All Probiotics Are NOT Created Equal

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If you’re looking to be healthier and avoid the doctor’s office, eat foods naturally rich in probiotics like raw dairy such as fermented vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream and kefir.

It may also be important to find a good daily probiotic supplement to take if you have had health challenges for sometime and/or have been eating a diet with a lot of processed foods.

If you are not getting appropriate amounts of healthy bacteria along with proper diet, rest, and stress relief. your body is much more vulnerable to illness and chronic disease.

Your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. The most integral component of the immune system is healthy bacteria, or probiotics.

The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%.  Since we have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, this balance is actually quite challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet which consists of many processed foods that are devoid of nutrients, enzymes, and good bacteria.

Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. These living bacterial microorganisms are essential in assisting the body’s naturally occuring flora to repopulate themselves. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we seldom stop to think what those medications are actually doing to the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes any viruses as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain.

Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to avoid serious diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.

The best way to obtain probiotics from good, healthy sources is to eat or drink raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (not usually the store-bought variety – check labels as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay).

There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on preparing vegetables this way, read Getting the Most out of Your Vegetables. Read more about the lacto-fermenetation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress (sound familiar?).

The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these categories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and care must be used when choosing the appropriate type for your body. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a health care practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.

Where to find effective probiotics

Here is a list of superior probiotic products I’ve used and recommend to clients that will improve your health. It is important to determine that the product you are buying works because many probiotic supplement products on the market do not deliver the promises they claim on the label. And worse, some products are actually derived from toxic ingredients or include genetically-modified substances.

These are therapeutic, professional grade products. They cost more than many brands you will find in grocery or health food stores, but their potency is guaranteed and worth the money spent:

  • GUTPro – organically-produced probiotics, safe for GAPS, SCD, gluten-free, Body Ecology, and PANDAS, and those with autism.
  • GUTZyme – by same company that makes GUTPro, GUTZyme is a new product which contains Pepsin Plus Enzymes and HCL (hydrochloric acid) for better digestive support.
  • Enzyme Formulations – I have been using this product for almost a year, and it is excellent. It is in powder form which means it works fast, and contains over 20 billion count of various bacteria as shown on the label. It contains and you must have a relationship with a healthcare practitioner to buy this product. See this link to find a practitioner.
  • Prescript-Assist from SaferMedical. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results. This product is particularly useful for those taking antibiotics, or those who have been on long term doses of antibiotics. A soil-based probiotic/probiotic containing 30 plus soil based, pH-resistant micro flora.
  • Custom probiotics – powerful probiotics with a variety of product offerings, quality single and multi-strain Acidophilus and Bifidus dietary supplements, for children and adults.
  • Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.

A word about yogurt

Most grocery store yogurt falls short of delivering the health benefits we are told it does by health professionals. Even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package.

Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.

Here is a list of reasons why commercial yogurt falls short of good bacteria counts:

  1. 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. So instead of adding to the good bacteria, the sugar content is simply causing your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria.
  2. Many commercial yogurts are low-fat. You want full-fat yogurt to obtain the maximum probiotic benefit of the yogurt you eat. When fats are removed from foods, it lowers their total nutritional value since many of the available nutrients are in the fat (fat-soluble vitamins), and that will also diminish the probiotic activity of the yogurt since it is no longer a whole food.
  3. Store bought yogurt has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization kills most good bacteria, enzymes, and microbes, thus rendering the yogurt much less potent in good bacteria to help your digestive tract.
  4. Commercial yogurts are generally cultured for a fairly short period of time – usually less than 8 hours. Many times, the yogurt has had some type of thickening agent to give it the same consistency as real yogurt (horrors!). Home made yogurt usually has more probiotics, especially because you can culture it for as long as you want. It will also be more tart due to the lactic acid which means the bacteria counts are higher and more beneficial. Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride who wrote Gut and Psychology Syndrome suggests creating your own yogurt at home and fermenting for 24 hours. This uses up most of the lactose – a sugar which naturally occurs in milk – and allows for more cultures to be grown.
  5. When you make your own yogurt, you have complete control over the milk you use. The best type of milk to use is raw milk from a healthy source where cows are on pasture grazing, and no antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed, nor pesticide or herbicides are used.

Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health results are worth it. Here is a recipe for making homemade yogurt that leaves good bacteria intact.It’s really much easier than many people would imagine, can turn out exceptionally delicious, and the health benefits it confers are fantastic!

Remember that while commercial companies that sell yogurt and other products are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reliable companies working to improve people’s health and have used studies and research to back up their claims, while the others are not presenting the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products – nor the manner in which they are produced – and use marketing lingo to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should clearly reveal the quality of ingredients.

Resolution for allergies

Along with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, including foods and quality supplements with probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies of many kinds. A great deal of practitioners and individuals alike agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to greatly reducing and eliminating allergies.

Many people hold the belief that that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens”, but this is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always a weakened immune system. A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.

What are prebiotics?

A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:

  • raw dairy products from healthy cows on pasture
  • inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:

fruits – apples and bananas

sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks

raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and grapeseed oil

herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root

Additional reading on probiotics and prebiotics:

Body Ecology

The amazing health benefits of fermented & cultured beverages & foods

19 Comments

  • Regina
    August 25, 2010 - 10:16 AM | Permalink

    Great article. I agree, but I wanted to add that although my families diet is good, I always felt that it’s not good enough so I was excited to finally find a Certified Organic Probiotic Superfood that my family can use everyday! I am convinced that along with the WPF “diet”, the Certified Organic Probiotic Superfood keeps my family healthy. We haven’t had a cold or any other ailment, even with an infant and school age child in the home. They even have a GF option. I buy it from http://healthquestmd.mionegroup.com/en/category/5

    Regina

  • Howard
    November 5, 2010 - 9:25 AM | Permalink

    It’s important to remember that stomach acid will destroy most probiotics, so it’s necessary to have enteric coated tablets so the little buddies can be delivered intact alive to the small intestine where they do their work. The advantage to eating fermented foods isn’t so much the probiotics, which again, most are destroyed by stomach acid, but the fact that our lacto friends help to “pre-digest” difficult to digest fibrous foods. Though I’ve never heard of it done, it may be better to deliver guaranteed living probiotics via a syringe directly into the intestines, thereby bypassing the stomach. Being I’m not fond of needles, I’ll stick with enteric caplets! Thanks for sourcing products for us.

  • November 5, 2010 - 3:23 PM | Permalink

    Hi Howard – I have heard from many different sources that tablets must be enteric coated to make it to the small intestine, and yet it makes me wonder – how do the probiotics from foods like yogurt and other cultured foods manage to get down there without being destroyed? It must have something to do with the digestive enzymes in the foods being consumed, because I know those bacteria don’t have enteric coating.

    I suppose when you start getting into supplements, you have to have a different design to make sure the delivery is secure. As far as I know, the brands I listed are superior in quality and are therapeutic grade, so not health food store grade, which are often questionable as to quality and standarization. I’ve never thought injecting something into our bodies would be preferable than absorbing it through the skin or consuming it, especially if that the way nature intended it to be sent.

    Hopefully if you try the brands I listed, you’ll find them to be very high quality. :)

    • Laurie Rivera
      June 16, 2013 - 1:10 PM | Permalink

      They don’t seem to get down there alive.

  • Barb
    March 15, 2011 - 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Great post Raine! I wanted to add that in my recent experience absolutely REQUIRING a total reculturing, I was looking at BioKult and RenewLife and chose the RenewLife critical care probiotic for a number of reasons. I was also searching for a good children’s probiotic and went with same same brand because so many of the children’s contain so much sugar and other things not necessary.

    There is a brand of cultured dairy products called Nancy’s that I favor when my options are limited or I need to buy cream cheese. Also, Kalona Supernatural (regional to me in WI) and Seven Stars are some other good sources for store bought yogurt.

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  • December 31, 2011 - 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Well done post, as always. I’ve got two out of the four of us consuming live culture foods every day, still working on the other two. May have to pick up some supplements to try this year, especially for my significant other.

    Happy New Year!

    Laurie

  • Linda
    March 8, 2012 - 4:57 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the great article Raine! Question on probiotics from fermented foods — is it possible to consume too much? I’ve been making my own yogurt with raw milk and brewing my own kombucha, eating sauerkraut, etc. Sometimes it feels like my internal organs are “itchy” and I’m wondering if it’s some kind of reaction? Do you need to drink more water when consuming more probiotics in order to flush everything out or does that matter?

    Thanks again!

  • March 8, 2012 - 5:15 PM | Permalink

    Linda – How long have you had the itchiness? It could be a detox reaction, everyone reacts differently to detox and some have very severe symptoms while others have more mild. You might try reducing your intake slightly of the fermented foods to see if you notice any difference. Maybe you are consuming more than your body can handle, and you need to work your way up slowly from a lesser amount to more, over a gradual period of time.

    Another possibility could be a yeast or candida overgrowth issue. Some people find that if their candida problem is acute, they need to hold off on fermented foods (both home-made as well as commercial varieties) until they get that issue under control. In that case, it may be advisable to stick with probiotic supplements only until you have reduced the yeast population in your body sufficiently.

    I have never heard that you can have too many probiotics, unless you are detoxing too quickly which could cause a reaction, and just need to reduce the amount for a period of time and slowly add more in as I mentioned above. It is especially true that we need a LOT of probiotics because we have trillions and trillions of cells in our bodies, and our world is so toxic in general, with a great deal of processing of our foods and environmental damage to everything we are exposed to…even being in contact with chlorinated water can destroy our gut flora, so I’d advise you to get as many probiotics in your body as you can. I hope that is helpful! :)

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  • LuAnn
    March 9, 2013 - 2:34 AM | Permalink

    Exceptional article. There’s just one point I am wrestling with, and that’s the statement about allergies being caused by repetitively eating the same food. There are plenty of examples of people and entire cultures that eat certain staples daily, or even at every meal. One example is the Japanese – they eat rice 3 times a day! I’ve never heard of anyone there developing a rice allergy. Can anyone comment on this?

  • March 12, 2013 - 10:18 AM | Permalink

    LuAnn – I should have elaborated, and that is repeated exposure to certain foods when digestive impairment is present is very common. You may have noticed how prevalent food allergies and intolerances are and are on the rise.

    Most people have digestive issues and many people are eating contaminated foods, and this is a perfect storm for food allergies/intolerance symptoms to occur. The best thing to do is to continue to use therapeutic grade probiotic doses daily, eat fermented foods, and repair the gut with a healing protocol such as Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s GAPS (from the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book) or some other such as SCD.

  • March 12, 2013 - 10:23 AM | Permalink

    Also, the Japanese have eaten traditional foods for thousands and thousands of years, which are healthy and life-supporting. However, in areas where there is a large incidence of people consuming processed foods in countries like Japan where formerly they ate real, traditionally-prepared foods, there is also a marked appearance of health issues and food allergies that previously weren’t there. This explains the reason why people who are still eating traditionally-prepared foods don’t experience food allergies or health issues, while those who have changed their diets to modern foods do experience issues.

    A similar phenomenon was observed in countries all over the world by Dr. Weston A. Price who traveled to various cultures and researched the effects of real, whole, traditional foods on human health and what happened when people departed from their native diets and began to eat processed, modern foods such as white flour, sugar, and vegetable oils.

  • Laurie Rivera
    June 16, 2013 - 1:04 PM | Permalink

    The most recent data I’ve read on probiotics is that most of the organisms don’t survive the stomach environment. It seems the best option is lots of prebiotic foods and a well encapsulated probiotic supplement that will be protected through the stomach environment and will thrive on the prebiotic food stuffs.

    Either that or a fecal transplant… and that’s pretty extreme.

    • Laurie Rivera
      June 16, 2013 - 1:41 PM | Permalink

      I should add too, that I believe soured and fermented foods are FAR more nutritious, but this is because of how the flora alters the food itself before it’s eaten.

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  • June 16, 2013 - 1:48 PM | Permalink

    Yes and that’s why I recommend the brands listed, and also that most of our probiotic content come from home-made fermented and cultured foods. However, with the data presented by medical professionals like Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride about the widespread digestive compromise so many have, it’s critical to eat fermented foods and take a therapeutic grade probiotic such as BioKult, Prescript Assist, Pharmax, or GUTPro to ensure gut healing and digestive/immune support.

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