Probiotics – the so-called ‘good’ bacteria – are the key to a healthy microbiome: the trillions of microorganisms that live in the colon, mouth and skin and are linked to digestion, immunity and inflammatory skin conditions.
In the past, probiotic products were mainly available in capsules and yogurt, but now you can also get snacks, toothpastes and drinks.
JO WATERS asked experts to assess a selection and we then assessed it.
Probiotics – the so-called ‘good’ bacteria – are the key to a healthy microbiome: the trillions of microorganisms that live in the colon, mouth and skin, which are linked to digestion, immunity and inflammatory skin conditions
Bioglan Biotic Balance Chocballs, £ 14 for 30 balls, tesco.com
Bioglan Biotic Balance Chocballs
Claim: Dark chocolate scoops containing up to three billion live cultures of two probiotics, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, plus inulin, a ‘prebiotic’ fiber [meaning it is a food source for good bacteria]There are less than 13 calories in each ball and the recommended ‘dose’ is two per day.
Expert Opinion: “ A growing body of high-quality human studies show that people with high Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium counts have better health than those with lower levels, ” said Sophie Medlin, a registered dietitian with citydietitians.co.uk
‘They are associated with improved gut health and immunity, but the chances of three billion live cultures reaching the colon are relatively small. However, the bacteria may benefit the microbiomes in the mouth and esophagus, which may play a role in the immune system.
Note, while the front of the package says there are three billion living cultures in each globe, in smaller letters on the back it says ‘up to three billion’, which is a big warning. The three billion figure refers to the number of living cultures that were present when it left the factory, not when you open it: some would have died in the meantime. I am also concerned that the probiotics will be destroyed by stomach acid. A bag is also expensive. ‘
Chuckling Goat Sensitive Kefir Lotion, £ 18 for 150ml, chucklinggoat.co.uk
Chuckle goat sensitive kefir lotion
Claim: A lotion made from water, goat’s milk and kefir (a combination of ‘good’ fermented Lactobacillus bacteria and yeast) marketed for sensitive skin. Other ingredients include oat oil and rice bran oil.
The maker says, “Our live culture kefir balances and nourishes the bacteria on the skin’s surface, protecting and enhancing its appearance.”
Expert Opinion: “Ingredients such as oat oil and rice bran oil, both of which are moisturizers, can be soothing to sensitive skin,” says Dr. Justine Hextall, a dermatologist at Tarrant Street Clinic in Arundel, West Sussex.
“We know there are changes in the skin microbiome that are linked to conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. However, we don’t know enough yet to confidently recommend products for the skin microbiome. ‘
Oralgen Nupearl probiotic toothpaste
Oralgen Nupearl Probiotic Toothpaste, £ 7.79 for 113g, biovea.com
Claim: This contains the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei, as well as sea salt, turmeric, peppermint oil and calcium carbonate. The maker says the product “balances healthy mouth bacteria,” “gently whitens teeth,” “fights plaque” and “freshens breath.”
Expert Opinion: “Lactobacillus paracasei has been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of a bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which is associated with tooth decay, but this effect has not yet been sufficiently demonstrated in humans,” said Anna Middleton, a London hygienist dental hygienist. com.
In addition, this toothpaste does not contain fluoride, which is toxic to bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans. It does contain bleaching agents such as calcium carbonate, which are intended to lift stains, but these ingredients can be abrasive. You can get a decent fluoride toothpaste for 50 cents. I would advise sticking with that. ‘
… and a spray for puppies!
Skouts Honor probiotic itch relief spray
Skouts Honor Probiotic Itch Relief Spray, £ 11.99 for 236ml, vitalpets.co.uk
Claim: Dogs can develop itchy skin conditions and this product claims to contain a ‘live colony-forming kefir culture that supports protective layers of beneficial bacteria to soothe itchy dry skin’.
Expert verdict: ‘While it’s healthy for dogs to have a layer of protective bacteria on their skin to keep nasty things out, there’s no evidence that using kefir probiotic spray would take care of what’s missing,’ says Caroline Reay, joint head of veterinary services at the Blue Cross animal organization.
“If a dog is itchy, it’s much more likely to have fleas or an allergy than an imbalance of bacteria.”
Proven probiotics suitable for school sticks
Proven probiotics suitable for school sticks, £ 7.95 for 14 sachets, provenprobiotics.co.uk
Claim: These sachets of soluble powder that you mix with a cold drink contain a combination of 12.5 billion Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lab4, a Bifidobacterium, plus vitamins C and D and a prebiotic. The maker says it “ reduces school absenteeism by 30 percent ” (based on a 1995 study that found Lab4 and vitamin C shortened the duration of coughs and colds).
Expert Opinion: ‘The claim to reduce absenteeism will be based on research on vitamin C, which has been shown to shorten cold symptoms in some groups, but there is no evidence that probiotics alone reduce the duration of a cold,’ says Sophie Medlin.
‘This powder contains a good broad spectrum of probiotic strains, which probably have a beneficial effect because the healthiest microbiomes have a greater diversity.
“It also has a protein coating that protects the bacteria from stomach acid, making it faster in the intestines. This could be used to shorten the duration of coughs and colds in children – but based on the vitamin C and D content instead of the probiotics, as those benefits have not yet been proven. ‘
Vite Body Bar Ginger And Apple Flavor, £ 25 for 12 x 45g bars, vite.co.uk
Claim: Each bar contains five million live probiotics, plus chicory root as a prebiotic food source for the bacteria. Its maker claims it works to “ promote digestive discomfort and promote optimal gut health. ” A bar contains five live strains of bacteria.
Expert verdict: “The bar contains a wide range of gut-friendly bacteria, but I don’t think much stomach acid will survive,” says Sophie Medlin. “I think it’s expensive too, and at 228 calories, with 7g of sugar in each bar, I wouldn’t even say it was a healthy snack.”
Vite Body Bar Ginger and Apple flavor
No. 1 Living Gut & Immune Kombucha Health Shot, £ 19.99 for 10 x 60ml, no1living.com
No. 1 Living Gut & Immune Kombucha Health Shot
Claim: These shot drinks contain two billion active live cultures (of just one probiotic, lactic acid bacillus) and prebiotic fiber in a kombucha base (a fermented carbonated tea). The shot also contains vitamins C and D. The maker says the product “supports gut health and the immune system.”
Expert verdict: ‘Kombucha [which contains probiotics] is a living culture grown from a ‘mother substance’ called Scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast – which is a bit like a sourdough starter), ”says Sophie Medlin.
‘The probiotic here, lactic acid bacillus, is good for intestinal and intestinal function, because it helps regulate the acid / basic balance in the intestine, among other things.
Again, I doubt the live bacteria would reach the colon. But it is low in sugar and one shot contains less than 22 calories. ‘
Biomel Love Your Gut Probiotic Shots
Biomel Love Your Gut Probiotic Shots, £ 21 for 14 x 125ml shots, biomel.life
Claim: These vegan shots contain coconut milk and strains of non-dairy bacteria that the company claims are “proven to support digestion and immune system health,” including Bifidobacterium, Bacillus coagulans and Lactobacillus plantarum.
The company says each serving contains billions of live active cultures, B vitamins, vitamin D and calcium, “which are proven to support the normal function of the digestive and immune systems.”
Expert Opinion: ‘Normally probiotics are fermented from milk, so I assume they are made in this vegan drink by extracting bacteria from elsewhere,’ says Sophie Medlin.
The bacteria in this are present in a healthy gut microbiome, but because they don’t have the protective protein shell that dairy products have, it’s likely that many of them will be killed by stomach acid. I am not aware of any evidence that a non-dairy probiotic can have an effect on the gut microbiome. I don’t see any noticeable health benefit from using this. ‘
Capsules for women
Canesflor, £ 15.99 for ten capsules, superdrug.com
Claim: These contain the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum and are inserted into the vagina. The company that makes them says the probiotic strain has been “selected for its ability to adhere to the vaginal mucosa and protect against vaginal infections, such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis.”
One capsule should be taken for six consecutive days and then one capsule per week for four weeks.
Expert Opinion: “Good quality research shows that orally taken Lactobacillus plantarum can increase ‘healthy’ bacteria in the vagina and form a protective barrier on the vaginal walls, ” says Tania Adib, a gynecologist at The Lister Hospital in London.
This can help prevent recurring infections such as thrush [which is caused by an overgrowth of yeast] and bacterial vaginosis [caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria], both of which can cause vaginal discharge.
The probiotic can restore the pH balance and prevent the overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria, reducing the chances of recurring infections to which some women are susceptible. Applying it directly into the vagina can be a more effective way of getting the bacteria to where they are needed. However, this product is not a treatment for infection. ‘