A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed the findings of a large study performed by Hamilton’s very own McMaster University regarding the use of probiotics and their extreme effectiveness at reducing the symptoms of clostridium difficile infections by 66%!! The original article in the Hamilton Spectator can be found HERE:

Ok…back up. I’m getting too technical too fast aren’t I? Let’s start from the beginning – with probiotics. Probiotics are essentially the beneficial species and strains of bacteria or fungus that live in our intestinal tract and keep us healthy in a rather tremendous number of ways, least of which include boosting our immune systems, improving digestion, and mitigating food intolerances. As opposed to pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella, or E. coli that can make us sick (and even die), probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium longum actually keep us safe from harm. Despite what you would think, a healthy body is actually teeming with billions upon billions of healthy bacteria in a quaint symbiotic relationship.

Clostridium difficile (another type of bacteria), or C. diff for short has made local headlines here in Hamilton in the past few years because it has run rampant in hospitals and the conventional use of antibiotics has been largely ineffectual. C diff infections can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and can lead to “toxic megacolon” which can, and has caused many deaths. In the same way that beneficial probiotics prevent salmonella or E coli infections, they similarly inhibit the growth of C diff by producing a range of chemicals called bacteriocins, a class of natural antibiotics that allow healthy bacteria to wage war against other species of bacteria that might threaten their territory along the intestinal wall, or consume their food source (a.k.a. the same food you eat).

Probiotics can be obtained through the consumption of fermented foods such as yogurts, sour creams, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, and fermented bean pastes such as tempeh and miso. While eating (some) of these foods is still encouraged in moderation, there are a number of limitations with using food to achieve a therapeutic dose of healthy bacteria necessary to fight or prevent a major infection. First and foremost are the specific strains of bacteria themselves. Not all strains of bacteria actually colonize the intestines; that is to say, many strains and species of bacteria found in food will provide some benefit while in transit through your bowels, but won’t stay in your system long, thereby only offering a short-term benefit. Second, the concentration of bacteria in food often pales in comparison to that which is possible to obtain from supplements. In some cases probiotic supplements exceed 100 billion bacteria per serving! (I would argue that this is the whole basis for the use of supplementation altogether – if you could achieve it with food why wouldn’t you?)

Probiotic supplements are unique in that they are the only dietary supplement product that contains living, growing organisms inside. As such, their complexity requires a more rigorous qualitative assessment including the specific species, specific strains (and subsequent research of each one), CFU count, and of course cost. Without publicly naming names, the last 2 comparisons I have made for customers have pitted our product picks at 10x and 44x the CFU concentration per dollar of your typical brands respectively, and that’s not even factoring in the specific strains from a quality perspective. Of course, this just affirms our modus operandi – that we go out of our way to ensure that we only carry the products of best value for our customers and patients - anything else would be redundantly unnecessary.