factors present in our diet and lifestyle can harm our gut bacteria, suppress serotonin production, and completely “change” the communication between our gut and brain, which is when depression, anxiety, and other waves of difficult emotion arise! . . #brickell #holistictherapy #guthealth #mentalhealth #selflove #selfcare #holistichealing #health #healing #glutenfree #anxiety #holistichealth #depression #motivation #nutrition #holisticliving #microbiome #cleaneating #probiotics #healthyeating #fermentation #plantbased
Number of microbial species
In one probiotic capsule, you may find a single bacterial species (like Bifidobacterium animalis) or several genera (e.g., Bifidobacterium animalis and different Lactobacillus species). Paradoxically, certain studies have shown that using a single bacterium is the most effective strategy.
Probiotics that contain several bacterial species are more efficient if you want to prevent potential infections; on the other, we recommend you to look for specific strains if you have a more precise goal in mind. Using Bifidobacterium animalis is for instance more effective at treating obesity than taking another product with different bacterial species.
As we mentioned earlier, these supplements are particularly delicate; this is why it is essential for you to carefully examine their packaging before buying them. Any damaged product should be thrown away, as its microorganisms may die or be weakened at the contact of air or light.
Quantity of CFU
Make sure the product you choose has the right amount of probiotic bacteria (measured in CFU). You’ll want to aim for supplements with the highest possible CFU quantity – between 10 and 15 billion – to ensure its effectiveness. This is because a certain percentage of these microorganisms will ie during packaging and ingestion.
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Value for money
Most products that you’ll find on the Australian market will contain at least thirty (30) capsules or tablets. Studies have shown that that the positive effects of probiotics generally appear after about a month of use; we encourage you to purchase larger quantities that allow you to use probiotics for a minimum of two continuous months.
As you now know, your quality of life will be improved by the use of probiotics as part of a healthy diet. These microorganisms help strengthen your defences while soothing gastrointestinal distress. If you’re already caring for your external appearance through cosmetics and fitness, what’s stopping you from supplementing with probiotics to strengthen your inner health?
Yes, preserving these products is much more complex than other supplements like vitamins or minerals. However, their benefits to your health outclass most other similar products available on the market. So join in the craze and reap all the benefits of probiotics!
We hope you found our guide on probiotics useful. We’d love to hear what you think, and feel free to share our article on your social media!
(Source of featured image: Zidar: 32277956/ 123rf.com)