What is a Probiotic, Anyway?

  • Nature's Source

As a dietitian, I find that certain health terms become very familiar before people actually understand what those terms mean. It took a few years before omega 3 eaters knew that they were eating anti-inflammatory oils. So, it’s probably a good idea to breakdown the term probiotic, so that you can use it with confidence.

The word probiotic is made up of pro– or for-; and –biotic or –life. So probiotic means for life. Most people know that probiotics are bacteria, but they aren’t just any bacteria. Just like we now realize that not all bacteria will make us sick…not all bacteria in fancy bottles meet the true definition of a probiotic.

What is that definition? The World Health Organization defines probiotics this way:

“Probiotics are live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”

Seems simple, right? Not so. Notice that the definition states that probiotics must confer a health benefit on the host. So that means that not all live bacteria are probiotics. Only those bacteria that have a positive impact on your health can truly be called a probiotic. And you have to study a probiotic in human clinical trials to know for sure.

If you go to the grocery store, there are hundreds of products with the word probiotic slapped on them. It would not be unreasonable to assume, then, that all probiotic products on the market have gone through human clinical trials…but it would be wrong. How can this be? Health Canada allows a product to be labeled as a probiotic as long as it contains an approved strain. Health Canada does not require the company to do clinical trials with the finished product. In fact, only a handful of probiotic products are actually clinically tested.

How do you know? Look for the research. If it exists, the company will proudly share it. When you find a clinically tested probiotic, you also need to take it in the same amount that worked in the study. We see this sleight of hand a lot on store shelves: probiotic products that are a lower dose than the study used…but they sell them as ‘clinically tested’.

What makes Bio-K+ unique is that it meets the true definition of a probiotic. The same drinkable liquid or capsule you buy in the store is the same product that is used in clinical trials.