Powder, capsule, juice, or yogurt: so many choices! So, you have read about probiotics and know their benefits for everyday health and now you want to know how to take them? Whether you are interested in probiotics for building immunity and maintaining health, or you have a specific illness you are seeking relief from, it can be a challenge to wade through the literature and determine just how to get those friendly bacteria into your system again. In this article we’ll get to the bottom of sachets, tablets, capsules, and juices, and figure out what is the best method to get probiotics into your system.
Types of Probiotic Supplements
Walk into your local health food store, and you are likely to be confronted with a host of different types of probiotic supplements. Of course, we all know about acidophilus in yogurt, but what about all the other supplements out there? Here is a brief rundown of some of the most common:
- Capsules – one of the most common and convenient forms of probiotic supplements, capsules can be found both on the shelves or in the refrigerated section of your health food store. ConsumerLab.com provides some insight in to why some capsules are in the refrigerator and others are not: freeze dried organisms, which have become much more common, do not require refrigeration, if they are properly sealed, either in blister packs, or in specially sealed capsules. Those that are not handled in this way require refrigeration in order to protect the heat and moisture-sensitive organisms. In addition, certain probiotics, such as Bacillus coagulans and probiotic yeast strains are not heat and moisture sensitive, and do not require refrigeration.
Capsules are one of the easiest forms of probiotics to take. Different brands contain different organisms and quantities, so it is important to read labels carefully to see what really comes in the bottle.
- Chewables – primarily for children, chewable tablets contain a variety of different organisms in a convenient, chewable format for those people who are not so fond of swallowing pills.
- Liquids – most likely you will find these in the refrigerated section of your health food store. That is because these probiotics are unstable in warm temperatures. Some people claim that liquid probiotics are the freshest and most potent form. Undeniably, they are an easy format, especially for people who can’t swallow pills. However, they become more of a hassle if you are out and about or travelling.
- Probiotic Drinks – from kefir water to probiotic juices, check out the shelves of your local grocery store and you are likely to find a number of bottles of drinkables that claim to have probiotics in them. Some forms are indeed valuable means of getting probiotics. Kefir water drinks, for example, are often considered a healthy means of getting naturally occurring probiotics. Again, though, it is important to check labels. Many of the juice drinks only contain a few (as in three or four) strains of probiotics, compared to the dozens of strains many quality capsule probiotic supplements contain.
- Powders – powdered probiotics are another common format for friendly bacteria. The great thing about powders is the ability to incorporate them into all kinds of substances, including juices, yogurt, applesauce, etc.
Which is Best?
So, now that you are aware of the different types of probiotics on the market, which one will give you the best return for your dollar? In other words, how do you gain the most benefit from supplementing your diet with probiotics? According to Dr. Oz, the most important factor to look for is whether or not the supplement contains “live and active cultures.” Really, in order for you body to benefit from probiotics, they need to be living. That means that formats that require refrigeration need to have been refrigerated. It also means checking labels for claims of content and expiration date.
WebMD advises that probiotics may benefit a number of different gastro-intestinal disorders, regardless of the delivery format. According to that website, the most important thing is the number of probiotics, and the viability. In addition, it is important to pay attention to the specific strains the probiotic contains, as different ones have effects on different systems. Here are some things to look for when choosing a probiotic:
- Has it been stored according to manufacturer’s recommendations?
- Does it show to be viable to a certain date, rather than just viable at production?
- What are the recommended uses?
- Are specific strains listed?
- What is the quantity of organisms contain in each dose?
- Does it contain live, active cultures?
Regardless of the format of the probiotic, the most important factor is that you are receiving potent, effective friendly bacteria. After all, who wants to spend money on something that does not deliver the promised benefits?
Photo Credit Neeta Lind @ Creative Commons – http://www.flickr.com/photos/neeta_lind/