“Probiotic” is the collective term in naturopathic medicine which describes the living micro-organisms that are naturally present in the human intestine. The term colloquially refers to micro-organisms found in various supplements and food sources, which, in appropriate numbers, are known to promote health and wellness when correctly balanced.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in the intestines. They perform essential enzymatic processes at the cellular level, achieving a balance with other microflora in an ideal environment. These micro-organisms, when correctly balanced, can support the immune system, aid digestion, strengthen the skin and hair, and are believed to support more serious health problems as well, such as diabetes, for example.
Though the beneficial microbes are present in some foods, supplementing with probiotic pills or liquid suspensions has become a common practice in the western world. Whether taken as a supplement, or as a treatment for a condition, medical, health, and wellness practitioners frequently promote their use. Although they can be prescribed as a treatment, probiotics are purchased over-the-counter and do not require a prescription. Some of the microorganisms in probiotic capsules can be found in foods like yogurt, Kefir, and Kombucha drinks, alternatively.
There are many strains of beneficial bacteria, the primary and most common is Lactobacillus Acidophilus. These are the live organisms commonly found in quality yogurts and stand-alone vitamin supplements. L. Acidophilus strain is commonly known for its use in the prevention of yeast, or treatment of yeast overgrowth in the body.
When probiotics are used intentionally for health and wellness, the necessary strains, dosage amounts, and overall quality, are factors for consideration. They may vary from person to person, and recommended type should be based on specific physiology, medical history, ailments, and the like. Usually, probiotics that contain at least ten billion cultures are recommended. Any fewer, and the supplement might not work. High amounts of the bacteria must travel in an acidic environment, through the stomach, to absorb within, the intestine. The amount of bacteria absorbed must be quite high in order to be effective. Many practitioners also suggest to stick with a given regimen for several weeks before any improvement is likely to be observed.
Timing. Timing is key when taking probiotics. They should be taken with a meal; and hopefully the live organisms survive on their way down to the stomach. There is usually some loss of potency one can count on when consuming live cultures, since many will become damaged or die off before reaching the intenstine, where they can do their work.
Quality. Purchasing inexpensive probiotics is not recommended, since many of the inexpensive brands contain very low doses or too few strains to be sufficient towards wellness objectives.
Most probiotic supplements require refrigeration, whether in pill, capsule, or liquid form. The reason for this is the same reason we refrigerate food: to slow its maturation and prolong its viability. Microorganisms have a life cycle like anything else, growing, feeding, and dying, and like fruit, the organisms will mature rapidly in warm temperatures. Sometimes they mature and become damaged, or die, or they grow and proliferate, and that’s not good either. Left at room temperature, organisms will go “bad” per se, but they will lose their useful properties as they over abundantly proliferate or else die off. In both cases, the result is lowered potency and decreased benefit.
The need for constant refrigeration can be inconvenient and downright problematic, whereas prolonging ultimate viability during travel is not always possible. Transporting supplements, or forgetting to return them to refrigeration, can likewise result in lowered potency. They may even lose potency during the shipping process, if not handled correctly. Often, these supplements are not handled correctly and are shipped and stocked in stores right along with vitamin supplements. In this case one can bet the potency has already decreased by the time it has reached the consumer.
It may be difficult for consumers to choose when there are so many brands available on the market. Probacto only uses the highest quailty strains, and guarantee’s the bacteria stated is present.
Probacto contains spores of bacteria, which are in a suspended state; achieved through a process of desiccation (drying) and are thereby dormant. The spores germinate within the intestine of the body after ingestion. They are able to make it through the acidic environment of the esophageal lining and to the intestines, prior to being activated in this environment. The dormant state ensures that the microorganisms are well-preserved, and only come alive when they are ready to work. This ensures the best timing of delivery, wherein a sufficient amount of good bacteria are most likely to make it to the intestine in high potency (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC127533/).
