Unless you live under a rock, you have likely heard about probiotics. They are popping up everywhere, and for good reason. Research shows that friendly bacteria play a key role in the digestive system by improving gastrointestinal functions, enhancing immunity, helping to regulate hormone balance, protecting us from food-borne illnesses such as food poisoning, controlling overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungus, protecting us from developing allergies, assisting in vitamin production & nutrient absorption. Probiotics are like an army in your gut that works hard to protect your health.
In fact, inside each of us is about 100 trillion bacteria, most of which reside in the gut. This is 10 TIMES the number of cells in our body! More and more research is showing the link between a healthy gut, strong immunity and even mental health.
Since the healthy flora in our gut is destroyed by many factors such as stress, diet, antibiotics, birth control pills and other medications, it is important to supplement. But is yogurt enough? You would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement.
There are so many probiotics available today, so what should you look for in an effective probiotic?
5 Important Things to Look for in an Effective Probiotic
1. CULTURE COUNT
This refers to the total amount of bacteria per dose and can vary widely from product to product. For general health or to treat minor digestive issues, most people would benefit from taking a probiotic with 50 billion bacteria per capsule. It sounds like a lot, but if you consider that there are about 100 TRILLION bacteria in our bodies, it is merely a drop in the bucket! If you are treating a health condition or are using antibiotics, you may benefit from a probiotic with 80 to 100 billion bacteria per capsule.
2. NUMBER AND TYPE OF STRAINS
Because we all have a different microbial make up in our body, it is important to choose a probiotic supplement with multiple strains. Your probiotic supplement should include many different strains of bacteria including both bifidobacterium (large intestine) and lactobacilli (small intestine). It is also important to look for a formula that delivers both resident (human strain) and transient bacteria. Transient bacteria do not populate the gut, however exert a positive benefit (such as protecting against harmful bacteria and reducing inflammation) while travelling through the digestive tract.
3. TARGETED FORMULAS
Most people would benefit from a high potency, multiple strain formula. If needed, you can also choose formulas that are specific to certain areas of concern such as colon health or vaginal support. While you should choose a child-specific formula for kids, adults do not need age-specific formulas. Instead, if you are an older adult, choose a multi-strain formula with at least 30 billon bifidobacterium. After the age of 50, the levels of probiotics (specifically bifidobacterium) begin to decline in number so probiotics are an important supplement to take daily.
4. DELIVERY SYSTEM
Most bacteria cannot survive the high acid environment of the stomach. For this reason, make sure that the probiotic you are buying has a delivery system such as an enteric coating. This helps to protect the probiotics from harsh stomach acid ensuring safe delivery to the intestines where they are needed and utilized by the body.
5. GUARANTEED POTENCY
Always ensure that the product packaging states that the potency is guaranteed at expiry, not at the date of manufacture. Guaranteeing potency at expiry means that you are getting what you paid for, and most importantly, the health benefits of the probiotic itself.