Probiotics: Does it Matter Where I Get Them? Aren’t They All the Same? 

 October 8, 2012

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Mechanicsville Virginia Chiropractor – At Stover Chiropractic, P.C. we have been recommending probiotics for some time now.  Ten years ago I almost always got a blank stare when I mentioned probiotics.  Now, thanks to TV commercials, and growing interest in wellness, many have heard about the benefits of probiotics.  So the question is, how do we navigate all the different types of products made by the vitamin and supplement makers out there?

Our intestines contain over 400 species of microorganism that help with the digestive process and prevent the growth of harmful pathogens in the bowel. Keeping our internal ecology in order is therefore very important, but a number of factors can upset the balance of organisms such as unhealthy eating, age, illness and certain medications.

Probiotics (also known as good or friendly bacteria) are live microorganisms that are similar to those found in the digestive tract. Examples include bacteria from the genus Lactobacillus (such as L. acidophilus and L. casei) and Bifidobacterium (e.g. B. infantalis and B. animalis). Ingesting probiotics in live yogurt (yogurt containing good bacteria) or as a dietary supplement is commonly thought to have a beneficial effect on the intestines by maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.  Advertising reinforces this idea.

Probiotic supplements from a number of different manufacturers can be found in most health food stores at a variety of prices. The question is, do some of these work better than others or should we just buy the cheapest brand and be done with it? Are they effective at all? On the other hand, might it be better to consume probiotics in another form altogether, such as live yogurt or probiotic fruit juice? Probiotics also occur naturally in other foods such as miso, kefir and fermented soy products.  What’s the truth?

Let’s start with yogurt. It has been suggested that live yogurt is actually a very ineffective source of probiotics, as the presence of micro-organisms is at a relatively low dose and they have no protection to ensure that they survive the less than friendly stomach acids to actually make it as far as the bowel. The effect of other natural probiotic foods is thought to be similarly minimal in impact.

Given that the gut contains over 100 trillion microorganisms, it needs a pretty large number of probiotic microbes to have any effect at all on the internal ecology of the bowel. For this reason, low-strength probiotic supplements containing less than 10 million CFU (colony forming units) of bacteria are thought to be just as unhelpful as yogurt or other natural foods, unless the supplement is either enterically coated or contains acid-resistant bacteria, both of which help survival in the stomach.

The CFU number of a probiotic supplement is a good general guide as to how effective it might be, but other factors are also important. A single-strain supplement (containing just a single probiotic species) will not be able to work anywhere near as effectively as one containing multiple strains of good bacteria.

However, it is not necessarily the case that a supplement containing more strains will be better than one containing fewer, since each additional strain is present in proportionally lower numbers. Recent studies suggest that between three and seven strains are optimal for effectiveness, and any species present in numbers fewer than 2 million CFU are pretty much a waste of space. In addition, some species of good bacteria are themselves ineffective. Strains from the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are thought to be the most reliable. Some strains of Saccharmyces , such as S. boulardi,  may also be effective.

It is also important that the bacteria have a substrate to grow in when they do make into your bowel.  The product we have in our office includes inulin.  This is the material that allows the bacteria to actually grow, gain a foothold, and become established in your colon.  It is for this reason that you do not need to take our product everyday.  One bottle (which lasts a month) is all you need to bring numbers up.  No need for more unless you take a round of antibiotics another situation (colonoscopy, certain chronic illnesses of the colon, etc.) arises.  This is a huge savings.

In addition to buying a quality supplement in the first place, like Standard Process’ ProSymbiotic (the brand we carry in our office), there are some other things you can do to improve the effectiveness of your probiotic. First, always keep your probiotics in the refrigerator. Second, consume foods known as prebiotics that improve the growth of good bacteria. Prebiotics include the amino acids lysine and methionine, which are found in proteins such as whey and fish, and galactose, which is a constituent of dairy products and sugar beets.

Give us a call if you are interested in our product or if you have any questions!  804-559-1100

Tripp Stover, D.C.

Stover Chiropractic, P.C.

Real. Simple. Healthcare.



We are located at 9097 Atlee Station Road in Mechanicsville, Virginia, 23111.  This is a Hanover county address, but we are minutes from Glenn Allen, Innsbrook, Sandston, and Varina.  We also serve many people from King William and New Kent Counties.  Our close proximity to I295 means we are very easy to reach from anywhere in the Richmond Metro area.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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