After reading a few books that have touched on the subject of gut health, our family has been on supplemental probiotics. Your gut is naturally lined with bacteria that are essential in aiding digestion and protecting your body from infections. Probiotics compete with bad bacteria that interfere with the good flora your body needs. In nursing school my instructor taught that acidophilus should be recommended for patients on antibiotics to help with gastrointestinal side effects. Acidophilus can be found in just about any grocery store. However, there's so much more to probiotics than just Acidophilus.
What really inspired my quest to learn more about probiotics was the hospitalization of my 6 week old son for urinary track infection (UTI), which led to a couple courses of powerful antibiotics. While he tolerated them well enough, his gastrointestinal track was showing signs of distress and he developed a snorting upper respiratory nasal congestion sound accompanied by frequent sneezing and occasional teary itchy eyes. Perhaps most folks would shrug those symptoms off, but I was concerned he might develop allergies or worse, asthma. Thus began my research on alternatives to both warding off future UTI's, avoid the need for future courses of antibiotic, and restoring my son's immune system.
Gary B. Huffnagle's, The Probiotic Revolution, is a great introduction on the topic, in a format that is easy and quick to read. Originally, I'd began Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, because of hearing raving reviews of how GAPS diet had helped children on the Autism Spectrum. I wondered if there was some sort of connection to my older son's spectrum diagnosis, my allergies, and my newborn's freak UTI. The GAPS book is time and academic intensive and I'm a busy mom. Since I had a hunch probiotic were the direction to go, having read through comparative studies of the utilization of probiotics vs. antibiotics to combat UTI, my attention shifted to Huffnagle's book, intending to get back to Dr. Campbell-McBrides's book later, which hasn't happened yet. At best I've skimmed her book, whereas, I read Huffnagle's cover to cover, word for word, and enjoyed it very much. From the GAPS book I gleaned the importance of weeding out refined carbs and sugars in the diet in preference to wholesome proteins and nutritive fats, as well as essential fatty acids (fish, krill, flax seed, chia seed are just a few examples). Both books extol the virtues of probiotics in developing a healthy GI track, immune, and neurological system. My energy was pretty low at this point, so I needed to find something that would help not just my baby, but myself as well.
Several different probiotic brands have been ushered into our fridge in the past several months. Originally, I started the baby on Biogaia Infant probiotic drops because I'd read L. reuteri, which is cultured from breast milk, is one of the first probiotics babies receive from their mothers. Since I was not breastfed as a child, and having completed countless courses of antibiotics in my lifetime, I speculated that perhaps my own breast milk might not be as ideally cultured. Thus, it was important that I beef up my own flora as well. A few months later, BioGaia, was bought by Gerber, and there was none to be found anywhere. Nature's Way's Premadophilus Reuteri became our replacement for BioGaia, while I looked for something better.
Consistently, the guidelines for picking a probiotic are to find one with many different strains and with a larger cell count, no less than 1 billion. Huffnagle also recommends rotating through different probiotics because different strains have been found to be effective against different pathogens. Thus having more varieties in your pantry, might be better for you then just sticking to the same probiotic for years on end. Before I ran out of BioGaia, we began using probiotics by Udo's Choice Infant and Toddler, which has 3 billion cells and was well tolerated by all the little people in my home, and available at Whole Foods, in the refrigerator section, in the middle of summer. Probiotics shipped in the heat might be useless on arrival. When our bottle of Udo's was done, we gave Seeking Health's Probiotic Infant 10 strain, 10 Billion cell product a try. Usually, I administered about half the recommended dose, giving approximately 5 billion cells a day. Since Seeking Health is expensive, the search continued and when this bottle is finished we'll be trying the children's formula by Natural Factors, which is a 7 strain, 3billion cell count variety.
The older folks in the house took a few different probiotics as well. We also took L. Reuteri, which has been studied for it's effectiveness in combating H. Pylori, a bacteria that both my husband and I had to take antibiotics to eliminate a couple years ago. However, we soon moved on to an easy chewable by Roex, which had 10 billion cells, but only three strains, and remains a favorite for their convenience and sweet tangy flavor.
Food Science, makes an affordable, 5 billion cell (per capsule), 8 strain probiotic. It's advertised as 15 billion "if" you take three capsules, which doesn't seem totally necessary for us at this time. With 150 capsules, I can give each person in the family one a day, and since dad isn't always home when I hand them out, one bottle can sometimes last a whole month. For the little ones I'll just open a capsule and put the probiotic powder into their drink, food, or strait into their mouth. This is definitely my "budget" probiotic of choice.
If money were no object I'd buy more probiotics from Seeking Health, because they seem to have the higher culture varieties and cell counts. However, a cheaper alternative, is Natural Factors 12/12 formula with 12 strains and 12 billion cells for about half the price of Seeking Health, which also has 12 strains, but twice the cells, and twice the cost. Since we're also eating probiotic rich foods (such as plain yogurt and kefir), I think we'll be fine with the products in the 3-10 billion range. I've read a few reviews that make me suspect that the higher cell count formulas might work a little too aggressively in some folks. I'm a less is best kind of gal. If 1 billion works, then it's enough, why go higher if you don't need to?