Are Probiotics Effective?

SR: There must be at least 500+ people that come to this site per week and view the posts. Every one of them has probably tried at least ONE probiotic — you would think so at least? I think the NON responsiveness speaks for itself in reality. In my opinion, after over 10+ years of this crap, the reality is that 90 + % of probiotics truly do little to NO good at all. Although the giant health food industry wants to force us to believe otherwise. That still leaves an approximate 10 % chance of finding some good probiotics… Right ?… I think many people have worked on themselves to the point that complete healing is just within their reach, but the probiotics that have been made available to them are useless and/or too weak. Now comes the hard part — finding which probiotics are truly worth buying, due to their actually being able to bring about cures on their own along with our faith in them as well.

Polly: These are some reasons that I think probiotics have been such a disappointment for many people:

1) Most products only contain a few billion microorganisms of the normal resident flora in each capsule. When taken orally, very little of these are going to make it to the colon. To get an effective oral dose, higher count products are often needed. (30 billion to 500 billion microorganisms) Very few products contain this much in each pill. (However, soil-based products are a different story. Only a few billion of the soil-based microorganisms are needed to make a noticeable difference.)

2) A fair number of companies do NOT take proper care of their product. By time you get the product, most of the microorganisms may be dead. Be highly suspicious if a company claims that their product does not have to be refrigerated. You may be buying zero live bacteria.

3) Preparing the environment is important. I read of one case where the high doses didn’t help until after colonics were administered. Most doctors prefer to first do the groundwork of diet, hormones, cleansing, antifungals, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and nutrients before adding in the probiotics. There are studies using VSL probiotics showing that they keep Crohns and Colitis in remission. But the VSL probiotics will not put these conditions into remission. You have to give antibiotics first to clear a space for the probiotics and increase their effectiveness. Some doctors find it important to first give antibiotics, then rinse out the colon before implanting probiotics. Yet I wonder if there may be something to be gained from using the probiotics at earlier stages of the healing too.

4) The probiotics may have to be taken for a long time. This can get frustrating. The results will also depend on the person who takes the probiotics. One brand will help one person, and another brand will help a different person, but perhaps not vice versa. One person’s existing flora will modify quickly and another person’s flora will hardly change given the same probiotic.

How Much Is Needed?

Polly: The studies with some of the soil-based organisms have shown impressive results with only a couple of billion organisms taken orally. Most of the soil-based products contain this amount. The studies using the flora that normally reside in the intestine (L. acidophilus, B. bifidus, L. bulgaricus…) employ 30 billion to 500 billion microorganisms taken orally per day. Most companies put only a couple of billion in their products. (No wonder the consumer doesn’t have the same results.) There are only a few brands of these probiotics that contain counts anywhere near the amounts used in studies. (I’m aware of Natren, Kirkman, Custom Probiotics, Bio-K, VSL and the Torrance Company.) I’ve not seen any studies where the probiotics are used rectally, however, the amount needed will obviously be much less.

Realize that even if you took 500 billion microorganisms per day, you aren’t really replacing the flora by overwhelming the existing bacteria. 500 billion is only a small percent of your existing flora, which is estimated at about 100 trillion viable bacteria. What you are doing is changing the environment in the intestines so that a more favorable flora will take over. This may take a while. That is why you may need to take these bacteria on a long-term basis. Chances are, the probiotics you take will not implant permanently in your intestines until the vast majority of flora has changed. Even then, the new strains that you have introduced will likely be a small proportion of the resulting flora.

Lynni: I really love Natren’s Healthy Trinity. I’ve been through a whole shelf of other probiotic products. Yet, one supplement, one protocol is not a cure. Allopathic notions do not apply. That is to say, “take this it will make it all better”(not). The time to use probiotics is after colon cleansing; otherwise you are just throwing good after bad. (The Natren brand is found in many health food stores.)

Patti: I tried Natren probiotics and didn’t get better even though I was working with a brilliant healer. When I switched to Custom Probiotics acidophilus powder (not capsules), my healing dramatically accelerated. It has been a miracle for me, after over a year and a half of thinking I was going to have to stop living due to constant migraines. I can’t recommend Custom Probiotics highly enough. Natren just didn’t work for me.

