Sunday, December 14, 2008

Viability of Acidophilus and Probiotics

Like many of you, I lay awake at night wondering if my probiotic supplements are effectively populating my intestines with viable strains of good bacteria.

I read an article online a few years ago that said an easy way to test viability is to open an acidophilus capsule and mix it in 8 oz. of milk and let it sit out on your counter overnight. If the milk is curdled in the morning, the strain is viable and you know you have an effective product.

I did this test in 2004 with Metagenics Ultra Flora Plus Dairy Free capsules , and the milk was indeed a bit chunky and curdled the next day. It was viable!

I was getting my monthly supply of Metagenics Ultra Flora Plus at Invite Health. Suddenly, Metagenics has decided to no longer sell its product through retail outlets, which means you can only get them if you see one of their "authorized" doctors. This is bullshit. Probiotics are not controlled substances. I shouldn't have to spend money to go to a doctor just so I can buy this brand even if they are considered the "best" in probiotics (few brands offer 15 billion live organisms in one tiny capsule--most other brands are perhaps 1 million per capsule).

Now that my probiotic supply had been cut off, I needed other options.

So, I have started the expensive undertaking of testing various brands you might find at a place like Whole Foods to see if any of them are good.

The big problem with probiotics is that they can be viable at the time of manufacture, but many of them require refrigeration, and if they don't stay refrigerated while in transit to the retail outlet, most of the probiotics will die, even if they are refrigerated once they get to their destination. This means that you're paying $30/bottle for nothing.

There are some brands that claim to be shelf-stable and don't need refrigeration, but I've always been a bit skeptical of that. I included those in my little sample as well.

Here are my results:

Metagenics Ultra Flora Plus DF Capsules
I re-tested my last bottle of my brand of choice and surprise, surprise! This time around, the milk was NOT CURDLED AT ALL! Nothing! There was no change in smell, color or texture. I had a bum batch! This made me wonder how many times I've taken this product over the past four years and it was having no effect. On the upside, it made me feel more open to trying other brands.

Nutrition Now PB 8
This is a "shelf stable" brand that does not need refrigerations and claims to have 14 billion bacteria per a 2 capsule serving. If there was anything active in this puppy, it sure wasn't barking. The milk was as normal as always. I don't think I'll bother with this brand again.

Sedona Labs iFLora Multi-Probiotic Formula
Another shelf-stable option. Finally, a little action! Even though the milk didn't look terribly curdled, it had a distinctly different smell--much more like buttermilk, which suggested to me that something was going on. I wasn't overly impressed, but at least it wasn't a total bust.

Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion
Ding! Ding! Ding! WE HAVE A WINNER!

See that picture at the top of this post? THAT is Ultimate Flora Critical Care in action--it caused a thick, disgusting, almost colloidal suspension of gelatinous goo and it smelled like curdled milk. This shit works! And I can also attest that it's doing something because my stomach has been feeling mildly rumbly after taking it, which means that something good is going on. Those kinds of symptoms will stop in a few days as a person's body acclimates to the new flora.

NOTE: This brand requires refrigeration. I bought it from Whole Foods in Columbus Circle--clearly, they're transporting their refrigerated goods properly.

All of this cost me a mere $120 to test. UGH. But, I'd rather know that what I'm taking is going to work, and I hope this can help other people, too.

Your intestines are the first line of defense of your immune support. Take care of them. Here's to a happy intestinal life. Sweet dreams!