Probiotic Primer — Important Things to Know About Probiotics

By Kulani Mahikoa
Vice President, Marketing
Kirkman Group, Inc.


Probiotics are living microorganisms that when ingested or locally applied in sufficient numbers, can impart one or more specified, demonstrated functional or health benefit on the host.

Probiotics have been called nature’s “internal healers” because of their crucial role in the health and functioning of the intestinal tract. Probiotics are actually friendly (desirable and beneficial) bacteria that help maintain the correct balance of good and bad organisms in the gastrointestinal tract.

One hundred trillion bacteria live in the human body, and of those, a healthy individual normally has a balance of approximately 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. When this ratio gets significantly out of balance, gastrointestinal problems arise.

Probiotics support the growth of beneficial intestinal flora while helping to crowd out the undesirable bacteria. Hundreds of species of friendly bacteria flourish in the 25-28 feet long intestinal tract when it is healthy.


Some of these species, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum, are resident microorganisms that are always present. These resident bacteria attach to the mucosal lining and colonize. This colonization helps keep out the unfriendly organisms that try to invade the intestinal tract. When the numbers of the resident flora are lowered or depleted, the undesirable organisms can take over, which can lead to a number of gastrointestinal disturbances.

In addition to the resident microorganisms, there are also transient friendly flora. These beneficial organisms don’t set up residence in the gut; instead, they travel through the intestines and exert many positive effects such as promoting good digestion, producing enzymes or producing lactic acid that creates an optimal environment for the resident flora.

Supplementing with probiotics can keep the good flora in balance, thereby promoting good health and a healthy gastrointestinal tract. There are many types of probiotic supplements available, some containing individual strains of organisms and some containing multiple strains. A person’s individual gastrointestinal situation will dictate what type of product is needed. 

Probiotic Genus and Species in Kirkman’s Probiotics

The Lactobacillus Genus 

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria that produces lactic acid, the enzyme required to breakdown lactose (sugar in milk).  They also collectively ferment carbohydrates in the gut producing lactic acid that creates an acidic environment in the digestive tract which antagonizes many various types of potentially harmful bacteria.

The Bifidobacterium Genus   

The “bifidos” were originally identified in the feces of breast-fed infants.  Studies have shown that these good bacteria are some of the first microbes to take up residence in the gastro-intestinal tract of newborns. Because of this, probiotics containing Bifidobacterium are frequently recommended probiotics by healthcare professionals for infants.

Unlike many Lactobacillus bacteria, Bifidobacterium bacteria also produces acetic acid which is more effective in reducing the growth of yeast and molds than is lactic acid. Both are powerful contributors to digestive and immune health.

Saccharomyces boulardii

S. boulardii is a hardy, nonpathogenic yeast first isolated from lychee and mangosteen fruit. This bacterium is unique in that it survives gastric acidity, is not adversely affected or inhibited by antibiotics and does not alter or adversely affect the normal flora in the bowel. For this reason, “friendly” probiotic organisms (including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) can be taken at the same time as S. boulardii. (Contained in Kirkman’s products: Saccharomyces Boulardii (#0240-060)Pro-Bio Defense™ (#0463-090)CD-Biotic™ (#0395-090)

Streptococcus thermophilus

Also known as streptococcus salivarius thermophilus, this lactic acid bacterium is known to support healthy gastrointestinal and immune systems and to breakdown lactose into acid. (Contained in Kirkman’s products: Super Pro-Bio™ 75 Billion – Bio-Max Series (#0345-060)Pro-Bio Gold™ (#0442-060, #0442-120)Pro-Bio Defense™ (#0463-090)Multi-Flora Spectrum™ (#0485-060)P2i Baby™ Probiotic Gastrointestinal Support (#2503-060)Children’s Chewable Pro-Bio Gold™ Chocolate Wafers (#0458-090)

About Kulani Mahikoa

Kulani Mahikoa is Vice President and Marketing Director of Kirkman Group, Inc. She has had successful careers both as a journalist and as an entrepreneur.
This entry was posted in All, Gastrointestinal Health, Probiotics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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