Most freeze-dried probiotic products have a seemingly impressive list of microbes listed on the label. The assertion is then made that the product is ‘multi-strain’. While this is true in a very limited sense, it is really sidestepping the whole reason why a consumer would want a multi-strain product in the first place.
In the real world, microbes are never alone, they never live only among their own species/strain. Microbes are always in vast communities with friends and competitors engaged in an eternal struggle for survival. Very early in the development of probiotics, it was observed that cultures containing several different microbes tended to outperform cultures containing only a single strain. These observations were generally on live active cultures, not just blends of various powdered freeze-dried bacteria.
Big numbers on the label mean big numbers when taken?
The overwhelming majority of products that say “probiotic” on the label only provide a count for the number of microbes present AT THE TIME OF MANUFACTURE. This is a very different number than the count at the time of use! Most ‘probiotic’ products contain a small fraction of the number counted at the time of manufacture by the time they are used by the consumer. Very, very few manufacturers guarantee the number of microbes in their product throughout the entire shelf life period.
Combine this with the fact that freeze-dried cultures of any number face considerable challenges (see Myth #3) when taken, and one can see that the very big numbers on the label of a freeze-dried product can easily fall below the level of being able to produce a probiotic effect.