If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the millions of people who have come to appreciate (and at least somewhat understand) your friendly gut bacteria and the role they play in your overall health.
Whether you’re looking to improve your digestion, boost your immune system, lose weight, clear up your skin, or address a variety of other issues, gut health could be the answer.
Unfortunately, not every probiotic supplement out there is foolproof.
After all, probiotics are living bacterial organisms. If supplements aren’t made with their survival and potency in mind, they won’t provide all of the benefits they should.
In order for you to make informed decisions and get the gut health support you deserve, we’re breaking down what really matters in a probiotic supplement.
1. It Should Contain Billions of Bacteria
Colony-forming units (CFU) are used to quantify how many bacteria in probiotics are capable of dividing and forming colonies in the intestinal tract.
Most bacterial species are subject to slowly dying off until they reach an environment (like your intestines) where they can thrive and multiply.
Quality probiotics are made with the understanding that up to 50% of the bacteria may die before the last capsule is ingested by the consumer. They tend to contain high CFU counts to guarantee that you will still get a beneficial amount of probiotic value for the full duration of the product’s shelf life.
Generally, higher doses of probiotics have been found to yield the best results.A daily probiotic should contain at least a few billion CFU -- enough bacteria to provide you with an effective serving of digestive support all the way through the best-by date.
Better yet, the label should indicate the minimum CFU quality you can expect through the expiration date. This lets you know the true value of what you’re getting, and that the product was made with your benefit in mind.
But time isn’t the only thing threatening the potency of your probiotic supplement...
2. It Needs to Win the Battle Against Stomach Acid
Millions of living probiotic microbes die when they encounter stomach acid, resulting in many probiotic supplements only delivering a fraction of the benefit they promise on the bottle.
An effective probiotic for adults should contain a CFU count in the billions, but probiotic volume won’t matter if most of the healthy bacteria never make it to the intestinal lining, where they actually benefit you.
That’s why a good probiotic will also include delivery technology like MAKTrek Bi-Pass. The patented MAKTrek system coats the probiotic content with complex marine polysaccharides from brown seaweed. This protective coating prevents the probiotics from expiringin the acidic stomach environment, and carries them further into the digestive tract where they make their impact.
Some types of hardy bacteria are able to survive stomach acid on their own, but the most common varieties cannot.
For this reason,a good probiotic supplement should utilize capsule technology to protect every strain of bacteria it contains, speaking of which...
3. It Should Contain a Variety of Probiotic Species
In most cases, it’s wise to get a supplement that contains a variety of bacteria to provide the benefits you’re looking for.
Two of the most well-known and heavily studied species of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium varieties. Lactobacillus colonizes primarily in the small intestine, while Bifidobacterium colonizes primarily in the large intestine, or colon.
Here are just a few of the most significant types and what they do:
Lactobacillus Acidophilus: Studies suggest that Lactobacillus Acidophilus directly impacts the bacterial environment to promote healthy gut flora for improved digestion and improved weight loss. This strain is a common choice for improving diarrhea. Studies suggest that Lactobacillus Acidophilus may also have a heart health benefit.
Bifidobacterium Lactis: This versatile probiotic strain is found in foods like yogurt. It produces B Vitamins, fatty acids, and other chemicals that counteract the harmful bacteria in the gut for immune function support. Like many other probiotics, Bifidobacterium Lactis aids in digestion and weight loss efforts, too.
Lactobacillus Plantarum: This strain may improve digestive health, and provide support for regular bowel movements. In some studies, it has been shown to fiercely attack bad gut bacteria, and therefore aid in improved immune function.
Lactobacillus Paracasei: This probiotic strain can help support improved energy levels, immune health, and liver function.
The species Bacillus and Saccharomyces have also been shown to support digestive health, and are frequently added to probiotic supplements. These two are also hardy types of bacteria that are shelf-stable and able to survive stomach acid on their own.
Different probiotics are useful for different things. Selecting a product with variety is usually the best route to take.
4. It Should Be High Quality
To recap, a good probiotic supplement will be able to support the survival of billions of bacteria by encapsulating its contents against stomach acid, or containing microbes known to naturally survive the trip.
Another thing to look for is strain identification on the bottle. Any label will usually tell you which species of probiotics are contained in the supplement, but it should also list the specific strain using the bacteria’s alphanumeric strain designation. These appear as a series of letters followed by a dash and numbers. Example: (La-14). This extra step isn’t required by the FDA, but it assures you that you’re getting the same strain in every bottle.
Last but not least, you should research the company you’re getting your probiotic supplements from. Look for certifications that are important to you, and make sure that the probiotics are Third-party tested and made in a GMP facility that adheres to FDA guidelines.
Your probiotic is an area where you owe it to yourself to be picky. Otherwise, you may be throwing money away on products that aren’t providing you with all the wonderful benefits that probiotics have to offer.