My “Gut” feeling says you’re going to need some help with that…. A word on Probiotics

Kathryn Seelman Author

As a retail pharmacist I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen patients staring at the wall of probiotics trying to pick out the right one. You’ve heard from your neighbor or doctor, the internet or TV that probiotics are great for (Enter Laundry list of health complaints here). Humans need “good bacteria”. When we are introduced into this world as an infant bacterium is introduced into our gut. That Bacteria colonizes there and lives symbiotically helping to break down food, absorb nutrients, and control our immune system. Unfortunately, since the introduction of antibiotics in the early 1900’s we’ve been raging war on not only the bacteria that makes us sick and can be deadly but also the bacteria that is vital for human health. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough not to need an antibiotic for medical reasons, our food chain is bombarded with them and processed foods which do not promote “good” bacteria growth. For this reason, many healthcare practitioners would state their reputation on a Probiotic being the most important supplement you can take, yet when you arrive at the pharmacy to simply pick one up the choices seem to be endless. What’s the difference between the box that costs $5 vs $15 vs $25 or even $50? Even as you compare the ingredients they seem to make no sense. Why would the product with 5 billion CFU’s cost twice the price as one with 10 billion CFU’s and what the heck is a CFU? Why are some refrigerated and others not? What’s the differences in the bacteria listed? I’ve had patients plop a dozen boxes on my counter just to point out miniscule differences such as a change in the color of the box. Manufacturers aren’t always trying to make this difficult to the consumer but bacteria are a living organism: meaning it lives, dies, changes, and moves just like you! You can’t just weigh out a certain quantity, encapsulate it, and expect the same number of bacteria to be there a month later, especially when you have no idea how it was shipped and stored. You also can’t expect a person that was just bombarded with antibiotics during a hospital stay to need the same type of bacteria in their gut as an individual that might not be feeling great from the last trip to Cancun. Bacteria are as different as you and me and their use can be just as varied. Many manufacturers are not willing to spend the time and money on this logistical nightmare in order to ensure their product will live up to the hype of what probiotics can do. The result: a confusing wall of products, many of which may only contain placebo. If you want a good probiotic skip the hassle and confusion. Come talk to myself or any of the pharmacists here at Pine. We’ll pick a product specifically for your needs from a manufacturer that ensures quality. We’d be happy to help!