Two Good Probiotic Supplements That Can Improve Your Gut Health

pillsAdequate microbial exposure is an essential component of an Organic Fitness Regimen. Rapid and powerful changes to human living conditions beginning with the Agricultural Revolution set the stage for a loss of “old microbial friends” and perturbations of the human microbiome. In westernized nations today it’s unlikely that even those people we consider to be in perfect health harbor a truly healthy microbiome. This is because most people use broad-spectrum antibiotics sometime during their lives, eat a less than optimal diet, and live a life that is very disconnected from the natural environment. In other words, we could probably all benefit from paying a little more attention to our microbial inhabitants, regardless of whether we feel sick or not.

I’m not a big proponent of supplements in general, but I think high-quality probiotics can be an exception, largely because getting the right types of microorganisms through other sources can be difficult. Of course, fermented foods and other “natural” sources of beneficial bacteria are important, but probiotic supplements/drugs can often prove valuable as well. However, that doesn’t mean simply heading into the health food store to pick up a random probiotic supplement is going to do you much good. The health effects listed on the label might seem impressive, but the fact is that most of the probiotic supplements you’ll find only provide minor benefits.

Some of the reasons why many probiotic supplements fail are:

  • The majority of probiotic supplements only contain a handful of species of lactic acid bacteria, bacteria that do some good on their way through your body, but don’t necessarily take up permanent residence in your gut. In other words, the bacteria found in probiotic supplements aren’t necessarily adapted to live in the human gut. As Dr. Art Ayers says: Dairy probiotics don’t repair gut flora.
  • Probiotic supplements often don’t contain the number of live bacteria listed on the jar.
  • Most probiotic products on the market have never been clinically studied.
  • There’s often no scientific evidence which shows that the bacteria survive through the stomach acid.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean that every probiotic supplement you see at your favorite health food store are a waste of money, as there are certainly a wide variety of probiotic products out there. However, if the choice is between a jar of “lactobacillus probiotics” and some homemade sauerkraut, you’re much better off with the sauerkraut. The fact is that at the moment, there aren’t really that many great probiotic supplements out there. This is likely going to change in the near future though, as several microbiome companies are now in the process of developing biotherapeutic agents (probiotics) that are to be used in the treatment of various diseases and disorders (1).

So, should we just wait until thoroughly scientifically tested microbiome modulators are made available to the public in the future? Not necessarily. There are some probiotic supplements out there worth trying, two of which are Mutaflor and Probiotic-3. Other popular probiotics, such as Prescript Assist and Primal Defense, can also be worth a try, but I tend to favor the two aforementioned. Another probiotic supplement, VSL#3, is one of the most scientifically studied probiotics on the market, and it is regularly used in the dietary management of IBS, IBD, and other gastrointestinal disorders. However, in my opinion it is probably not the best option for the relatively healthy person who’s looking to boost his/her gut health long-term.

I have no affiliation with the companies that produce these products. As always, the goal is just to highlight possible solutions and strategies that you can use to improve your health. Also, since I have received some questions over the years as to which supplements I recommend, I thought it was appropriate to make this post.

Mutaflor

Mutaflor is a probiotic comprised of a viable non-pathogenic bacteria strain named Escherichia coli Nissle 1917.

The strain was first isolated in Germany by professor Alfred Nissle in the year 1917. Today, the bacteria is grown in fermenters and is placed into enteric-coated gelatine capsules.

Mutaflor has been on the market for almost a century and has been clinically studied for use in a variety of diseases and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. A number of European studies on E. coli Nissle 1917 have shown positive results when used in conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, chronic constipation, prolonged diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and pouchitis. (2)

This product is fairly expensive and the shipping cost can be high; but it is likely going to be worth the money. This is one of the most potent probiotic supplements out there.

(Update: I’ve written a comprehensive article on Mutaflor that details all you need to know about this supplement.)

Probiotic-3

ProBiotic 3 contains three strains of bacteria: Streptococcus faecalis, Clostridium butyricum and Bacillus mesentericus. S. faecalis is naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract and is helpful in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. C. butyricum is also a natural part of the microflora, and breaks down dietary fiber that is otherwise indigestible. This breakdown produces several nutrients, including ones that are used by human cells in the digestive tract, and that reduce inflammation and intestinal permeability. B. mesentericus supports the growth of the other two bacteria as well as the beneficial bacterial strain bifidobacterium. (3)

More info about Probiotic-3.

Some possible places to buy Probiotic-3:

Final words: As always, low exposure to harmful substances, a healthy diet rich in prebiotic fibers, and adequate exposure to microorganisms in general are what lay the foundation for a healthy microbiome. These products are more like the final decorations on the cake.

