Did you know that your gut is an ecosystem for bacteria? It’s a concept that can get lost when consumers consider the benefits of probiotics. More is not really the point of a successful ecosystem – balance is the objective. When living organisms compete for resources, they must fight to survive. In science, this is known as antagonistic – two or more species fight to thrive in one ecosystem.
Bacteria are naturally antagonistic, so when placed in the same system they don’t play well together. What happens when bacteria don’t get along?
If you were creating your own ecosystem, say a zoo, would you transport the tigers unrestrained next to the zebras? What would you find when you got the animals to their new home? You would probably be left with just tigers, because not all animals are compatible travel companions.
The same concept applies when creating effective probiotics. The problem with multi-strain products is failed transportation. You pack multiple strains into one container unrestrained and not all of them will reach their final destination. Manufacturers give these living organisms no choice but to fight for valuable resources like oxygen and food.
Professor Gregor Reid, a leading expert on probiotics and a former chairperson of the United National World Health Organization Expert Panel, said it best:
“…..very little is still known about the way in which different species of bacteria contained in many multi-strain products interact with each other.” He went on to say, “The tendency is ‘let’s have 15 strains’… ‘let’s have 28 billion’… You’ve got to know what they’re doing. Are they really having an impact? The strains inhibit each other. So what’s the point of putting them inside the same container if they inhibit each other?”
When shopping for multi-strain probiotics, look for the word micro-enrobed. This indicates that each strain is separated, identified and validated. In other words, they put the pumas in a separate cage, so they can’t get to the zebras.
Another common problem with multi-strain products is overcrowding. How can manufacturers possibly expect to fit 30 different strains of bacteria into one easily digestible package and keep them separate?
It’s simple math – you can only pack so much into one tiny compartment. To get that many into their product, they have to reduce the number of each strain. This means that by the time you ingest the capsule, many of microbes are dead. They either die off from lack of resources or they cancel each other out. In order for a probiotic to be beneficial, it must contain live strains, so the additional number of strains really serves no purpose.
Ideal products will have fewer strains for good reason. A 2004 study conducted by the University of College Cork in Ireland addresses the issue of an excessive number of strains in probiotics.
The report states that it would seem that consuming more strains is the most practical approach to creating a diverse gut microbiota, but if they are simply going to cancel one another out, why do it? There is no point in adding 30 different strains because they compete in your digestive tract, as well. Fewer strains will mean better balance in your digestive ecosystem and less competition.
The antagonistic nature of probiotic bacteria has been studied for years in the yogurt industry where companies have struggled to introduce new strains into their yogurts because of this very issue. Scientific papers dating back to the 1960’s and 1970’s detail the difficulty of adding L. acidophilus to yogurt because substances produced by another bacteria in the yogurt were killing it off. All of the strains studied were beneficial, probiotic strains, but regardless of their beneficial properties, they don’t all “play nice together”. One study stated, “Lactobacillus acidophilus added to yogurt decreased in numbers during refrigerated storage. This instability was caused by substance(s) produced by L. bulgaricus, [another part] of [the] yogurt cultures.”
L. acidophilus and L. bulgaricus are two of the most common probiotic species being used in probiotic products today, and the two are often combined into multistrain products without any separation. Chances are the same effects, noted for years in the yogurt industry, are taking place in the supplement industry. Quite simply, you have to keep them separated for their own survival.
Natren does offer a multi-strain probiotic, but we do things that many other manufacturers don’t:
Natren offers a 100% potency guarantee for each individual species through the expiration date listed on the label. We have complied with the probiotic labeling standards since before they even existed because we’ve always believed in upholding the highest standards. It’s all about creating a practical and thriving ecosystem.
The post When Bacteria Don’t Get Along: The Multi-Strain Problem appeared first on Natren Probiotics Blog.