A while back, I wrote about seeing the PROBIOTICS sign at the grocery store, and how that seemed odd to me. After all, if you’re going to get probiotics from the grocery store, just buy probiotic food. However, that sign did get me thinking…
Eating probiotic foods every single day, in the volume you need to keep your gut health in balance, is really hard. Even then, they may not even be the right probiotics for your health. It is so much easier to get probiotics from a supplement. And since probiotics have been linked to just about every aspect of good health, it’s vital not to get overwhelmed by dietary choices and simply give up.
So, I wandered over to the drugstore to see just how easy it was to find and choose a probiotic supplement, and let me tell you, as overwhelming as the thought of eating enough probiotic foods felt, it was nothing compared to trying to navigate the probiotic supplement aisle at the drug store.
So, today, we’re going look closer at how to read probiotic labels and make an informed choice.
- Enough—but not too much, part one. A healthy gut is an incredibly diverse place. A single strain of bacteria may not do much for it, or for you. At the same time, some companies like to throw a couple dozen strains into their supplements to be able to charge more. The truth is that only a handful of strains have been shown to work in double-blind, placebo controlled trials. The rest is just marketing. Look for more than one strain, but don’t pay more to get too many.
- Enough—but not too much, part two. Probiotics are measured in CFUs, or Colony Forming Units. Some products claim to have as many as 50 billion CFUs per strain. However, it’s highly unlikely that there’s any added health benefit in taking that many of any strain. It’s far more important to get the same number of CFUs that were studied in a clinicaltrial. A quick internet search can help you find the amount you want.
- Both lactobacillus (L.) and Bifidobacterium (B.) matter. Again, with the diversity! Your body needs bacteria from both genera, but some supplements will only offer one or the other. Choose a supplement that has both.
- More than just lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You’ve found a formula that has lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Great! There are still 2 more pieces to look for, though: species, and strain. The species is the word after the L. or the B., and the strain is usually the number on the end of both. This is what makes that probiotics unique. You can find probiotics for overall health, digestive health, heart health, and more-and the key is the species and strain. Find the right combination, and you can address just about any health issue.
- Shelf stability. Everything has a shelf life, and most medications and supplements do best in a cool, dry area, but if your probiotic specifically requires refrigeration, you might want to look for another product. Needing refrigeration isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but it makes it harder to know the capsules stayed at the correct temperature throughout the entire distribution process. It doesn’t matter how well a probiotic is supposed to work if they’ve all died off before they get to you.
- Look for a prebiotic, as well. Like any living thing, bacteria need food. That’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are specific fibers that feed the probiotics, so they can stay healthy while they do their jobs. Although you can find prebiotic foods, taking a pre-probiotic along with your probiotic, should make them even more effective.
There you have it: the six things you should look for when you’re looking at a probiotic label. Don’t get overwhelmed—get healthy—with a probiotic that actually works, like Beyond Biotics.