Storage of these types is also ideal, since the dormant spores do not require refrigeration. These tend to have a longer shelf life and can maintain well at maximum potency. Shipping and transportation concerns with these products need not apply here.
Probacto blend contains numerous strains of probiotics, as well as prebiotics (preventative organisms found in whole foods). The blend is comprised of the following strains and their descriptors:
- Bacillus subtillis – eats up harmful bacteria
- Lactobacillis helveticus – controls yeast, balances microflora, improves sleep, reduces blood pressure and may prevent bone loss.
- Sacharomyces Boullardii – benign, beneficial yeast that controls the growth of harmful yeast
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – aids the digestion of lactose, controls yeast
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus- reduces growth of harmful pathogens
- Lactobacillus Planetarum -promotes healthy liver function, reduces inflammation, aids digestion
- Lactococcus lactis – treats candida
- Bifidobacterium – prevents release of histamine-triggering ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome. Supports GI and overall bowel function. Prevents or reduces pathogenic organisms.
Some other shelf-stable, non-refrigerated brands are Natrol’s Biobeads, Enzymatic Therapy’s Pearls, Renew Life’s Floramore, and Nutrition Now’s BP8. Also, check out Primal Defense, and LB17. Those searching for a non-refrigerated blend ought to do their research, however, since views may differ by source. Experts on some non-refrigerated brands may counter the claim that their product contains live cultures. For example, scientific testing on some brands marketing dry, shelf-worthy probiotic pills has shown that many of these have contained merely freeze-dried, or dead cultures – which are not effective.
The manufacturer’s labeling and instructions is the first place to look if you need to know whether the product you’re looking at requires refrigeration. Most do, and reputable brands will also publish the company’s shipping and handling procedures.
All probiotics do expire, and any old product should be thrown out and replaced. Keeping these beyond the expiry date will result in loss of potency of the drug.
Frequently Asked Questions
What about buying refrigerated probiotics from stores such as Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Whole Foods, Bigamin Shoppe, GNC, and Costco?
Purchasing probiotics from large chain outlets like these is not recommended, due to the handling and transporting of mass shipments that may not have been handled appropriately. Probiotics are shipped together with an array of other drugs, and often, they are not refrigerated during transport. Sometimes they are not even refrigerated when stocked; and are simply sold off the shelf. Instead, community health stores, naturopathic stores and apothecaries specializing in homeopathic solutions, or alternately, purchasing supplements directly from the manufacturer, are the best bets for assuring you’ve attained a quality product containing stable organisms.
Where to get non refrigerated probiotics in the UK, Australia, and Canada?
Probacto are some of the higher quality, tested, and well-reputed non refrigerated probiotics out there. There are various sites that market these, and they can easily be purchased online. Consumers should be wary however, of fraudulent websites marketing these products, or spoofing these products. Do not purchase generics, knock-offs, and avoid purchasing from third parties. Going directly through the manufacturer’s website is the best way to assuredly attain a quality, no-refrigeration-needed probiotic.
Do Jarrow, Klair, HLC, Dr Ohhiras, and Dr Mercola probiotics require refrigeration?
It really depends, without analyzing all of them individually it is hard to tell. If you want to be safe and go for a well tested probiotics brand, then Probacto is what is recommended.
No refrigeration probiotic brands do not always live up to their claims. Some researchers have tested brands that claim to be shelf-stable and have found that the opposite was true, and in fact, cultures some companies claimed were contained within the supplements were dead or inactive. You have to really trust the company that you are buying products from. Another thing is do you actually feel it working or not?
Is yogurt the best refrigerated probiotic?
No, yogurt does not contain sufficient cultures to really benefit in the way a supplement blend does. And as the organisms it does contain culminate in the yogurt, they grow, proliferate, eat, and die. In effect, there is no way to measure the amount of live organisms in a container of yogurt. Further, yogurt usually contains one or two strains of bacteria only, which may be of limited benefit.
What refrigerated probiotics can you recommend for infants?
For baby or infant supplements going to your doctor might be the best option.