Probiotics- Are all good bacterias the same?

Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria has been steadily gaining it's ground in the supplements market. In fact, in some countries probiotics are incorporated into their hospital formularies with tonnes of research backing them up. Probiotics are used extensively for treating Allergies, Diarrhea (associated with post anitbiotic use), Lactose intolerance, Immunity (boosters), Irritable bowel syndrome, and bacterial vaginosis.

But the big question is, are all probiotics the same?

And the definite answer is, NO, NO, NO. Each strain of probiotic can be very, very different from another. Below is the comparison between 2 common probiotics, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus Thermophilus.

Not only do they look different, they thrive in different conditions, and contribute to humans differently. To make it easier for us to understand, think of different strains of probiotics as humans with different professions. An engineer will be good at building/making stuff, whereas a doctor will be good at healing people. If asking a doctor to do an engineer's job is absurd, then saying that all probiotics function similiarly is equally absurd.


A question i get frequently is "are probiotics for adults going to be the same as the ones for infants?"

If they were the same, a cook will be just as good in building houses as a construction worker.

A good example of a probiotic for infants is Morinaga M-16V, a kind of bifidobacterium. This bacteria is commonly found in intestines of new borns, as has been extensively studied (30 published papers and 19 clinical trials). In Japan, this strain of bacteria is being used in more than 100 hospitals routinely, to treat infants including low-birth-weight infants.

Morinaga M-16V is proven to restore Bifidobacterium to normal levels, to boost the immune systems of the infants treated, and enhance skin and respiratory health. They achieve this by modulating the immune response, and supporting the health of our gastro-intestinal mucosal layer.

So it would make perfects sense to use this strain of bacteria on your baby instead of using another strain say...lactobacillus rhamnosus. Lactobacillus rhamnosus on the other hand, has been studied extensively to aid in preventing urinary tract infections.

Morinaga M-16V can be found in KidsBiotics, as shown below


So HOW would you as a consumer choose what's the right probiotic for you?

Well, the 1st thing you need to know is what do you want the probiotic to do for you.

If you want it for specific purposes (for example to aid in your Irritable bowel syndrome), you would probably choose those with specialised single/few strains. In this case, Bio-Life's Probi containing Lactobacillus plantarum (299v) will be your obvious choice.

If you want to get fewer cough and colds, you can use Kordel's Protect which contains Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium Lactis Bi-07 combination, which has scientific substantiation to reduce cold and flu duration and number of episodes & to reduce the use of antibiotics (Leyer G.J et al)

If you have multiple complaints/non-specific uses of probiotics, then a multiblend option would be your choice. This will be a bit more complicated as there are numerous brands of probiotic blends out there. Consult your pharmacist on this.


There's also something else called Prebiotics. A lot of my customers confuse prebiotics with probiotics. Prebiotics are basically insoluble/indigestible carbohydrates that contribute to the growth and sustainability of probiotics. In short, they HELP Probiotics work better, and longer in your body.

Common examples of prebiotics are like inulin and FOS (fructooligosacharrides). GOS or Galactooligosaccharide is a relatively new comer, but it has potentially exciting properties. Studies have found that it can inhibit the growth/activities of certain harmful bacteria such as the notorious E.Coli (A common bacteria that causes severe diarrhea) by preventing them from adhering to our intestinal wall.


Probiotics Products that combine both probiotics AND prebiotics are called synbiotics, since the ingredients work synergistically.

One last thing to remind all of you, DO NOT TAKE PROBIOTICS WITH HOT FOOD/DRINKS. It will destroy all viable cells in your product.