Probiotics: What Are CFU
and How Many Do You Need?

Confused about reading the term cfu on your bottle of probiotics? It stands for colony forming unit and is a method of allowing you to know how many good bacteria you are getting.

It is a measure of how many bacteria (and yeast, because there are probiotic yeast) are able to divide and form colonies.

If it is easier, think of colony forming units as being a single bacterium.

If the probiotic bacteria are capable of dividing and forming colonies then that is proof that they are alive and healthy.


How many cfu do I need?

The number of colony forming units that you need really depends on a number of things.

For general good health, most experts recommend between 6 to 10 billion cfu each day. This is also written as 6x109 to 10x109.

For a specific minor health problem a dose of around 20 to 30 billion is often used. Take the dose suggested on the bottle or used in successful medical trials for that health problem.

For a major health problem you need to be guided by your personal health professional.


Should I take a multi strain or single strain probiotic

Once again, it depends on several things.

A multi strain duplicates the natural process of eating probiotics in your food where you take in a variety of lactic acid bacteria but sometimes you want a specific strain or combination for a specific problem.

For example, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 are a combination particularly suited for female urogential problems. A multi strain will not give you the same results.

So for general good health, a multi strain probiotic that has both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species is best.

For specific diseases you may want a single strain probiotic.


What if it doesn't say what strain it is?

I don't take any probiotic if I can not find out what strain of bacteria are in it.

Many manufacturers of both yogurt and supplements claim that this information is "commercially sensitive".

My personal feeling is that such manufacturers are being unreasonable. It is proven fact that only certain strains of each probiotic bacteria can help with specified problems. So why should consumers buy and take something if they don't know if it contains the particular strain they want or not?

If I buy Lactobacillus plantarum I want to know is it strain 299v or 115. If I buy Lactobacillus acidophilus I want to know is it strain NCFM or DSS-1

Within the next few years, as people learn more about probiotics, I'm sure this situation will change and manufacturers will realise that consumers want to know and have a right to know.

Until then, I vote with my bank card!

Tell me how many cfu of each strain or I buy elsewhere!