Liquid Probiotics - All You Need To Know

Kathy Wheddon Nutritional Therapist DipION

There are many different types of probiotic supplement available, and you might be wondering which one to choose. Is one particular form is more effective than others? You might have noticed that more and more probiotics are now emerging in liquid form. Do these probiotics, also known as live cultures have benefits over a capsule or sachet product?

As with any question regarding probiotic supplements, the quality of the strain (or strains) of probiotic bacteria used is usually the most important consideration. Finding a well-researched product, and matching the specific strains to your health requirements, is the best way of ensuring the best health outcomes.

But, there are other considerations when it comes to deciding on a probiotic, like ease of use, taste, or shelf-stability. Probiotic supplements come in all shapes and sizes, such as liquid, sachet or capsule form. Below is a list of seven possible considerations when deciding if a liquid probiotic might be right for you, or if you would do better with a capsule or sachet product.

Liquid probiotics with dropper

1. Ease of use

For people that find swallowing tablets or capsules difficult, then liquid probiotics can be a good option. The most obvious benefit of a liquid probiotic, is their ease of use for babies and toddlers. Parents can put just a few drops of the probiotic liquid on their child’s tongue, or add them to cold food and/or drinks. No fuss, no drama. Another advantage of a liquid product here is that the live bacteria can also have an effect in the mouth and oesophagus, whereas probiotics taken in capsule form tend to work lower down in the GI tract (stomach, small intestines and large intestine). Due to their ease of use for this age group, liquid probiotics for kids and toddlers are a popular choice.

2. Convenience

Most people are time-poor these days, rushing from one thing to the next. For this reason, convenience is very important when choosing a health supplement. This is where liquid products may lose out a bit, as capsules are generally considered far more convenient. They can be quickly swallowed down with breakfast every day, or popped in to a handbag to take later on. Many probiotic capsules do not require refrigeration even, making them even easier to fit in around a busy life.

3. Shelf-stability

Liquid probiotics come in many different guises, including; probiotic liquid supplements, yoghurt drinks and more traditional fermented beverages such as kefir and kombucha. It is therefore difficult to make generalised statements about them, as they are all quite different. However, it is fair to say that they often have a much shorter shelf life than capsule or sachet supplements. They may also require refrigeration once opened, as they are not as stable at room temperatures as other forms of probiotics.

Can liquid probiotics be frozen?

Due to the relatively short shelf-life of most liquid probiotics, some wonder if they can be frozen, and then defrosted as required. The answer to this question will likely differ from product to product. In general, though, it is not a good idea to freeze liquid probiotics, as it could damage the probiotic bacteria.

4. Dose

Liquid probiotics can sometimes struggle to provide exact dosage information per serving. This is particularly true for traditional fermented probiotic drinks. It can be difficult, then, to know how much, or indeed how little, you are getting. The bacteria count may differ from batch to batch, too. Correct storage conditions are also important to preserve the delicate probiotics, and prevent against any spoilage of the product. This can be a drawback of relying on fermented drinks as a sole source of probiotics in your diet as the dosage (and often strain!) is difficult to determine. However, this should not detract from the point that they can still make an excellent addition to any healthy, balanced eating regime.

5. Taste

For some, the taste of a product is a key consideration when choosing a supplement. With this in mind, capsules can be the best option, as they tend to be completely flavourless. However, some liquid products are either ‘flavour neutral’ (not tasting of much), or flavoured with only natural extracts. It is always worth checking though that no artificial colours or flavours have been added. These can have unwanted side effects, especially on the digestive system. Many liquid probiotics for children are flavoured. Whilst this makes them taste nicer, the amounts of sugars and/or sweeteners can have detrimental effects on health.

6. Live vs freeze-dried

The debate over whether ‘live’ probiotics are better than freeze-dried ones still goes on. Some believe that ‘freeze-dried’ probiotics are less effective, but this is simply not the case. There is a wealth of scientific evidence and human clinical trials which prove the contrary. You can take a look at some of this research on our Latest Research page. Once a probiotic has been freeze-dried it can be safely stored for many months, or even years. The bacteria will only come out of its ‘dormant state’ once it comes in to contact with moisture (usually in the digestive tract). This does mean, however, that it must be stored properly, and should not be exposed to any moisture. For this reason, make sure the packaging used prevents any liquid or oxygen molecules from activating or harming freeze-dried bacteria.

Summary

Finding a probiotic that satisfies your own individual requirements can elevate your health and lifestyle in so many ways. Whether that product be in capsule, sachet or liquid form, remember to ensure you choose supplements with highly researched strains of bacteria that are researched for your specific health