March 23, 2010
Brenda wrote a post recently that really covers that question very well. It depends on your situation and health, so here's her response:
1. Look for high culture count. The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving. You need a least 15 billion cultures to begin to make an impact on your health—often more depending upon age or health-related concern. The more probiotics the better when it comes to the culture count in probiotic supplements.
2. Check out the number of strains. There are over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A good rule of thumb is that a variety of strains more closely resemble the diversity that naturally exists in the gut. Look for the naturally occurring strains that begin with Ls and Bs, like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. A good way to remember is that the L strains are good for the little (small) intestine. The B strains are good for the big (large) intestine or colon. It’s also important to get a variety of strains because each person’s body has a different bacterial footprint and utilizes some bacterial strains better than others. Cover all the bases with one supplement for best results.
3. Make sure the capsule is designed for delayed release. Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to be effective. If they never make it through the stomach acid, they won’t do you any good. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine, where they are needed most.
4. Look for potency at time of expiration, not manufacture. Any probiotic is fresh when manufactured, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health, bowel regularity and strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses. Be sure to read the label, so you’ll know you’re giving your body the probiotic it needs.
Which specific probiotic is right for you?
So, a quick review of my four-point system of what to look for in a high-quality probiotic supplement: You know that you need to look for a supplement with a high culture count, multiple strains (lots of Ls and Bs), a delayed-release capsule and potency that’s guaranteed through time of expiration. But narrowing the field down to those criteria can still result in an overwhelming amount of choices.
How do you know which probiotic is right for you?
Think of it this way. Fewer cultures and strains of probiotics are fine for younger, healthier adults, who should get at least 15 billion active cultures of at least 10 strains per capsule. But what about those who are older, having digestive issues, or those seeking seasonal support? There’s a probiotic for everyone, at any age, that can help improve overall health.
Probiotics for children. Babies, and children in general, are exposed to many germs that their growing bodies aren’t used to fighting off. Strengthening their immunities through probiotics are a great way to give them a leg up and build their defenses. A little goes a long way, and babies and children often do very well taking between one billion and four billion active cultures daily.
Probiotics for people aged 15 to 49. People in this age range require at least 15 billion active cultures or multiple strains for daily maintenance. It’s best to take those strains that are prevalent in a healthy digestive tract and help support both the large and small intestines. Look for Ls and Bs.
Probiotics for those over the age of 50. As our bodies age, the amount of healthy bifidobacteria in the digestive tract declines. Those over 50 should take at least 30 billion active cultures to help counteract this decline, promote regularity and strengthen natural defenses.
Support for digestive issues. Those suffering from chronic constipation or diarrhea get good results when taking a probiotic with at least 50 billion active cultures. Conditions like Irritable Bowel respond well to 80 billion cultures in one capsule (or more), while those who have just completed a course of antibiotics should seek the maximum amount of active cultures available, typically 200 billion or higher.
Relief for yeast overgrowth. Women experience yeast and urinary tract issues more often than men, in part due to frequent disruptions in vaginal flora. When natural defenses are weakened due to poor diet, too much sugar, stress, illness, or medication, Candida (or yeast) can thrive and negatively affect overall health. To help combat this, women should turn to a probiotic that is high in lactobacilli, to mirror a healthy vaginal environment.
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