Probiotics are becoming more and more popular, and quality strains can benefit your gut health in so many ways. Not to mention, probiotics can help to balance digestion and improve the function of your immune system.
With so many products that exist, and even more terminology to know, it can be confusing to choose a probiotic, we know. So how can you know what to look for when buying a probiotic? Here are a few common questions answered.
How many different types of strains should your probiotics contain?
Probiotic supplements are made of different forms of bacteria – different strains have different benefits for your body. Studies have shown that multi-strain probiotics (ones that include more than one bacterial strain) are the most effective. Many probiotics will include around five to six different strains within them.
Some probiotics can include up to 15 strains to maintain gut balance – they might even include bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which are found naturally in the gut. One of the things to look out for when looking into what strains are included in your probiotic supplement is to see if they are clinically validated. This helps you get a general idea of where and how the probiotic was created and to give you buying confidence.
Are there any specific bacterial strains that must be included when buying a probiotic?
There are many different bacterial strains that can be included in a probiotic supplement to make them most beneficial for your body. However, there are a few that should be included in order for you to get what you have paid for. Overall, research suggests that the use of multiple probiotic strains is best – including, Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus), a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, or Lactobacillus plantarum. These can help you to get the right balance of bacteria in your gut. As mentioned previously, looking at the clinically validated, numbered strains will ensure that you know what you are buying.
Do CFUs matter and how many billion CFUs should your probiotic ideally have?
CFU stands for “colony forming units” and is used to quantify how many bacteria in probiotics are capable of dividing and forming colonies. There are a lot of numbers flying around of how many CFUs are included in different probiotics, and some of the numbers can be staggering. But to put it bluntly, we have approximately 100 trillion bacteria in our bodies, which equates to about 5 pounds worth.
So when you see staggering numbers of CFU inclusion, they are not generally that big in the grand scheme of things. We know that probiotic bacteria are alive and active if they are able to divide and form these colonies. CFU numbers on probiotic supplements can vary anywhere from several million to 50 billion, but the researchers concluded that effective probiotic dosage for general gut health seems to be in the range of 10 million to one billion CFU/mg per day in humans. However, the dosage recommendations can vary for specific conditions of reasons as to why you might be taking a probiotic supplement in the first place.
What’s actually important, though, is that the strains included are numbered and clinically validated. Quality over quantity, people.
Why a probiotics manufacturing date is important and the need for your probiotics to be alive
We know that in order to be worthwhile, the bacteria in your probiotic supplement should be alive. When a probiotic uses generic, unnamed strains, you won’t know if the CFUs suggested on the packet are dead or alive microorganisms. Typically though, probiotics have a shelf life and this is approximately around one year.
You also need to take into account how the probiotic is stored and whether it has been exposed to heat or cooler temperatures which may have affected the bacteria within the probiotic – make sure that you store them correctly and they’re not exposed to extreme heat or humidity for more than 10 days .
Other things that you should look for while buying a probiotic
Some probiotics on the market can contain allergens like dairy, fish, bovine, crustaceans, soy and wheat. Others don’t contain GMOs and allergens like wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, fish, eggs, corn, sulphites, shellfish and mustard. This could help to make it a viable choice if you follow a particular lifestyle like veganism or if your diet needs to be free from specific allergy threats or gluten.
Does the form of probiotic matter?
You may be thinking “what does it matter how you take a probiotic? As long as you take it, right?” The truth is, not all probiotics (capsule, powder or liquids) are the same. Often it isn’t just about the type of probiotic and what is included in it, and more about how fast the bacteria can get to your gut in order to be beneficial to you.
Powders have been known to be the least beneficial because of what happens in the stomach. With every probiotic you take you run the risk of stomach acid killing the bacteria before it even makes it to your gut. The more protected your probiotic is, such as specific coasting or a delayed-release capsule, the more likely the bacteria will reach the gut in order to work.
Anything else you should consider before buying probiotic supplements?
Last of all, there are a few other considerations that you should make before buying and taking probiotics as part of your balanced diet. Here are some of the other things to check out before you do:
- Kids: Many parents want to ensure that their children also get the best start in life when it comes to their diets and their gut health. You can buy specific probiotics for children and may find that giving them a powder or a liquid is better than expecting them to swallow a capsule.
- Taking antibiotics: You should also take into account any antibiotics you might be taking or any other medication at the time. Your probiotics can help replenish the bacteria that antibiotics are killing off.
- The time of year: You should also think about the time of the year and whether or not you are storing the probiotics correctly.
- Underlying health conditions: If you have any underlying health conditions then it is always worth seeking medical advice before taking any probiotics.
We hope that this has given you a better understanding as to what you should be looking for in a probiotic supplement. We know that establishing healthy routines can feel confusing, but we’re here to make it simple.