The benefits of probiotics are vast and well researched, but not all probiotic supplements are created equal. How should one choose a probiotic that will best suit his or her own purposes? Keep in mind that there are many strains, each helpful in specific regions of the body. According to Probiotics.org, “The human body has over 500 different probiotic strains. A lack of diversity in probiotic strains has been linked to obesity, digestive issues and many other health issues.” For this reason, it can be beneficial to cycle through various bacteria strains rather than sticking to the same probiotic at all times.
The ins and outs of picking an effective probiotic…
Make sure it contains the right strains for your purpose. Here are applications for the six most researched probiotic strains:
L. Acidophilus – Considered to be the most researched bacteria strain, also vital to human health. Aids in digestive function, nutrient absorption, immune health, and treats leaky gut syndrome, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, and candida overgrowth. This strain may lower cholesterol, improve premature infant weight gain, decrease allergic sensitivity, and help fight viral infections.
L. Rhamnosus – This strain is known for its ability to attach to the intestinal wall and clear “landing space” for other good bacteria. It is known to help stabilize blood glucose, stimulate the immune system, treat eczema, lower bad cholesterol, and decrease risk of colon cancer.
B. Helveticus – Lowers blood pressure, combats osteoporosis, improves sleep quality, promotes overall health, and may benefit formula fed infants.
B. Infantis – This strain is one of the first passed from mother to infant and is a great supplement choice for children. In addition to improving immune function, reducing the occurrence of kidney stones, and lending major benefits to low birth weight infants, it helps create a highly acidic environment in the digestive tract and vagina making it difficult for bacteria and viruses to invade.
B. Lactis – Primarily responsible for breaking down waste and aiding in nutrient absorption along with B. animalis. This strain is known to reduce the occurrence and severity of respiratory issues, colds, and flu. It is a great supplement for boosting immune strength in the elderly. It can also lower cholesterol, help stabilize blood glucose, and promote oral health by reducing cavity causing bacteria.
Lactobacillus GG – This strain also adheres to the digestive walls well, making it a choice strain to make way for other good bacteria to live. It has been used in preventing and treating vaginosis, recurrent ear or respiratory infections, and reducing symptoms in AIDS/HIV patients in addition to supporting immune and digestive health.
Perry Santanachote, author for The Daily Burn noted the following suggestions:
- Before traveling, take Saccharomyces boulardii for a few weeks prior to thwart traveler’s diarrhea.
- Those who are lactose intolerant may benefit from taking Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Streptococcus thermophiles to help breakdown lactose.
- When taking antibiotics, increase CFU count to at least 10 million and take Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii about six hours after each dose to protect your microbiome.
Make sure the probiotic can survive stomach acid. When taking a supplement, most strains will not survive their trip to the colon, which defeats the purpose of taking a probiotic supplement and is a waste of purchase. Some brands offer encapsulated probiotics that guarantee live strains of good bacteria will make it to and through the digestive tract.
Be aware of the number of strains and organisms. In general, probiotic supplements should have five or more bacteria strains and no less than five billion colony forming units (CFUs) as bacteria strains will settle in various regions of the digestive tract and provide wide-ranging benefits.
Check if the cultures are “live and active.” This term is commonly used on food labels. Most supplements will provide an expiration date, but that’s not a guarantee that the probiotics are living when you purchase or ingest them. Look for a supplement that guarantees living cultures through the expiration date. The term “live at the time of manufacture” is a red flag for an ineffective probiotic.
Still consider your natural food sources. Recall the time when probiotics supplements weren’t available and humans still managed to develop healthy guts! Taking a probiotic supplement doesn’t mean that one has to or should avoid foods with live and active cultures. Consuming a variety of raw, cultured, and fermented foods is still the most viable way to develop a healthy microbiome. A few foods rich in probiotics are cultured dairy, microalgae, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, pickles, and raw milk.
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