Probiotics are continually in the news and thus growing in our collective consciousness due to their potential as a fundamental solution to improve overall gut health and immunity. With this influx of information, also comes some opinions on probiotics that may not be exactly true or may be misstated, so we thought it might be good to address some of these.
Probiotics have solid research on their clinical application for dealing with constipation and diarrhea, for post antibiotic therapy, and for bolstering overall immune function. Plus, there are many other areas where the research is mounting to broaden their application, such as cardiovascular health and even brain and cognitive health. Many now look at probiotics as something that should be included in the daily regimen and not just for treatment.
Here are a few areas that we get questions on regarding probiotics that we thought we should address...
Myth #1: The More Species and Strains the Better
This is a common mistake made, and it speaks to human nature and our thinking that more is always better. In the case of probiotics; it all begins and ends with choosing the most effective species for a given function. All probiotics share some general features (having healthful benefits, surviving stomach acid, and colonizing the intestinal tract), but, there are those that appear to be superior in certain areas (either for a condition or a function). So just dumping in as many different probiotics a s possible in a formula is not a very sophisticated approach.
- There will be redundancy
- There likely will not be enough of the more effective species/strain
- There will be competition for absorption of each species/strain
A quote from a meta-analysis study:
When choosing to use probiotics in the treatment or prevention of gastrointestinal disease, the type of disease and probiotic species (strain) are the most important factors to take into consideration.
At Nusentia® we picked the six species that best addressed the GI challenges that pets faced: diarrhea, constipation, inflammation, and immune deficiency. We also prioritized the formula based on the most common challenges, and then put in the targeted dosages that would really be efficacious. This makes for a smart product that really works. So, more is not better, its not about the number of species/strains in the formula, its about which probiotics are chosen and why.
Related: Probiotics for Pets: How to Find The Best Value
Myth #2: The Higher CFUs the Better
Again, see the "more is better" mistake. CFU stands for Colony Forming Units, which is the standard way probiotics are measured. Sometimes the research bears out that more is better, sometimes it doesn't. Our approach to formulation is to follow the research. Our formulation is based on the needs mentioned in Myth 1 and the supporting research in those areas for both the probiotic species and the dosage. We do have a therapeutic and acute dosage recommendation for when it is needed. High CFU formulas that are not targeted and supported by research are likely to be costly and ineffective.
Myth 3: Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated
Robust, well-tested probiotics (like those in Probiotic Miracle®) have been shown to be stable at typical room temperature. They will last about one year stored that way. Refrigeration won't necessarily extend the shelf life appreciably, but it insures that they dont reach extreme temperatures for long periods of time. Thus, refrigeration is not necessary unless the products will be exposed to higher temperatures (for example, hot summers).
Myth #4: Yogurt is a Good Source of Dog Probiotics
Yes and no. Assuming it is a plain yogurt with no sweeteners or additives, yogurt can be helpful to a dogs digestive tract, but often it is too low in CFU counts, or not targeted enough in the types of species. There is also some concern with the species being more "transient" in nature and not colonizing. The studies show promise, but there are inconsistent results. So we view yogurt as a good food for dogs, but not as a therapeutic agent. The guesswork is taken out of it by using a well-formulated probiotic.
Related: Is Yogurt Appropriate for Dogs?
Myth #5: Probiotics Should be Enteric Coated
Enteric coating is a polymer barrier applied to a capsule that prevents its dissolution or disintegration in the gastric environment of the stomach. There are a couple of reasons this is used for certain medications and or supplements:
- Enteric coating can protect the substance from the acid of the stomach.
- Enteric coating can protect the stomach from the drug/supplement.
In the case of probiotics this is highly unnecessary because Probiotics thrive in stomach acid and are not harmful or irritating to the stomach in any way. Enteric coating results in higher costs and undesirable substances being included in the formulation, while offering no appreciable benefit. So no, in our view, probiotics should not be enteric coated.
Related: Understanding Probiotics for Pets: CFU, Species, and Dosage Explained
CITES AND REFERENCES
The Truth About Probiotics for Dogs. Published September 2009. A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Diseases Marina L. Ritchie , Tamara N. Romanuk ?
A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Diseases Published: April 18, 2012 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034938 Vet Ther. 2009 Fall;10(3):121-30.
Clinical benefits of probiotic canine-derived Bifidobacterium animalis strain AHC7 in dogs with acute idiopathic diarrhea. Kelley RL1, Minikhiem D, Kiely B, O'Mahony L, O'Sullivan D, Boileau T, Park JS. Arch Anim Nutr. 2008 Apr;62(2):107-16. doi: 10.1080/17450390801892583.
Effects of a probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus strain on feed tolerance in dogs with non-specific dietary sensitivity. Pascher M1, Hellweg P, Khol-Parisini A, Zentek J Int Immunopharmacol. 2014 Mar;19(1):161-73. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.12.020. Epub 2014 Jan 4.
Immunobiotic lactobacilli reduce viral-associated pulmonary damage through the modulation of inflammation-coagulation interactions. Zelaya H1, Tsukida K2, Chiba E2, Marranzino G3, Alvarez S1, Kitazawa H2, Agüero G4, Villena J5. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2012 Apr 15;146(2):185-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2012.02.013. Epub 2012 Mar 1.
Early exposure to probiotics in a canine model of atopic dermatitis has long-term clinical and immunological effects. Marsella R1, Santoro D, Ahrens K. Zentralbl Bakteriol Orig A. 1976 Aug;235(4):485-93.
Studies on the composition of the fecal flora of healthy dogs with the special references of Lactobacillus flora and Bifidobacterium flora (author's transl)]. Am J Vet Res. 2006 Jun;67(6):1005-12.
Effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus DSM13241 as a probiotic in healthy adult cats. Marshall-Jones ZV1, Baillon ML, Croft JM, Butterwick RF. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jan 1;4:1404-19. Inflammatory bowel disease in veterinary medicine. Jergens AE1, Simpson KW. 2004 American Society for Clinical Nutrition Yogurt and gut function1,2 Oskar Adolfsson, Simin Nikbin Meydani, and Robert M Russell