What to look for when choosing a probiotic
Probiotics have been gaining popularity in recent years, but the benefits of these live microorganisms have been around for centuries. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, nearly 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from digestive diseases — making the need to understand how probiotics can improve gut health more important than ever. So, should you be thinking about choosing a probiotic?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that reside in the digestive tract and stimulate the increased production of white blood cells and beneficial proteins, helping to maintain the proper balance of healthy intestinal bacteria. Research from The Journal of Environmental Science and Health states that probiotic supplementation promotes healthy digestive function by binding to toxins in the intestines and decreasing their accessibility to the body.
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A probiotic with powerful antioxidant and immune-stimulating properties should be taken regularly to boost the body’s immune defenses. However, choosing the right one will help maintain optimal gut health.
Below are four things you should consider before purchasing or choosing a probiotic.
The probiotic strain
The individual bacteria strain determines the health benefits you can expect from a probiotic. Standard off-the-shelf probiotics are freeze-dried bacteria often killed in stomach acid during digestion, leaving you without many benefits. However, probiotics that use a spore formula are much more resilient to destruction during digestion. Spore probiotics are encased in protective spores that later sprout and germinate inside the body, giving long-lasting benefits.
For example, if you see the strain B. animalis on the label, this strain helps in aiding digestion and fighting food-borne bacteria, while strain B. breve helps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugars. Researching the specific health benefits of probiotic strains is important when choosing what probiotic is best for you.
Most people focus on the active ingredients of supplements and often overlook the “other ingredients,” such as sugar, artificial flavors, colors, and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Knowing how the active ingredients will influence health is imperative, but it’s also important to understand how the supplement’s other substances may affect you.
Look for supplements that contain natural additives, flavors (e.g., cane sugar), and colors (e.g., beet juice). Avoid supplements containing sucrose, maltodextrin, gelatin, silicon dioxide, stearic acid, magnesium stearate, and artificial colors/flavorings.
When stored properly, you’ll get the maximum health benefits from a probiotic. Some probiotics can only survive a few years on the shelf and must be refrigerated to prevent spoiling. But probiotics formulated with high-quality spore form and live bacteria strains can survive indefinitely. We recommend using a spore-based probiotic that does not require refrigeration and will last longer, but whichever product you choose, be sure you are following the label instructions provided.
Reputation and credibility of the brand
Purchase probiotics from a reputable brand with products backed by science, statistics, and industry standards. Before choosing a product, find out what clinical studies helped determine the ingredients for the formula–supplements should have statistics that clearly support the health benefit claims.
You should also verify that the supplement company has certifications for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The FDA establishes strict requirements to certify safe, accurately labeled products. Choosing a brand of supplements that provides scientific research to verify the safety and efficacy of their products is very important.
Daily probiotics will benefit your overall health by supporting digestion and the immune system. Educating yourself on the types of probiotics available and which is best for your health is key. We recommend purchasing products from a reputable healthcare professional or vendor who stands by their products and uses high-quality ingredients that are well-researched and have a proven safety record.
Author: Justin Marsh is the Founder and CEO of Arthur Andrew Medical, a leading manufacturer of enzyme and probiotic-based dietary supplements, headquartered in Scottsdale.