What Is a High Potency Probiotic?

A high potency probiotic is simply a probiotic food supplement that contains an extremely high number of live viable probiotic or good bacteria. The number of beneficial bacteria in a probiotic food supplement is measured in colony forming units, often shortened to CFUs. The more CFUs a product has, the more probiotic bacteria it contains. We consider a probiotic of high potency to contain 50 billion+ colony forming units per serving.

Why Use a High Potency Probiotic?

You may at this stage be wondering why it is necessary to take such a high strength probiotic. Well, the large intestine is populated by a huge number of microbes – around 100 trillion (that’s 100,000 billion) to be more exact! Collectively known as "gut flora", these tiny organisms have a combined weight of up four pounds (1.8kg) and most of them are bacteria.

These organisms fall into three distinct categories: "good" or beneficial flora, neutral flora and opportunistic or "bad" flora. They constantly compete with one another for space and food, and in a healthy person the beneficial flora, comprising around 80% of the total microbes, is able to hold the "bad" microbes (the remaining around 20%) in check and the digestive flora is considered balanced. However, if this balance becomes disrupted through illness, stress, medication use or poor diet, the number of opportunistic "bad bacteria" increase and ill-health results.

In order to restore this delicate balance and thus health, good microbes are required. Since we are dealing with such vast numbers of microbes, very large numbers of probiotic organisms are required in order to make any impact.

Imagine, for example, that you have lost just 10% of your beneficial flora. That’s 8 trillion bacteria (8,000 billion). Now consider that most probiotics have only 10 billion live organisms or CFUs and it is easy to understand why these lower dose supplements do not make much difference for serious health problems.

Whilst the lower potency probiotic supplements are great for maintaining health – for providing a kind of “insurance” against illness if you like, high potency products are required for effective treatment of disease, especially gastro-intestinal illness.

Which High Potency Probiotic?

As well as following our general buying advice, the following are important to consider when choosing high strength products:
  • Price per serving. When considering your budget, remember that you may require probiotics over an extended period of time and this needs to be factored into your calculations. Please be aware that some of these high potency probiotics appear to be very expensive at first sight. However, when you actually calculate the cost per serving, these products often turn out to be very good value. For example, one scoop of Custom Probiotics 11 Strain Probiotic powder, providing 200 CFUs of probiotics will cost $1.40USD. The equivalent number of bacteria in a lower potency probiotic costs $11.40USD1.

  • Types of probiotic genus2 and strain in the product. Remember that the genus is the name that appears first and the name that appears second describes the species. Choose a high potency probiotic containing as wide a variety as possible of genera and strains. Serious health problems are generally quite complex to master and therefore by using a high potency probiotic with a good a mixture of genera and strains, you can improve the chance of at least one of the bacteria being effective.

  • Number of live bacteria (CFUs) per serving.

There are several high potency probiotics on the market. Some such as VSL3 and Custom Probiotics products can be purchased in powder or capsule form. Be aware that powders are easier than capsules for introducing tiny doses. This is useful in the initial stages of probiotic therapy for preventing unwanted side effects such as “die off symptoms”, which can occur in cases of severe ill-health problems, especially digestive disorders such as food intolerance and intestinal candida. Another benefit of powders is that they are less likely to include fillers, which are used to add weight to capsules but which can irritate digestive problems.

Compare High Potency Probiotics

The table below details and compares high potency probiotic powders, which contain well-researched genera and species and which are easily accessible. This list is by no means exhaustive. You will see that some contain prebiotics, specifically inulin. Theoretically this prebiotic feeds only friendly bacteria but where the gut flora is unbalanced, for example where food intolerance symptoms are present, it also appears to encourage the growth of "bad bacteria"3. You may therefore want to think carefully about whether or not a probiotic containing inulin fiber is suitable for you.

NameManufacturerCFUs per serving (billion)Number of probiotic generaNumber of probiotic speciesInulinBuy Product
Custom Probiotics 11 Strain Probiotic FormulationCustom Probiotics 200211NoBuy Now
Maximum Support Probiotic FormulaBrain Child Nutritionals100312YesBuy Now
Therbiotic CompleteKlaire Laboratories100+312YesBuy now
Ultimate Flora Super CriticalRenew Life200210YesBuy Now
VSL#3 VSL Pharmaceuticals45038NoBuy Now

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References

1.Based on a pack price of $16.95USD for 300 billion CFUs in 30 capsules

2.Genera is the plural form of genus

3.Hunter J O et al, The Management of Multiple Food Intolerances, Foods Matter, December 2009



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