- What are Probiotics
- Importance of Probiotics and gut flora
- What affects the composition and balance of gut flora
- Natural source of probiotics
- Probiotics supplements
5.1 Reading labels
5.2 Different strains of probiotics
5.4 Prebiotics and probiotics
- Common brands of probiotics supplements in Malaysia
I bet you have heard of them and at least have a vague idea that they are good for you.
But what exactly are they?
The official definition of probiotics:
live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host (1)
In layman terms, probiotics can be broadly defined as strains of microorganisms that support the health of the host in certain ways.
Probiotics are usually bacteria, but there is now a type of yeast that was found to be an effective probiotic.(2)
Though a bit unpleasant to think about, our body is literally covered in bacteria – bacteria in our body outnumber our body’s cells by 10 to 1 (for every one body cells, there are 10 microbes).
It’s true, and most of these bacteria reside in the intestinal tract and vagina, which are warm, moist, full of nutrients and open to environment.
But, there is no need to panic. Most of these microbes residing in us are quite harmless. In fact, the relationship between us human and bacteria is symbiotic: They need us to survive, and we need them to support certain essential metabolic function.
Collectively, the complex community of microorganisms residing in our intestinal system is called the gut flora
And the most important function of probiotics is to provide enough “good” bacteria to keep this gut flora in balance.
The gut flora is essential in the performance of many metabolic activities. Some even refer to the gut flora as “the forgotten organ”
One important function of the gut flora is to help us extract energy out of undigested carbohydrate in the gut. The intestinal bacteria also play an important role in the manufacturing of Vitamin K and some vitamin B. (3)
Now that we are aware of the importance of a balanced, healthy gut flora, let’s discuss some of the common causes that get your gut bacteria out-of-whack.
The most common cause is the use of antibiotics. We use antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria. Hence, the use of antibiotics (especially broad spectrum antibiotics like Augmentin and Cephalexin) will normally wipe out the “good” bacteria residing in the intestine and/or vagina.
– causing symptoms such as antibiotic-induced diarrhea and vaginal thrush.
The second most common cause is stress (14). An interesting study was done on rats to examine the effect of stress on gut flora. In this study, genetically identical rats were divided into two groups. All the rats lived under identical environment and were fed with same standardized food. One group however, was regularly stressed.
Examination of their poop revealed that the group under stress has significantly different gut microflora. – which means that stress alone can disrupt your intestinal flora.
Some other common causes that get your gut flora out of whack are high sugar diet, low soluble fibre diet, exposure to toxic food, and poor digestion (low stomach acid or issues with bile secretion)
Probiotics are what you need if you have a disrupted gut flora.
But where can you get your probiotics from?
The short answer is yes.
It’s a healthy and less expensive alternative to taking probiotics supplements.
And you can get most of your probiotics naturally from ** fermented foods **
Way back before refrigeration and pasteurisation became common, the only way to preserve food was to ferment it – using bacterial fermentation techniques.
Fermentation allows food to be stored for a longer time – via natural defence mechanism of lactic acid producing bacteria.(15) Fermentation also helps to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in foods – making these foods more readily disgestible.
Probiotics supplements are another good source of probiotics. There are many different brands of probiotics available in Malaysian pharmacies.
The question is: with so many of them, all with different ingredients and potency, how do you choose?
Here’s some quick tips on how to read the label
Important information that should be labelled on every probiotics supplements:
- Genus and species – For eg. Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Different types of probiotics seem to have different functions (more on that later)
- Number of organisms contained in a single dose. Note that the number listed is not necessarily the number of bacteria that you will get in each dose. A good portion of them are not viable and therefore are of no use to you. Nevertheless, it still gives you an idea when comparing different probiotics products.
- Storage information – Very important. Some brands require refrigeration and some need to be stored in a dark, cool place. Remember, we want to keep those bacteria in the capsules to be alive.
- product form – What forms are these probiotics presented? Ensure that the tablets are in capsule form or use some controlled-release technology. We want the probiotics to culture in our intestine, which means that the capsules will have to survive the acidic environment in the stomach first.
Different types of probiotics have different types of function. Common probiotics sold in Malaysia can be roughly categorised into two genuses: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
Most popular species of probiotics. You can find them in most of the popular probiotics sold here in Malaysia.
It helps with overall digestion, improves nutrient absorption, relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, enhances immune health, and improves urinary and vaginal health in women
1. Part of general supplement for the whole body
2. Supplementation after using a course of antibiotics
3. People with poor digestive system
4. To prevent recurrence of Urinary Tract infection or vaginal thrush
5. To prevent traveller’s diarrhea
Most known for its ability to survive passage through the acidic GI environment. The best Lactobacillus strain for women’s vaginal health. Studies also revealed that it helps to reduce incidence of traveller’s diarrhea (17,18)
1. Prevent recurrence of urinary tract infection or vaginal thrush
2. Prevent traveller’s diarrhea
Unique probiotic strain in which they can survive in less than ideal conditions (high in salts, low oxygen etc)- such as in the oral cavities. (19)
1. Improving oral health and prevention of bad breath
2. Enhancement of general immune system
This strain of probiotic is known for its ability to produce hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide helps to defend body system against bacteria consumed in food.
Good for immune support, as well as healthy digestive system
Unique probiotics strain that helps to support liver function and may help to decrease cholesterol levels. (20)
Adheres to the intestinal mucosa better than any other bacterial strains.
