How To Choose A Probiotic (Part I)

Important factors to consider when choosing a probiotic include whether it contains sufficient numbers of live bacteria, as well as the right strains to confer a health benefit for the condition you’re trying to treat (not whether it helped your neighbor or your yoga instructor, who may have had a completely different problem than you do). Although there’s no one-size-fits-all version when it comes to probiotics, here’s some general advice for choosing a probiotic:


  • Colony Forming Units: Pick a probiotic with at least fifty billion CFUs of the two most important groups of probiotic bacteria: Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.


  • Multi-Strain: Make sure the product contains multiple compatible strains of bacteria designed to work together, since different strains have different functions and no one strain can provide all the benefits. Most robust probiotics contain at least seven different strains.


  • Delivery System: Choose a probiotic with an effective delivery system. Because bacteria are easily destroyed by stomach acid, it’s important to ensure your probiotic is delivering live bacteria once it’s ingested and released in the gut. Some delivery systems to look for include: capsules (including enteric coated capsules and microcapsules), a formula that contains prebiotics (such as FOS), and an optimal combination of prebiotics and probiotics (specifically Lactobacillus spp., which have a greater resistance to stomach acid) that have been studied together and proven to enhance delivery.


  • Safety: Make sure the product has a good safety record with regard to human use. Investigate whether or not clinical trials or other scientific studies have been done to assess side effects, or whether the manufacturer provides any safety information.


  • Activity Against Pathogenic Bacteria: Investigate whether it has activity against pathogenic bacteria. Check the Internet to see whether any clinical trials or other scientific studies have been done to assess efficacy in people with active infections, or whether the manufacturer provides any information on activity against pathogens.


  • Shelf Life & Refrigeration: Check to see what the shelf life is, whether the product needs to be refrigerated, and whether it’s stable under normal storage conditions.


While you’re doing your research, keep in mind that there are several companies that claim to independently test health products like probiotics for purity and strength to help consumers identify the best-quality ones, but many of them receive grants and funding from the probiotic manufacturers whose products they endorse, so the information is not always unbiased. When you’re doing your research, look for data unencumbered by a financial relationship.


Looking for a probiotic? Check out the Gutbliss recommended probiotic. Stay tuned for How To Choose A Probiotic (Part II) and learn what strains are best for your specific condition.


By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan