48: Probiotic Supplements (Part 1) with Anthony Thomas, Ph.D.

We’re talking about a hot topic today: probiotic supplements. On the show, my guest, Anthony Thomas, Ph.D., shares the true definition of a probiotic, discusses why taking the right probiotic supplement may be good for your health, and explains what to look for on supplement labels to make sure you're getting what you paid for.

Antony Thomas, Ph.D. is the Director of Scientific Affairs at Jarrow Formulas. I met him back in January at a conference where he gave an eye-opening lecture on probiotic supplements and the importance of knowing about the strains you're taking. It turns out that not all probiotics are created equal. The key to choosing the right supplement for you or a family member is to look for probiotic strains that been studied for a specific health benefit.

We covered a lot of ground on the podcast, so I decided to split the Probiotic Supplements episode into two parts. In Part 1, Dr. Thomas offers a primer on probiotics. In Part 2, he answers YOUR questions ... and trust me, you had a lot of questions!

Show Highlights:

  • A brief discussion about dietary supplements that have been studies for healthy aging and longevity.
  • The “microbiome” and “microbiota” ... what they are and what they mean.
  • Where microbial communities live in and on our bodies and their many health benefits.
  • How certain probiotic supplements can help some women ward off urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • The intricacies of the vaginal microbiota. Less diversity is better.
  • A probiotic is defined by the World Health Organization as: Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.
  • Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.
  • Good Examples:
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (marketed to support digestive health and supported by science)
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 (marketed to support women's vaginal and urinary tract health and supported by science)
  • When evaluating a probiotic supplement, make sure the manufacturer identifies the Genus, Species, and Strain. If a probiotic, for example, is listed as Lactobacillus (which is the genus) and rhamnosus (which is the species), that's simply not enough. You need to know the specific STRAIN, which is generally designated with a combination of letters and numbers after the genus and species.
  • Do your own research! It's easy. Here are two ways to learn more about probiotics before you buy them:
  • When you see a probiotic strain listed on a label, you can search the published scientific research by going to Pubmed and typing in the name of that specific strain. For example, if you go to Pubmed and search for Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, which is found in Jarrow's fem dophilus, nearly 100 published studies come up.
  • You can go to the Clinical Guide to Probiotics for information on brands, specific strains, recommended dosage, indication, and references for the studies that back up each health indication.
  • The widespread misuse of the term “probiotics.”
  • What happens when you swallow a probiotic? How does it get to where it needs to be?
  • How a probiotic supplement may help to keep kids healthy.
  • How a properly-labeled probiotic should have company contact information listed.
  • Why we should limit exposure to antibiotics and antimicrobials.



International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics

Clinical Guide to Probiotics - You'll find information on brands, specific strains, recommended dosage, indication, and references for the studies to back up each health indication.

Clinical Guide to probiotics for women's health

Jarrow Formulas website:

Jarrow on Facebook

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We are giving away a bundle of 5 Jarrow Formulas probiotic and/or prebiotic supplements. The winner will have an opportunity to stop by the Jarrow website to choose the 5 products that meet the needs of their family. To enter to win (U.S. only, please), post a comment at the end of the Show Notes and tell me if you or a family member are currently taking a probiotic supplement and why, or tell me why you'd like to win this supplement bundle. I'll pick one U.S. winner at random on March 13th at noon ET. And of course, if you have a question about probiotics, feel free to post it in the comments section below.

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