Probiotics are the good bacteria in your body that are highly concentrated in your gut. I wrote an article the other day about fermented foods that are natural probiotics. I was asked “Is taking a supplement just as good? What is the best one to take?” I do believe that adding probiotic foods to your diet is the optimal way to improve and sustain your digestive health. I do understand that there are situations in which this does not work well for everyone. You may simply not like the taste of fermented foods. If you don’t like the taste of something you are unlikely to force yourself to keep consuming it. Some people travel a lot for work or for pleasure. This puts them in a situation where they are eating out more than they are eating at home. Food allergies can also be an issue. If any of those situations apply to you, a supplement may be the better choice. Today I will be discussing how to choose a probiotic supplement.
Number of CFU s
CFU is the abbreviation for colony forming unit. This is the number of live active bacteria that are found in each serving of the probiotic you are taking. Most physicians and natural health advisers recommend taking 1-20 billion CFUs daily.
Here is a general guide by age:
- infant-12 months 1-2 billion CFU
- toddler 1-2 years old 2-4 billion CFU
- child from 2-4 years old 4-8 billion CFU
- child from 4-10 years old 8-12 billion CFU
- adolescent 12-16 years old 12-15 billion CFU
- adult 15-20 CFU
If you have a compromised digestive tract or immune system it may help to increase the number of CFUs until the problem is resolved. A product with a CFU higher than 50 billion CFSs is not beneficial. It just elevates the price .
Number of strains
One of the most important criteria in choosing a probiotic is the number of different strains that are present in the product. Different strains of bacteria will have different benefits. A supplement containing multiple strains of bacteria are more likely to be beneficial than a supplement containing 1or 2 strains. Multiple strains will offer benefits specific to each strain and improve the ability of bacteria to colonize.
These 3 strains should always present in your probiotic supplement:
- L. acidophilus—This is a strain of the Lactobacillus. It supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy.
- B. longum—This is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall. It also helps to get rid of toxins.
- B. bifidum—Is found in both the small and large intestine. It is needed for the digestion of dairy products. It also breaks down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.
Rotating brands of probiotic supplements every month is beneficial to exposing your gut to different types of bacteria
The way a manufacturer packages and delivers probiotic supplements is very important. Live bacteria can die when exposed to the wrong environment. It also has to be an able reach the areas in your gut where it will be effective. Time release capsules are preferred.
The packaging needs to ensure that bacteria will be kept alive. With new technology probiotics don’t necessarily have to be refrigerated to meet this requirement. The microorganisms do need to be protected from moisture, light and heat. Do not buy supplements that are in clear bottles. Store your probiotics in a cool dry place. Do not leave them sitting on a counter top exposed to sunlight.
Do not buy a supplement without an expiration date on the product. Quality brands will list an expiration date on their product. You would think that this would be mandatory but its not. The supplement industry does not require manufactures to supply this information. Without it there is no way to determine how old the product is or if the bacteria are still alive. Make sure the label says CFU potency guaranteed through expiration date. Do not buy a probiotic if the label says CFU potency guaranteed at time of at time of manufacture, this means all the bacteria could be dead by the time you consume it. A supplement that contains dead bacteria is a waste of money.
Other things to look for
- Look for a brand that has not been genetically modified with corn or soy, It will be listed as non GMO on the label.
- Choose a brand that is soy and gluten free. This decreases the chance of contamination from other substances.
- This is optional, but a probiotic that is combined with a prebiotic fiber can be beneficial. Bacteria in your gut use prebiotic fiber as food to multiply and flourish.
Probiotics are beneficial for everyone and essential to a healthy digestive and immune system. Always read the label to determine which brand is best for you based on Strain and CFU count. Be aware of packaging and storage of your supplement to ensure you are receiving live beneficial bacteria.
Have any questions?
Comment below and I will be happy to answer them.