Polly: By chance was the Natren product oil-based and did it come in brown pills? If so, that was the Healthy Trinity. If not, it was probably one of the lower potency Natren products.

Patti: No, it was just the white stuff. No wonder it didn’t work!

SR: The only Natren product I can recommend is the Healthy Trinity with the guaranteed 30+ billion colony forming units (cfu) per one single gram. All the other Natren products are a waste of money, as they are far too low potency, especially for the outrageous price they charge for their products.

Polly: I certainly don’t recommend the low-count probiotics for anyone with severe dysbiosis. I agree that that they seem to be a waste of money. Yet, a low-count may be all that is needed for some people.

Yes, the Natren Healthy Trinity costs a lot of money. Up to two dollars per pill is hard to swallow. Part of the high cost is because the probiotics are in oil. Also, perhaps part of the reason for the high price is lack of competition. Compared to most (not all) of their competitors, Natren is a bargain. If you adjust for the number of bacteria, the Natren Healthy Trinity product is cheaper than low-count probiotics. Many competing products in the health store only have 1 or 2 billion bacteria in each capsule.

The Custom Probiotics Adult CP-1 product or the Kirkman products have a much more palatable price at around 50 cents per pill, and they are relatively high potency products. If you want to try either of these brands, you will probably have to contact the companies directly. You won’t find them in many stores.

Presently, the best deal is from VSL. It has the lowest price if you adjust for potency. Instead of capsules, the product comes in packets with 450 billion microorganisms in each packet. The strains VSL chose are very similar to that found in the Custom Probiotics product. Yet, I’m not sure exactly why VSL decided to include the S. thermophilus; it is not found in other products on the market except yogurt. They said that the S. thermophilus is needed for synergism. All the strains were chosen to complement and not compete with each other in the body. The product has been shown to be effective. Four packets per day of VSL#3 keeps pouchitis and ulcerative colitis in remission (abstracts of the studies are at their website). This probiotic should be an excellent choice. However, you might want to start with less than a packet per day to make sure you can tolerate large doses.

A product called Bio-K comes in its own medium, like a yogurt or sour cream, and thus should contain viable microorganisms when purchased. It has a high microorganism count. It costs about $5.00 a serving. So it can get relatively expensive if used on a long-term basis. It may be a good option for a short treatment after antibiotics, or if you want to make your own yogurt from it. It tastes good, and it is available in many health food stores.

SR: Custom probiotics and Natren, need to explore new and better strains, such as the L. Plantarum 299V strain that the Probi company in Sweden uses….

Polly: It may be that there are special strains of the normal resident bacteria that work better than other strains. However, I suspect that even those strains will have to be given at the higher counts/doses to make a noticeable difference for many of us. Which of these strains is the most effective for the broadest spectrum of people? I don’t know. It is just too hard to tell from the advertisements and from the limited experience at the forum. Everyone seems to have a miracle product for sale.

Later — Polly: Custom Probiotics has recently added yogurt starter cultures, where you can pick your own blend of bacteria. They have also added 10 different high potency powders. The powders cost less per unit than the pills — about half the price on average per unit bacteria. Their powdered products are more comparable in price to the VSL#3 powdered product. The Custom Probiotics company allows you to mix and match these 10 strains to you or your doctor’s specification. Or you can pick a blend that is already formulated.

The Osumex probiotic product is now available in North America. They claim that the cell walls of their probiotic bacteria aren’t as damaged as the cell walls of the bacteria found in other products. This makes the Osumex product more potent. It supposedly makes up for the fact that there is very little bacteria in each pill. They use an herbal and fruit culture medium and they culture the product for 5 years. Presently, it costs about a dollar per pill. The recommended dose is three to nine pills a day, depending on the severity of the problem.

One of the strains in the Osumex product, TH10, helps get rid of E. coli. This might turn out to be important in the treatment of fibromyalgia, since there seems to be a high incidence of a viral infection of E. coli in those with fibromyalgia. Invitro (test tube or petri dish) results also show that this TH10 bacteria kills H. pylori.

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