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The Multiple Strain Probiotic Problem

May 23, 2019

The Multiple Strain Probiotic Problem

Natren has always held the position that multiple strain probiotics are not necessarily better than targeted single strain probiotics, or probiotics with a select few strains. As the industry continues to be flooded with more and more products we think it is a perfect time to review the reasons behind our targeted approach.


What is a multi-strain probiotic?


A multiple strain or multi-strain probiotic is any product containing more than one strain of bacteria in the formula. For example, Natren’s Healthy Trinity combines three strains in one capsule: Lactobacillus acidophilus NAS strain, Bifidobacterium bifidum Malyoth strain, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus LB-51 strain. But, read further to learn how we do it successfully.


What are the concerns with multi-strain probiotics?


Bacteria do not “play well” together. By their very nature bacteria are antagonistic - which basically means they don’t all get along or “play well” together. If you think about how probiotics work, one of the reasons probiotics are effective is because they displace the ‘bad’ bacteria in your system with ‘good’ bacteria. Think about that statement for a moment, they work by displacing each other. So what happens when you put 4 or 5 or 10 plus different strains of bacteria into one product? You guessed it, they destroy each other. Scientists describe this as “fierce competition” to “directly inhibit the growth of other species.”


Consumers should read the labels of multi-strain products carefully to ensure that each individual strain is somehow separated from the other strains in the product, otherwise, you may not be getting what you paid for. Natren achieves this separation through the use of our very unique and specialized Oil-Matrix Delivery System.


Our Oil Matrix Delivery System is a combination of Sunflower Oil and Vitamin E, and it is designed to keep each of the three strains separate from one another. In addition, this Oil Matrix protects the probiotic bacteria from the gastric juices in your stomach and upper intestine. Probiotic bacteria are most effective in the small and large intestine, so it’s important that they can survive through the harsh acidic stomach environment to reach the intestines.

How Do You Fit So Many Strains in One Capsule? Let’s talk about space -- if you attempt to cram too many bacterial strains into one capsule you will run into a very real space issue. How can you possibly fit an effective dose of 10 or 15 different strains into one capsule? Chances are the colony forming units (CFUs) for each bacterial strain are low and provided in levels considered non-therapeutic. Is the product really going to be effective if it is only providing low cell counts of 15 different bacteria that do not “play well” together to begin with? Studies have even shown a complete absence of some of the claimed strains in products. Are companies just listing strains on the label and not actually including them in the product or could this be the result of the point we made earlier -- bacteria are antagonistic and can potentially kill off other bacteria in the bottle.

Which Strain is Providing the Benefit? Scientifically speaking, it is very difficult to study and properly utilize the study results of a multi-strain product. If you conduct a clinical trial on a product that contains multiple bacteria how will you ever know which bacteria were actually responsible for the changes noted in the trial? In order to use the study results, you have to continue to give all the strains tested when the reality is, it could be one single strain or a select few strains that lead to the positive results. Multi-strain products are literally a clinical trial to real-world application nightmare.


What Are You Actually Ingesting from Capsule to Capsule? When you purchase a multiple-strain product you do not know, from pill to pill or bottle to bottle, what is in the product. These ‘cocktail mixes’ of species and strains can vary drastically. As another article recently stated, “Probiotic mixes vary dramatically from pill to pill. Companies aren’t even required to maintain the same combination of bacterial strains from one batch to the next, meaning what people put in their bodies could vary widely.”


One study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology compared the labels of 10 products with the number and types of bacteria they were actually able to scientifically extract from the products. They reported 50% of the products to be mislabeled in terms of the number of bacteria present and 30% of the products to be mislabeled in terms of the species present. In 40% of the products the specified strains were not detected. Sadly, consumers are being duped and at Natren we believe consumers deserve better than this. Another study looked at the label claims of five probiotic products and found that two of them claiming to contain B. bifidum lacked this strain completely while other products had more Lactobacillus strains in them that were not even claimed on the label. The later was identified as being a contamination issue because many, “... manufacturers utilize shared equipment to produce all probiotics,” and the technique used was so sensitive that it was picking up low-level contaminants.


Natren probiotics will never have contamination issues with other contract manufactured products because we are one of the few true probiotic companies. Meaning we manufacture our own probiotics, in our own state of the art pharmaceutical grade manufacturing facility in California.


Unfortunately, a large portion of the probiotics flooding the market today are made up of contract manufactured products. These products are produced by one or two manufacturers with a marketing position willing to provide species and strains of bacteria to any vitamin manufacturer that wants to add on a probiotic product. There is much more involved in the process of properly combining bacteria strains, protecting those strains and creating effective probiotic products. Look for companies that genuinely care about your health, companies that continue to research and explore the science of probiotics on a regular basis and companies who are the actual manufacture of their product. At Natren, probiotics are ALL that we do.




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