Helps to promote healthy balance of the gut flora and also helps to produce enzymes that breakdown carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
1. Digestive health
2. General supplement for immune support
3. prevent travellers diarrhea
Another common probiotic strain found in supplements. It possesses anti-oxidant properties which makes it good for neutralisation of every day toxin found in the digestive system.
Are the ones kept in the fridge better than the ones on the shelve?
Technology advancement has made possible to allow probiotics to be stable even at room temperature.
Can I take probiotics with antibiotics
Yes! In fact, you should.
Some doctors do not recommend doing so because the antibiotics will kill the probiotics anyway – It is true, but if you do not replenish the gut flora with the “good” bacteria, chances are the space will be quickly filled by fast-growing Candida (thrush causing yeast). Probiotics supplementation during antibiotics treatment will also reduce incidence of diarrhea.
To reduce the effect of antibiotics on probiotics, take your probiotics at least 2 hours apart from your antibiotics.
Can I take my probiotics supplement with coffee/tea?
Probiotics are very sensitive to heat (remember?). Heat will destroy some of the probiotics so DON’T take your probiotics with any hot food/beverage.
When is the best time to take probiotics supplements
Different manufacturers seem to have different instructions printed on the label. So it is best to follow the instructions printed on the label.
However, if there is no information provided, you should:
Take probiotics supplements before/with breakfast.
Remember the whole point of having probiotics supplements is to make sure those “good” bacteria survive and start multiplying in the INTESTINE – so the key to achieving that is to
(1) Increase the chance for the probiotics to survive the acidic environment in the stomach. – Research has found that stomach acidity is naturally at pH4 or higher at this time
(2) Provide enough nutrients for these “good” bacteria to multiply. The non-digestible fibre compound in breakfast will help stimulate the growth of these “probiotics” 21
You will often find a probiotic supplement that comes with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are not to be confused with probiotics. Prebiotics are substances that induce the growth of probiotics. They are typically non-digestible fiber compounds that pass undigested through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the activity of probiotics in the intestine. (21)
The most common prebiotics here in Malaysia is Fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Generally, using a prebiotics will amplify the effects of probiotics.
Contains 20 billion cfu of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG per capsule. Lacto-GG is the human probiotic strain with the most scientific and clinical research in the world.
It is often used as a general supplement to improve gut health, immune system, liver health. Some other benefits include reducing the chance of baby becoming allergic to substances such as peanuts. Also, it claims to reduce symptoms of allergic conditions such as eczema and asthma and protects against obesity.
Dosage: for Babies and children, take half to one capsule daily and for adults, one capsule daily
cfu is short for colony forming unit
You can find Lacto-GG at the very best price here
Probiotics supplement that provides the most strains in Malaysia.
Contains 16 strains of different probiotics together with prebiotics (in the form of FOS). It is good as a general daily supplement to help improve gut health, immune health and liver health.
Each capsule contains 15 billion CFU of probiotics.
Dosage: Take 2 capsules daily with milk or water before breakfast. After 2 weeks, reduce to 1 capsule daily or as directed by your health professional.
Best Price – Get GI Flora Plus here
Bio-life multistrain Probiotix
Marketed primarily as a supplement to help improve allergic conditions such as eczema. Contains five strains of probiotics.
Each capsule contains 5 billion CFU of probiotics
For adults, take 2 capsules once daily half an hour before food
For children, take 1 capsule once daily half an hour before food
Get Bio-life multistrain Probiotix here
Locally derived probiotics – sourced locally in Malaysia. The theory behind having locally sourced probiotics is that the local strains adapt better to Malaysian diet.
Lacto-5 contains 5 different strains of probiotics, and each capsule contains 10 billion CFU of probiotics.
For treatment purpose: 2 Vegicaps twice daily after meals
For normal supplement: 1 Vegicap once daily
Get Lacto-5 here
Other brands of probiotics:
3 different strains – for general supplementation
2 billion CFU per cap
Get Biogrow Probiotics here
Combination of 7 strains of probiotics -for general supplementation
5 billion CFU per cap
Get Bio-life Advanced Multiblend Probiotix here
Contains 2 specific probiotic strains – for women’s vaginal and urinary tract health
5 billion CFU per cap
Get Bio-life Proutix here
contains 10 billion CFU of Lactobacillus plantarum per capsule
Marketed specifically to help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Get Bio-Life probi.LP299V here
7 different probiotic strains and Inulin as prebiotics – for general health supplementation (Digestive, liver and immune system)
Each capsule contains 5 billion CFU of probiotics.
A multivitamins+multiminerals+probiotics supplement. Each tablet contains 10 million CFU of probiotics. (3 different strains of probiotics).
Note: this is a probiotic supplement in tablet form. The probiotics are said to be protected with a 3-layered gastro-protective coating
Get Bion 3 Probiotic Multivitamins here
4 probiotic strains with Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) as prebiotics. It uses a calciuim-protected formulation to ensure delivery of viable “good” bacteria.
It is marketed for improving digestive health and each capsule contains 6 billion CFU.
Get Natural Factors Cal’dophilus here
Probiotics in powder form. Contains 2 strains of probiotics and Inulin-oligofructose as prebiotics. It is generally used to help improve digestive health. Each sachet gives you 10 billion CFU of probiotics.
Get Bio-life A.B. Adult Gold Pre & Pro here
What do you think about probiotics? Have you ever tried any probiotic supplements before? How did it go for you?
Leave a comment and tell us what you think.