Comments

  1. People reading this may also like to read
    Modulation of gut microbiota during probiotic-mediated attenuation of metabolic syndrome in high fat diet-fed mice
    http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v9/n1/pdf/ismej201499a.pdf
    Bear in mind
    “This work was supported by a grant from Danone Research, National Natural Science Foundation of China program”

  2. Thanks for the heads up buddy.

  3. Adeel khan says:

    I thought that refrigerated probiotics are generally the best ones you can get?

    • Hi Adeel! It depends. Mutaflor has to be kept refrigerated. I recommend that you give it a try if you are looking for a good probiotic supplement! Feel free to post your experience in this thread afterwards.

  4. Hi Eirik, “As Dr. Art Ayers says: Dairy probiotics don’t repair gut flora.” — does that include kefir milk from non-homogenized pastured dairy cows?

    • Since you mention Dr. Ayers, I know he has a post on kefir here that you should check out.

      No doubt that there are health benefits associated with kefir consumption (made using real kefir grains), but for me personally, I never felt that kefir lived up its reputation.

      • Cool. That was a good article; thank you. Luckily I also eat fermented vegetables.

        I also make and enjoy my own kombucha tea, although he didn’t mention anything in that particular article about KT.

        However I enjoy a daily cup of fermented beet/cabbage/onion vegetables (I prefer to eat them with pasture-raised/grass fed cheese such as Kerrygold mixed in with them). I should cut back on dairy but I digress.

        I make kefir with real grains using the best milk I can get around here — pastured, non-homogenized cow’s milk. When the grains multiply and I get too many of them I feed them to my 3 dogs — they LOVE it. Now one of them stands by my side hoping I “accidentally” drop some on the floor for him. Sometimes I make kefir cheese but unless I add salsa to it I don’t like it as much. With the kefir milk I love a cup in my morning smoothies and a cup with chocolate milk mix in the evenings (that’s my daily treat 🙂 ).

        I just always figured the more variety of ferments I can consume the more vitamin absorption I can get and the healthier my gut flora will be.

        Sorry to ramble on; that’s kind of what I do 🙂 Thank you, Eirik!

        • Nice! I made kombucha and kefir at home a while ago, and it’s delicious! Had to stop though, as it gets so damn cold here during the winter, and the fermentation process was slowed down to the point where it was no longer a point to keep going. If you haven’t already, you should try eating the Kombucha baby. It might seem a little “gross”, but it is actually the best part of the ferment I think!

          I’m glad to hear other people’s experiences so just keep on rambling!

          • That is such a bummer about the cold weather stopping the process. From what I’ve heard it’s a very common complaint for lots of people.

            You probably already are aware that it’s been recommended to use a heating pad or a seedling heating mat, or even a heating strap around your brewer. Personally I use the year-round heating wrap. It doesn’t get much lower than 68 in my house in the winter but kombucha brews better between 76-82 (although I prefer a brewing temperature of 76-78).

            I have the year-round heating system that I bought from Kombucha Kamp. In case you’re interested this is the link — http://store.kombuchakamp.com/Heating-Systems. I also have a stick-on temperature gauge that lets me know if I need to dial it up or down. The weather is so unpredictable here; zero to 50 in a matter of days so I check the temperature on the strip frequently.

            I have heard about people eating the SCOBYs in smoothies or dehydrating them as a snack. I’ve yet to do either but it doesn’t gross me out at all; actually a few of my bottles of KT somehow managed to grow little babies in each bottle and I just drink them. I have accumulated a bunch of SCOBYs, though, so I made a SCOBY Hotel. In the Spring I plan to pulverize them and use them as fertilizer for the garden — I heard they are really good for that! Supposedly dogs and chickens like them but I don’t know anyone with chickens and the dogs already get kefir… I’ll have to see if they like SCOBYs but I really would be surprised if they do.

            I certainly can’t get any takers on the SCOBYs! It’s good to have a few backups just in case I want to experiment or something goes wrong with a batch (I have had mold once) but I certainly don’t need to stock-pile them.

            As for the extra kefir, making cheese is a good way to get some whey for fermenting; mostly I use Celtic sea salt but depending on the veggies I’m fermenting sometimes I’ll add a Tblspn or two of whey.

            It’s been great chatting about this with you! I only know a handful of people who are interested in these topics, or fitness and other nutrition topics (try as I may to recruit more!).

          • Wow! I’m impressed. You’re definitely into the whole fermentation thing.

            I miss the taste of kombucha especially, so I might look into buying a heating system to get things going again. You should definitely try eating a SCOBY!

          • Thanks! Okay, I will eat a SCOBY 🙂

  5. hi! i was wondering if you see any harm in taking more than one of these probiotics at a time? I’ve been using prescript assist for quite some time now and enjoy the benefits of using it. I’d like to try one of the others you suggest as being better, but I’m wondering if “doubling down” could do more harm, than good. would love to hear your thoughts on this, or read any research you can point me to on the matter. thanks! love your blog, btw!!

