By Lauren Crosby, MD, FAAP, a member of TruBiotic’s scientific advisory board
With so many brands and strains of probiotics on the market these days, it has become a difficult and indeed an overwhelming task to choose the one that best addresses an individual’s medical conditions and personal health concerns. And, some question if we even need them at all. Is the benefit worth the time and effort to pick the right one and then add it to our daily routines? The answer to these questions is yes!
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our own bodies to keep our gut microbiome balanced and functioning properly. The gut microbiome refers to the composition of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes living in our gastrointestinal system—some are good, and some are potentially harmful. Disrupted and unbalanced microbiomes can have an impact on our health and the development of various disease states.
Taking probiotics not only helps maintain the balance of that microbiome but can also help individuals who want to support their immune system since 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut.
With respect to making the proper choice, there are several factors to take into consideration, including your age or your child’s age, the strain, and the way the probiotics are delivered such as capsule, liquid, chewable, or gummy.
Here are some of the top strains, by age, with the science to support their use for digestive health.
A smart choice is the strain Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12. For infants, it’s very convenient to use liquid drops. The BB-12 strain in liquid form is designed to increase beneficial bifidobacteria, which are important to establish a healthy microbiome and to support a baby’s digestive development. It also helps soothe infants’ upset stomachs, reduce fussiness and crying, and support regularity. This product is clinically proven to aid in reducing fussiness related to colic and other digestive issues in infants aged 12 weeks and younger. Compared to placebo, infants given BB-12 cried for an hour and twenty minutes less per day, had an average of five less crying episodes per day and slept an average of sixty minutes more per day. Parental quality of life scores also greatly improved. (Chen et al. 2021).
Two formats for older children are sugar free chewables and sugar free gummies. Look for chewables for children 2 years old and up that feature Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) strains. These are two of the most clinically researched probiotic strains to support digestive and immune health for children. Several studies have demonstrated that these strains decrease the risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections, decrease the frequency of these infections, and improve oral health which was shown in children as having fewer cavities. (Hojsak et al. 2010a), (Hojsak et al. 2010b) and (Nase et al. 2001).
A sugar free gummy form for ages 3 years and older is also on the market and features the most clinically researched Bacillus probiotic strain B. subtilis DE111 in spore form. This strain can tolerate the processing of gummies, which requires high heat and water. Traditional live probiotic strains would not survive this type of processing, so be sure to look for spore-form strains in gummy probiotic supplements.
Also, be sure to look for sugar-free products that are naturally sweetened with fructooligosaccharides (FOS)—prebiotic fibers—from chicory root. FOS help to feed the probiotics and other good intestinal bacteria without putting more added sugar into your child’s diet.
For adults, the probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5® and Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12® have been studied for more than 30 years and in more than 10,000 subjects, including in the world’s largest probiotic clinical trial to date. The BB-12 strain has one of the best survivability rates in the gastrointestinal tract among all probiotic strains. They are a clinically proven solution for digestive motility (Eskesen et al. 2015), helping to keep the digestive system running smoothly.
A large study (Chatterjee et al. 22013) demonstrated the ability of the combination of BB-12 and LA-5 to reduce the impact of a disrupted gut microbiome, symptoms of loose, watery stools, that was due to a course of antibiotics. In addition, these strains are clinically proven to aid in an enhanced immune response (Rizzardini et al. 2012). The strain BB-12 supported the body’s immune response to vaccination in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial that utilized an influenza vaccine as an immune system challenge in healthy individuals.
Just as children’s gummy probiotic supplements are best delivered through a spore strain, so are adults. For adults, the Bacillus probiotic strain – B subtilis DE111® in spore form can tolerate the processing of gummies (high heat and water). A placebo-controlled trial (Cuentas, et al. 2017) in people with occasional GI irregularity showed that DE111 significantly improved GI discomfort, including constipation and diarrhea, and increased the frequency of normal stools. This strain was clinically proven to significantly influence gut microbiota too (Labellarte, et al. 2019).
Optimizing the body’s gut microbiome with high quality probiotic strains that are backed by science is an important step in balancing the body’s microbiome.