You already know probiotics play an important role in supporting optimal digestion and health.‡ But with so many products to choose from, what factors are important when it comes to choosing an effective probiotic supplement? Here are a few quick basics:
- Look at the culture count to determine the strength or potency of a probiotic. Culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacteria cultures in a single serving. Most experts recommend at least 15 billion live cultures or CFUs (colony forming units) daily to make an impact on your health.‡ However, because research is showing more is better, you may benefit from more depending upon your age or specific concerns.‡ Total live cultures will often be determined at time of manufacture, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. Look for a high-quality probiotic that displays potency on the label at time of expiration, not manufacture.
- Pay attention to the number of strains. The strains, or specific types of probiotics, plus the culture count of each should be listed on the label. Over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria can be found in the human gut, so it makes sense to choose a probiotic supplement that reflects this natural diversity.
- Look for lots of Ls and Bs. When you scan the label of a good probiotic you will see strains that begin with Ls and Bs, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. A good trick to differentiate these is that the L strains are more native to the little (small) intestine and the B strains are generally found in the big (large) intestine, or colon. Look for lots of Ls and Bs because each person’s body utilizes certain probiotic strains differently than others.
- Choose delayed-release capsules. While probiotics are also utilized in the upper digestive tract, the majority of bacterial populations exist in the lower small and large intestines. So how do the good bacteria get all the way down there? Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to colonize. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestines, where they are needed most.
A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health and bowel regularity as well as support immune health.‡ Be sure to read the label so you know you are giving your body the probiotic it needs.