  6. what about prebiotics?

    • Hi Richard!

      My recommendation is to eat plenty of vegetables (e.g., tubers, leeks, onions) and other foods rich in fermentable fibers. IMO, most people don’t need prebiotic supplements.

  7. Great post, Eirik. I have tried many probiotic supplements over the years in hope of assisting sluggish bowels but never felt like I got much relief. Have just recently started Mutaflor and have already noticed a difference 🙂

    However, I have also read there are now some safety concerns over the product – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22895085/ Do you have an opinion on this?

    Love your blog – keep up the good work!

    • Hi Thomas,

      I’m glad you found the post useful.

      I think it’s important to note that although I still think the two probiotic supplements mentioned in this post can be effective, the effects tend to be small. If you haven’t done so already, then I suggest you take a look at my recent article entitled 12 Evidence-Based Steps to a Healthier Microbiome. In it you’ll find a summary of the things you can do to build a healthier microbiota.

      I came across the article you link to a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly. I didn’t read through it thoroughly though. I’m not very concerned about the potential side effects of E.coli Nissle 1917. I acknowledge that there may be some potential safety concerns, but they seem to be small. Keep in mind, this probiotic is one of the best-examined bacterial strains worldwide. It has safely been used in many studies over the years.

      I may actually use it in a study myself later this year.

      I know this answer may not be as thorough as you’d prefer, but unfortunately I don’t have the time today to go through the whole article you link to.

  8. An interesting study about the E Coli Nissle strain and improvement in those with skin issues: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27340358?dopt=Abstract

  9. Hi Eirik
    first i wanted to thank you for your great posts ,
    second i wanted to share my experience about these two probiotics.
    i started taking probiotic-3 when i had lots of problem with my digestion and it really helped me so i was scared to stop taking it but reduced the amount (from 3 a day to 2) after almost 9 months( i maybe had 2 months off them) i had the same symptoms( i eat lots of vegetables and fermented food , minimal amount of dairy, processed food,but for some unknown reason i still have issues with digesting some veggies like broccoli , cauliflower,onion .. and i can only have limited amount of some others ) and i have tried lots of other probiotics some make me feel even worse, so i decided to use mutaflor last week and so far it works perfect , i was just wondering if i should take these probiotics for a short time or is it a lifetime supplement? because mutaflor is really expensive ($50 for 2 weeks only) but on the other hand id rather take it than having those horrible symptoms.

    • Hi Mary,

      There’s no reason to use these supplements for prolonged periods of time. If the bacteria actually set up shop in you gastrointestinal tract, they do so shortly after you start supplementing.

      • Doctor Eiruk , first of all i will thank you for the great work you did in this blogue.

        Hi have rosacea for 3 yeras and its hard. I drop dermatologist long ago , cause i find that my rosacea is link to my gut. The stress and poor diet contribute to Candida or SIBO , that lead to rosacea.

        I did a microbione Stool test , and i have almost no species of benefecial ecoli. Do you think that mutaflor , could help me.

        I did a brethe test that show i have really bad SIBO.

        I see a russian test , that show a probiotic that could eridicate SIBO.

        I can get my hand to russian products cause in Europe right now we have political issues.

        Could you find tell me if exist a probiotic that have the same species of the Russian FLORASAN D.???????

        Bifidobacterium bifidum at least 1×10 9 cfu;
        Bifidobacterium longum, at least , 1×10 9 UFC;
        Bifidobacterium infantis, at least, 1×10 9 cfu;
        Lactobacillus rhamnosus less then 1×10 9 cfu.

        here is the study

        https://www.metsol.com/gut-chek-blog/?p=629

  10. Doctor Eiruk , first of all i will thank you for the great work you did in this blogue.

    Hi have rosacea for 3 yeras and its hard. I drop dermatologist long ago , cause i find that my rosacea is link to my gut. The stress and poor diet contribute to Candida or SIBO , that lead to rosacea.

    I did a microbione Stool test , and i have almost no species of benefecial ecoli. Do you think that mutaflor , could help me.

    I did a brethe test that show i have really bad SIBO.

    I see a russian test , that show a probiotic that could eridicate SIBO.

    I can get my hand to russian products cause in Europe right now we have political issues.

    Could you find tell me if exist a probiotic that have the same species of the Russian FLORASAN D.???????

    Bifidobacterium bifidum at least 1×10 9 cfu;
    Bifidobacterium longum, at least , 1×10 9 UFC;
    Bifidobacterium infantis, at least, 1×10 9 cfu;
    Lactobacillus rhamnosus less then 1×10 9 cfu.

    Here is the study

    https://www.metsol.com/gut-chek-blog/?p=629

  11. Doug Gilbakian says:

    can the escheria coli be shipped to U.S. since it is not sold here. or is that a big no no.

Leave a Reply

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: