As the proper mix of bacteria in ones gastrointestinal system, referred to as “gut flora,” is critical for healthy physical and mental health, one is likely to need to take probiotics to keep this gut flora in balance. After all, illness, stress, poor diet choices and especially antibiotic use, will throw the mix of bacteria out of whack. However, finding the BEST probiotic formula, that one can also afford, is not so straight forward.
I have been searching for an appropriate formula of probiotics for my daughter, who is in her early 20’s and on the autism spectrum. What complicates matters is she has a mast cell disorder, plus food and chemical sensitivities so that maintaining a nutritious diet along with a healthy mix of gut flora is not easy. She is supposed to eat low histamine foods.. This restriction eliminates some foods that have been recommended to fix a “leaky gut” such as fermented dairy products including yogurt, sour cream, aged cheese and kefir, pickled veggies and kombucha, as well as really healthy foods including spinach, eggplant and tomatoes. Additionally, the “suspect list” of foods for causing histamine release is full of healthy foods such as pineapples, bananas, citrus fruit, strawberries, nuts, legumes and seafood. Recently, she tested positive for food allergies to shell fish as well. Needless to say, keeping a good balance of gut bacteria when one has so many food restrictions is daunting. Incidentally, though you may not have heard of mast cell disorders, the incidence is 1 in 10 for those on the autism spectrum or 10 times the incidence in the general population.
Summary of my Investigation on Probiotics
On the one hand, there are the cheap forms of probiotic products such as acquiring the bacteria from eating yogurt or taking a cheap commercial product pill — that may even be free by prescription if one is on Medicaid–such as Culturelle. As mentioned above, not everyone can tolerate fermented dairy products such as yogurt. As for Culturelle, it has only 1 probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in a dose of 10 billion cells, along with inulin. According to Consumer Reports, who has researched Culturelle’s claims, 10 billion cells is “an effective dose;” and the studies that have been done on its effectiveness, though not large, “hold promise.” Additionally, and quite importantly, not all probiotics make it past the stomach’s acid and into the intestines. Culturelle meets that test. As for inulin, it is not destroyed in the stomach, so it makes it to the intestines; and it is supposed to “support the growth of a special kind of bacteria associated with improving bowel function and general health.” On the negative side, inulin may cause bloating, abdominal cramping, loose stools and gas. Additionally, Culturelle does have some synthetic fillers in the product.
Then there are the more expensive, generally around $50 per container, of probiotic products that have a variety of strains, the substrains have reportedly been clinically studied, they contain much more than 10 billion live cultures, along with being “acid-resistant,” vegan, without synthetic fillers and they may even contain “prebiotic fiber” as well. In a study of 72 different probiotic products conducted by Smarter-Reviews.com, the # 1 consumers’ choice was “Complete Probiotics Platinum” made by 1MD. Coming in at a close second was “Pro-45” by Livewell Nutrition. It is important to note that these probiotic products are intended for the general population; therefore, how they would help the autistic specifically, is unknown.
Specifically for Autistic Kids
For kids who are autistic in particular, and this includes the severely autistic, there is a probiotic product called “All-Star Nutrition Probiotic” which is specifically developed by the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. This probiotic blend looks quite promising. I base this assessment on that it is a unique formulation specifically designed for those on the autism spectrum and the 110 reviews (when I looked at the website) by parents and at least one pediatrician. I read all 110 reviews; admittedly, all the reviews did not have comments. But overwhelmingly, the parents of these autistic children and the pediatrician rated the product 4 to 5 stars. The parents spoke of increased amount of language, increased understandable language, increased focus, better sleep, significantly increased calmness and other positive behaviors of their children on the autism spectrum.