All questions answered by probiotic experts Dr Kate Stephens PhD (Food and Microbial Sciences) BSc(Hons) Medical Microbiology and Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist.
How do I choose the best friendly bacteria for adults?
With so many brands to choose from, it can be difficult to choose the friendly bacteria supplement that’s right for you. We recommend looking for good bacteria which is guaranteed to reach the gut alive, contains well-researched strains, is shelf stable and does not need refrigerating. It is always good to choose a product with great customer reviews, but most importantly it should contain strains researched especially for your needs.
What strength of live cultures should I take?
When it comes to friendly bacteria, ‘more’ is not always ‘better’. It is more important to consider the quality of the good bacteria strains, and the number of gold standard clinical trials they have been featured in. It is also very important to ensure that this research is relevant for your individual needs. High-quality supplements containing well-researched strains1 should contain the same number of billions used in clinical trials.
Is it OK to take friendly bacteria every day?
Yes, it is safe and generally advisable to take your friendly bacteria supplement daily. These bacteria colonise in the gut for a few weeks but research2,3,4 suggests that the friendly bacteria strains will disappear without regular supplementation, so for this reason you might wish to take them regularly.
Should you take live cultures on a full or empty stomach?
The concern is that bacteria are delicate by nature, and that they may not survive stomach acid. Taking live cultures at a certain time of day (when stomach acidity is closer to neutral) could help ensure the highest survival rates of the good bacteria. Confusingly though, different healthcare professionals and live cultures manufacturers have different guidelines about when is best to take these supplements! So, let us try to clarify a few things.
First, let us look at the logic behind taking live cultures on an empty stomach, advocated by some. Well, because acid is stimulated by consumption of food, it is thought that taking live cultures on an empty stomach (mainly first thing in the morning) is ideal because there is less residual acid in the stomach. However, it is also important to note that there is a lag time (up to 30 minutes) between when food is eaten and when acid is released into the stomach
With a few exceptions, it’s best to take your friendly bacteria supplements with a breakfast, as the food helps to buffer the effects of stomach acid; it may also help to facilitate the passage of the friendly bacteria through the stomach, and ensure that they are well mixed with the stomach contents as they pass into the small intestines.
How long should you take friendly bacteria for?
This depends on why you are taking them: some people like to take specific strains at certain times, for example during pregnancy, when travelling abroad, or during the winter flu season. However, if you prefer general daily supplementation, then take your supplements every day. There is no current research to suggest the body becomes dependent on good bacteria, so long-term supplementation is also fine.
What strength should a friendly bacteria supplement be?
When choosing a live cultures supplement, remember that high strength does not always mean high quality.
Rather than looking at the number of billions, it is far more important to look at the good bacteria strains it contains. It is best to choose a supplement containing high-quality strains which have been used in gold standard clinical trials. High-quality supplements will typically contain the same number of billions used in the clinical trials; sometimes lower doses perform just as well as high doses5 so it is not worth paying extra for more billions than you need.
However, some people do better on a higher dose, and it is fine to experiment and increase the dose of any of our products; ultimately it all depends on your individual needs and responses to the supplement.
Can a good bacteria supplement be too high strength?
The human gut is home to roughly 100 trillion bacteria, so the amount contained in even our highest strength live cultures supplements (75 billion) is comparatively small. Many people take several of our supplements at the same time, depending on their individual needs and requirements. We’re all individual, however, so if you tend to be sensitive to new foods and supplements, sometimes it’s best to introduce them gradually. If you want to start with half a dose initially, then our live cultures capsules can be opened, and the contents taken alone.
Following the taxonomic updates published in April 2020, a reclassification has been proposed for the L. paracasei species, and the paracasei strain in Every Day EXTRA may therefore now also be known as Lacticaseibacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei Lpc-37®, or still indeed as L. paracasei Lpc-37® for short.
1. Sanders ME, Klaenhammer TR. Invited review. The scientific basis of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM functionality as a probiotic. J Dairy Sci. 2001;84(2):319-331. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(01)74481-5
2. Mimura, T. et al. (2004). 'Once daily high dose probiotic therapy (VSL#3) for maintaining remission in recurrent or refractory pouchitis'. Gut, 53(1): 108-114
3. Morelli L et al., 2004. 'Utilisation of the intestinal tract as a delivery system for urogenital probiotics'. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology; 38(6): 107-110
4. Jacobsen et al., 1999. 'Screening of probiotic activities of 47 strains of Lactobacillus spp. by in vitro techniques and evaluation of the colonisation ability of 5 selected strains in humans'. Applied and Environmental Microbiology; 65 (11): 4949-4956
5. Eskesen et al. (2015) Effect of the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, BB-12®, on defecation frequency in healthy subjects with low defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. Br J Nutr; 114, 10: 1638-46.