Our recent understanding of the health benefits of probiotics has lead to the phenomena of the overcrowding of probiotic foods and supplements on our store shelves. From fermented drinks, to various types of yogurts and even the introduction of unorthodox foods – it’s no surprise that every one and their mother is trying to get in on this new health craze. After all, Probiotics offer a plethora of benefits, from digestive problems, treating internal and external infections, diseases and even helping strengthen your immune system.
In order to gain the benefits of Probiotics, one must start at finding the right source. Research has confirmed that the most effective way of consuming Probiotics is in supplemental form. If you thought choosing the right yogurt was tough, then choosing the right Probiotics supplement is a whole other playing field. Purchasing the right – or any – Probiotic is different from buying other nutritional supplements. That’s because by definition, Probiotics are living organisms and you need these organisms to be alive and well to reap any benefit from them.
The efficacy of a probiotics supplement – or the well-being of these organisms – can usually be evaluated through its label. By looking for and identifying specific information, you can easily gain confidence in buying a product that is fully of healthy, living organisms that promise to provide you with the tools for optimal well-being.
When evaluating your label, look for the following pieces of information that should be included on the product:
- CFU/ml or the number of organisms found in a single dose
- Storage information
- Expiration Date
- The specific genus and species used in the probiotic
The first step in choosing the right Probiotic is recognizing the value of CFUs. Colony Forming Units or CFU is the unit used to measure the number of active or live organisms in your Probiotic. This should not be confused as a measurement of the number of bacteria that is dead, inactive or alive under laboratory conditions. Instead, the CFU listed on the bottle is specifically designated for the viable organisms in the probiotic – or the micro-organisms that are capable of surviving the proper circumstances.
Probiotics can be found in both tablet or capsule form and sometimes you might find the CFUs listed on the actual supplement itself. However, if the recommeded serving size calls for more than one capsule or tablet, then the colony forming units will be visible on the package and will be listed in total serving size.
The indication of CFUs on your probiotics product is important because it stands as one of the best factors for comparison. When a product lists the CFUs, you are getting exactly that number of live organisms when you take your supplement. So when it comes to deciding between a probiotic that contains 8.6 billion CFUs to another that has 13.6, then you’re more likely to opt for the latter option. Additionally, companies that list their total number of good bacteria by weight (such as grams) cannot be easily evaluated because the number listed does not always reflect the number of live bacteria available in the supplement.
A reputable probiotics brand will also state the number of colony forming units at the time of manufacture of at product expiration. This is essential to your decision making process because it displays whether or not you are really getting the number of microbes marked on the label.
CFUs should be the first thing you look for in a label. It tells you a lot about the probiotic from the start such as how reputable or honest the brand is, the quality of the product and if it’s a product that’s actually work the money.
Your next deciding factor should be the presence of storage directions or information on the label. As aforementioned, Probiotics are full of live and active organisms and they therefore require proper handling to increase their longevity – or at least to remain alive until they reach your digestive tract. The general rule of thumb when storing probiotics is to keep your product away from heat,air and moisture. The reason for this is because as bacteria, probiotics will thrive and multiple when exposed to favorable conditions. Now that’s great when the bacteria is actually in your gut, but when they are active while still in packaging then they are multiplying and dying off before they even reach you!
Most probiotics should either be stored in a dark, cool place or refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth whilst in package. Your product should provide proper storage instructions for your supplement either when you get home or once the seal is broken.
Storage of the probiotic should also be an indicator of a good product. When you are purchasing in store, take note of where and how the probiotic is being displayed. If it is exposed to heat or moisture in anyway, stay away from it and consider another product or vendor. If you are purchasing online, try to contact the manufacturer to see how they are shipping the product. Some of the bacteria in probiotics can be killed or damaged when it is being shipped in a hot truck for too long, or even when it sits in your mailbox on a hot summer day while you’re at work.
Always make the effort to consider the storage instructions or directions of your probiotic. After all, would you buy or consume food without proper storage instructions?
Expiration dates are also important pieces of information when choosing a probiotic. A quality probiotic supplement should have an expiration date. Bacteria can’t live forever on a shelf even if they are stored properly. Checking the expiration date in relation to the cfu/ml is a good idea. Some probiotics tell you how many cfu/ml you can expect in the product at the time of expiration instead of just at the time of manufacture. Bacteria are going to be steadily dying once the product is made, even in the best probiotic supplement. A good probiotic should contain a healthy population of living bacteria for the product’s entire shelf life. You want billions of bacteria to be present in your probiotic supplement both at the time of manufacture and the time of expiration. If the probiotic has an expiration date, look for the freshest product available. Even if the product has billions of bacteria present at expiration, there will be even more of these healthy organisms present in a freshly made batch. Make sure to pay attention to the expiration date once you’ve brought the product home, and replace your probiotics as needed.
The last crucial things to look for on a probiotic label are the species included in the product. Don’t buy a product that doesn’t tell you what species are included. You have no assurance you’ll be getting any useful organisms. Clinical studies have shown that several types of bacteria make especially powerful and useful probiotics. Some of these are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus, though there are many other good species. You’ll notice that some of these bacteria have two names. The first name is the genus name, the second the species name. Looking at the three examples above, you might notice a couple of things. For one, Bifidobacterium does not have a species listed. That’s because many, many species in this genus are helpful. If you see Bifidobacterium, or “B. species”, you’re getting organisms from a group that’s going to be good for your gut. There are also lots of great Lactobacillus species out there. Sometimes genus names are abbreviated, so you might see L. acidophilus instead of Lactobacillus acidophilus. That is totally fine. If you see various “L.” species listed, they’re probably all in the genus Lactobacillus and will be helpful organisms. The third example, Streptococcus thermophilus, is a great gut probiotic that is found naturally in many healthy foods like yogurt. However, you might recognize the genus name from some less healthy bacteria. Strep throat, for example, is caused by a species of Streptococcus. If you see a bacterial name that you associate with a disease, don’t be scared. There is tremendous variety within some of the larger bacterial genera.
The four major tips above are the most important things you should look for when choosing a probiotic, but there are a few other concerns you might want to consider. If you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, check the other ingredients in the supplement carefully. It is not uncommon for probiotics to be processed with wheat, soy, or other potential allergens. Some probiotics also include potential animal byproducts, such as gelatin. There are a few probiotics out there that advertise particular methods of encapsulation, making claims that other probiotics will be killed by your stomach acid before they reach your intestines. You do not need to choose your probiotic based on this factor, though these specially encapsulated probiotics are not likely to be harmful. While it is true that many bacteria are killed by stomach acid, when you ingest large quantities of bacteria some will make it through the digestive system alive and well. Any good probiotic should have enough healthy, live bacteria for a strong population to make it into the gut. Once there, they will reproduce rapidly.
If after reading these suggestions you’re still a little apprehensive about picking your probiotic, then consider adding Probacto into your daily regime. With 13.6 billion colony forming units, easy continuous refrigeration and eight different strains, it is one of the most efficacious probiotic supplements that promotes optimal digestive health and comfort.
At the end of the day, Your goal is to obtain a probiotic that is filled with living organisms. The aforementioned suggestions will help you pick a great probiotic supplement that will improve your health.