Probiotics: What the Research Says (Part 1)

Following news that supplements stocked at reputable stores, such as Target and GNC, are not what they appear to, it seems impossible to know what supplements, vitamins, herbs, and extracts should stay in our medicine cabinets. That brings us to the illusive probiotic; the purported benefits of probiotics were quickly swept up in popular media, but there is no clear consensus on its supplemental effects. Shelves feature endless varieties with combinations of different bacteria strains—leaving us to guess, pick the variety on sale, or simply walk away in frustration.

confusion

Before picking the right brand, it is important to know what a probiotic is. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes probiotics as “organisms and substances which contribute to intestinal microbial balance.” Probiotic bacterium come in a variety of strains. One of the most common strains is Lactobacilli, commonly advertised on fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir.

Who-logo

Probiotics have been shown to decrease intestinal discomfort, improve blood lipid levels, delay aging, and prevent tumors. These benefits only occur if the probiotic bacteria can survive the acidic pH of the stomach. Thus, about seventy to eighty percent of the probiotics on the market today are not as beneficial as they claim.

Although the benefits of probiotics are supported, the credibility of many supplement brands is not. Supplement makers often combine probiotic strains randomly, without research or reason, and then tout that their brand contains ten probiotic strains, whereas another brand may only contain eight. To us, this sounds promising. More strains must mean increased health benefits, yet the opposite can be true. In certain combinations, probiotics can be antagonistic to one another and there is little research on the benefits of these combinations.

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

When Silver Fern Brand contacted me about their new probiotic line, I was intrigued. Their probiotic supplement is unique in the ingredients and, according to my research, sounds promising! The supplement includes prebiotic fiber, which is critical for an efficacious probiotic supplement…learn more about prebiotics and my review of the Silver Fern Brand supplement and probiotic drink mixes in part 2!

Have you tried a probiotic supplement? What do you think of taking supplements?

Hannah

2 Comments

  1. I’ve never had discomfort, but have heard troubling things. That antibiotics destroy the natural “flora and fauna ” in your body that are important to immune system. Also, that obese people have fewer strains , and they don’t know why.

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