“The past few years the role and importance of the gut microbiota has really became
common knowledge, and not a week goes by without a mention in the mainstream media.”
Lallemand Health Solutions
Probiotics are becoming increasingly popular. According to the National Business Journal, 10-15 years ago, probiotics were far from a household name; but today, 70% of consumers are familiar with the benefits of probiotics. And as products flood the market, the hype surrounding them can get in the way of the information consumers really need: what are probiotics, how can they improve your health and how do you choose the product(s) that will be the most beneficial for you?
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working with our Chief Science Officer, Dr. JB, to write and publish a series of posts around probiotics with the end goal of helping you select the right product(s) and get the most out of them. In this post, we’ll break down Colony-Forming Units (CFU) so that next time you’re shopping for products, you’ll have a confident grasp on what that actually means.
First, the definition of CFU. The CFU number you see on probiotic products is identifying the number of viable bacterial cells per millilitre (mL) of the product. If a product says it contains 1 billion CFUs of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, that means it contains 1 billion living cells of the Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacteria per mL.
When selecting a probiotic product, there are a few CFU-related things to look for. Dr. JB explains that more CFU doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a superior product. However, if the CFU number is too low, it might not populate in your digestive system quite prolifically enough to outnumber the bad bacteria and help restore a healthy balance.
Dr. JB explains, “Optimal [CFU] depends on the current status of the individual’s gut. If it’s generally OK, maintenance doses are fine. If there has been recent antibiotic use, or gut health is poor, larger inputs will rebalance the gut more quickly.”
At the very minimum, a probiotic should contain at least 1 billion CFU; and to give the bacterial cells the best chance of thriving, research suggests that a higher CFU is optimal. We couldn’t find any recorded cases of an individual “overdosing” on probiotics, which suggests there’s little risk in opting for a more rigorous approach to incorporating probiotics into your daily routine.