Does a higher CFU count in probiotics compare to other probiotics as superior?

Does a higher CFU count in probiotics compare to other probiotics as superior?

Finding the right probiotic for you can be overwhelming enough with so much competition and different advertising approaches on the market and if you have shopped for a probiotic before, you will have noticed that all probiotics emphasize the CFU count known as colony forming units which represent the number of live probiotic bacteria identified in each gram or serving. They denote how many bacteria in probiotics are able to divide and form colonies.

Probiotic manufacturers are aware that most consumers do not fully understand the functioning of probiotics when ingested or what criteria to use when selecting a good probiotic supplement. As a result, there is a current trend emerging in Australia with manufacturers boosting the CFU count in their probiotics as a comparison within the competing market to influence decisions of the uninformed consumer.This trend has shown the pressure of other manufacturers who are feeling the pinch to follow suit.With this explosion of unnecessary high CFU count increases within probiotics on the market, the uninformed consumers have been miss-guided to believe that a higher CFU count is what is important when comparing probiotics on the market when in fact, this could not be further from the truth and there is so much more to consider when selecting the right probiotic formula.

Choosing a Probiotic for GAPS requires the following criteria.

1. MULTI STRAIN: Contain as many different species and strains of bacteria as possible to maximize the repopulation of beneficial species in the gut.A multi strain formula with a content of 12 – 18 different strains will have a better chance of deriving benefits than formulas with single species of beneficial flora.

2. GROUPS OF BACTERIA: Contain a mixture of strains from different groups of bacteria species.Recommended groups may include: Lactobacilii, Bifidobacteria, physiological strains of E.coli, Streptococcus faecalis and/or bacillus subtilis (soil bacteria).A good beneficial yeast such as Saccharomyces Boulardii is also well known for it’s benefits.

3. BACTERIA CONCENTRATION AND CFU: Contain the right concentrated amount of beneficial bacteria: colony forming units (CFU’s) to survive the perilous acid journey through the gut. 15 – 20 Billion CFU is a good range for an adult’s general health.Higher doses for specific health ailments can be advisable.

4. STRENGTH AND STABILITY: The manufacturer of the probiotic you choose should stand behind their claims for probiotic strength throughout the shelf life of the product and be prepared to provide manufacture test results to show the probiotic strength, bacterial composition and stability.

Our body naturally has about 100 trillion bacteria floating around at any given time and science is only familiar with a fraction of these species.There is still so much to learn about our microbiome but it makes sense to maximise the number of different strains from different groups within a probiotic to help colonise the already existing trillions of bacteria in our gut with concentrated amounts of friendly gut flora.

Timmerman et al. (2004) in the International Journal of Food Microbiology 96, summarised a group of studies comparing the functionality and efficiency of mono (single) strains, multi strains and multispecies probiotics. His findings revealed that multi strain probiotics are indeed more effective than mono strain probiotics and that multi species containing multiple strains can be even more effective than the multi strain probiotics.

One of the studies compared by Timmerman et al. included the probiotic mono strain Saccharomyces Boulardii which revealed that it left the microflora unchanged when supplemented on it’s own. This shows how significant it is to have as many different species as possible when selecting a probiotic formula and how a variety of strains from different species work in synergy with Saccharomyces Boulardii. A lot of attention has been paid to S. Boulardii, for its benefits to reduce diarrhoea and affects in killing the overgrowth of Candida Albicans (a yeast bacteria), however supplementing it alone without the additional effects derived from a multispecies/multi strain probiotic formula has shown to fail to meet the desired effects in repopulating the gut as they work in a symbiotic relationship.

It is commonly accepted by scientists that probiotics must have a minimum of 1 million LIVE CFU of good bacteria strains per gram to ensure that they reach the areas of the gut where they may do their work to colonize. The recommended amount for a GAPS adult is at least 15 to 20 billion of bacteria cells per gram (15 - 20 billion CFU per serve) or higher for major health complaints. Major health complaints may be associated with severe eczema, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and other severe digestive diseases and disorders. You need to provide large enough doses to see an improvement, however it is important to be cautious of probiotics that contain CFU amounts that are too high for GAPS patients to cope with.

CFU counts that are too high for immune compromised individuals may result in a sever die off reaction and make the patient’s condition even worse.It is also worthwhile noting that formula’s with extremely high CFU counts, should not be the deciding factor when selecting a probiotic as the only number that matters is how many bacteria make it to your gut alive. CFU counts don’t tell you anything about how a probiotic has been prepared to maintain it’s strength as it passes through the stomach acid to colonise the lower intestines. Beware of manufacturers who market with this kind of advertising approach.What CFU does allow you to identify is the dosage measurement required for your particular health concern provided by your practitioner.In terms of CFU, more is not better after a certain value point.

You will come across some probiotics that contain bacteria strengths far and beyond the recommended GAPS amount creating a severely potent probiotic and this is not recommended for GAPS patients because it may produce a detrimental severe die off reaction and consequently make the patient very sick and weak. Some probiotics have been nanonized which means ‘chopped’ creating a greater surface area to bind to free radicals entering the body before it chelates them and these probiotics are best avoided for GAPS patients as well.

