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Probiotic bacterial strains have very different properties. This means that there is a large variety of probiotic products available that have various effects. The health benefit is specific to the particular bacterial strain, and not the more general bacterial species. For example, a product may be labelled Lactobacillus rhamnosus, but whether the strain is Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® , the very different Lactobacillus rhamnosus, GR-1®, or any other Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain, is not known, nor is there necessarily the same level of scientific support for the potential health benefit.
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A probiotic product with more bacteria does not necessarily have a superior effect. Some probiotic strains require a relatively low number of bacteria, while other strains require much more to provide the desired effect.
It is therefore much more important to choose a probiotic that has been scientifically associated with a particular health benefit at the level studied. This means that the appropriate level actually depends on the strain, and the studied effect within a specific health area.
Click to read more about probiotics associated with colds and flu-like symptoms or probiotics and diarrhea or probiotics and excessive crying and fussing
Some probiotic products contain more than one probiotic strain, but this does not automatically mean that the product is more effective. Many multi-strain products lack the clinical support for the particular combination of strains they contain.
Instead, the best probiotic product to choose is the one that contains a particular strain (or particular combination of strains) that has been studied and associated with particular health benefits.
Click to read more about the Chr. Hansen UREX™ probiotic blend, or the LGG®, BB-12®, LA-5®or L. CASEI 431® single strain probiotics.
Fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut or tempeh, are developed by using the bacteria that are naturally present in the food or by adding live bacteria to a food product. Often, a fermented food will go through further processing such as pasteurization, baking or filtering. This processing kills the live bacteria, preventing the product from qualifying as a probiotic because it no longer contains live bacteria.
To be classified as a probiotic, products must contain live bacteria, they must have established health benefits supported by human studies, and they must contain the appropriate level of bacteria.1
If a fermented food does not meet the above criteria, there is no way of knowing the level consumed or whether its anticipated health benefits have been scientifically supported. Have those strains been studied at the level associated with a specific health effect? These are all important points to consider when looking for a probiotic product to support your health.
Despite many fermented foods and beverages not being probiotic, they may still be nutritious and contribute to a balanced diet.
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Yogurts can be a good source of probiotics but not all yogurts contain probiotics. All yogurts are made by adding live bacteria to milk, but not all live bacteria provide specific health benefits. Some yogurt products contain specific probiotic bacterial strains that have been added together with the fermenting culture. Deliberate addition of clinically tested probiotic strains at the documented level ensure that the yogurt contains live bacteria that have scientific support for helping maintain good health. It also ensures that enough of the probiotic bacteria is added for the bacteria to still be alive on the expiry date. This is key, as the bacteria must be alive for the yogurt to be considered a probiotic yogurt and to have a probiotic effect when consumed.
Probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, BB-12®, Lactobacillus acidophilus, LA-5®, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® or Lactobacillus paracasei, L. CASEI 431® can be added during the production of yogurt, making it a source of probiotic bacteria.
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Antibiotics can have negative side effects on our health because they disrupt the balance of bacteria in our body. Probiotics can help balance these levels of bacteria, which may help lessen the side effects. For example, antibiotics can cause diarrhea, but research has associated consumption of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® probiotic strain with fewer cases of diarrhea when taking antibiotics.2, 3 When combining antibiotics with probiotic supplementation, it is suggested that the probiotics are taken a few hours after the antibiotics.
Yes, studies suggest that some probiotic strains can provide health benefits
The health benefits of some probiotic strains have been studied in human clinical trials. It should be remembered that the proven benefits of one probiotic strain on a particular area of health cannot be generalized to other probiotic strains or other areas of health. It is important to consider these points when choosing a probiotic product.
Click to read more about what to look for when choosing a probiotic product
You can also read about the Chr. Hansen probiotic strains here.
The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.
At Chr. Hansen, our strains are backed by science. All of our probiotic strains are supported by clinical documentation. Learn more about the beneficial effects our strains have on different health areas.
1. Hill C, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;11:506. (PubMed)
2. Arvola T, et al. Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomized study. Pediatrics. 1999;104(5):e64. (PubMed)
3. Vanderhoof JA, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1999;135(5):564-8. (PubMed)