Another important consideration in relation to the CFU count is whether the probiotic dosage delivery has the capacity to administer smaller dosage quantities than that identified on the label serving suggestion.People who are taking a probiotic for the first time and who have an identified gut related disorder will without a doubt produce a die off reaction when introducing good bacteria to their microbiome for the first time and that is why it is important to introduce probiotics at a lower dose and increase it gradually over time to control the die off reaction.If the CFU count is too high per serving, it will be difficult for the patient to split a capsule containing 50 or 100 billion CFU to measure a controllable amount of 2 billion CFU. This is why a capsule containing a low CFU per capsule or a probiotic powder allowing a smaller dose is best. Probiotics with smaller measurable amounts with the ability to increase the dose to the therapeutic amount is what GAPS patients need to aim for.

Bio-Kult has been designed to produce 2 billion probiotic microorganisms (CFU) per capsule so that it is easy to establish small enough doses for sensitive people whilst being able to build up to the therapeutic dose as required for further gut healing. Bio-Kult has a broad spectrum of 4 beneficial species with a good mixture of 14 strains, each working together in a symbiotic relationship. It maintains its reputation to meet all the GAPS Criteria and has proven its value shown in a GAPS patient clinical setting for over 10 years.

Higher CFU formulas beyond the required amount suggested for your health needs is generally considered a waste.CFU counts higher than 50 billion are more than likely just a marketing scheme to make consumers think that added cells equals added benefits.All this means is that you might be paying a higher price tag for something you may not need.Whilst a good probiotic formula needs to have a certain CFU count (such as that discussed) to be considered beneficial, it is best to focus on the mixture of different species and multiple strains with a good yeast added first and then look for the right concentrated amount of bacteria required (CFU); not too little and not too much.

Bio-Kult Advanced Multi Formula: Dosage Guidelines for GAPS

It is very important to build the probiotic dose up slowly. Start from a very small amount. Observe the patient for any “die-off” symptoms (including, but not limited to fatigue, nausea, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, low grade fever, headache, and flu like symptoms). If there are none then, increase the dose gradually and methodically over time. When you see a reaction, let your patient settle on this dose until the “die-off” symptoms settle or disappear. Then increase the dose again and let the patient settle on that. Keep increasing the dose until a therapeutic level is reached. This period of building up the dose can take from a few weeks to a few months and is different for each patient.

Each Bio-kult capsule contains 2 billion CFU

  • An adult should have around 15-20 billion of bacterial cells per day (8-10 capsules).
  • An infant up to 12 months of age can have 1-2 billion of bacterial cells per day (1 capsule).
  • A toddler from 1 to 2 years of age can have 2-4 billion of bacterial cells per day (1-2 capsules).
  • A child from 2 to 4 years of age can handle 4-8 billion of bacterial cells per day (2-4 capsules).
  • A child from 4 to 10 years of age can have 8-12 billion of bacterial cells per day (4-6 capsules).
  • From the age of 12 to 16 we can increase the dose to 12-15 billion per day (6-8 capsules).

Once the patient has reached the therapeutic dose level it should be maintained for around six months on average. It takes at least this length of time to remove the pathogenic flora and start re-establishing normal gut flora. Adhering to the diet is absolutely essential in this period. If you carry on feeding your pathogens in the gut with sugar and processed carbohydrates then the probiotic will not have much chance of helping you. After 6 months GAPS patients should take a maintenance dose of probiotics for the rest of their life. Yes for life! Unfortunately probiotics can maintain and support the colonization of friendly bacteria in the gut but once probiotic supplementation stops, the gut flora begins to return to it’s colony state of regular bacteria residents. Example from the dosage guide above: A four year old child would take up to 6 capsules for the first 6 months and then maintain the dose with 4 a day from then onwards.Please note that this is a general guideline suggested by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, however your Certified GAPS Practitioner may set your dosage higher depending on your health condition.


Do not consume probiotics at the same time as Sauerkraut or Betaine with added pepsin. It is best to supplement probiotics first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night (by splitting the dose) when the stomach acid is at its lowest.

Tips on keeping your probiotics alive longer

Whether you’re taking a high dose or lose dose probiotic, you want the healthy cells to stay alive and potent.

Some tips to keep in mind to prolong the cell life are:

1. Follow specific directions on the bottle unless otherwise directed by your practitioner

2. Keep refrigerated if refrigeration is required or if temperatures get to high

3. Avoid exposure to excessive heat

4. Seal your probiotic bottle tight

5. Avoid moisture as this will activate the bacteria

One final word of caution is to know your supplier and investigate the path to which the probiotics have been transported and conditions to which they have been stored.

The long trip from the manufacturer to multiple changing hands through different distribution networks to the final destination at your health food supplier and then to your home can impact your probiotics if not managed correctly and this impact will most likely be affected even more so if it requires refrigeration during this process and is miss-handled.Through our experience we have learned that many probiotics do not even survive the trip to your health food store from the manufacturer if travel conditions for that particular probiotic are not considered. That is because of the hot temperatures in the back of delivery trucks that they may be exposed to if the product requires refrigeration. For those that do survive and are managed adequately during the transportation period, the stability of the product can be impacted even further if the supplier does not store them correctly and then if it is an online product, it will need to be shipped with. Always make enquiries into how your probiotics are transported and stored and whether they require refrigeration.

View our Probiotics range for GAPS here