Probiotics is a current buzzword in the health food industry, with numerous health studies citing therapeutic benefits. The problem is that there are hundreds of probiotic supplements available. Pills, powders, liquids, freeze-dried and live cultures, single strain, multiple strains, the options seem endless. So how do you choose the right supplement? The one that is both safe and effective for you?
Guidelines for Choosing Probiotic Supplements
A set of guidelines entitled “The P’s and Q’s of Probiotics”, published by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), recommends that consumers should consider 5 criteria when comparing probiotic supplements:
1. Probiotic Strain
2. Clinical Proof
In this article we will look at each of these criteria in detail.
Probiotics are bacteria that have a beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with our digestive and immune systems. If you are new to probiotics, its important to understand a few facts about your body. There are billions of bacteria in your intestinal tract. These are a mixture of helpful bacteria and harmful bacteria. Ensuring a healthy level of beneficial bacteria will keep your digestive system balanced and support its ability to function properly.
There are many different strains of probiotic bacteria. Different strains play different roles in our bodies. Some strains will be beneficial for general digestive health and some will be effective in combatting diseases.
Some probiotic supplements contain single strain, others contain a combination of multiple strains targeting a specific condition, or to provide more benefits for overall health.
The most commonly known strain of probiotic is Lactobacillus acidophilus. This strain is found mostly in the small intestine, where it inhibits the growth of pathogens and also appears to have a beneficial influence on tumor growth and carcinogenic substances, also reported to lower blood pressure.
Here is a list of other probiotic strains that you may encounter, and researched benefits:
Lactobacillus amylovorus – helps lower cholesterol and prevent cancers
Lactobacillus casei – beneficial for lactose intolerance, protects against listeria, stimulates healthy cell function
Lactobacillus plantarum – helpful for sufferers of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), reduces stomach bloating
Lactobacillus fermentum – to prevent and treat urogenital infections in women
Lactobacillus brevis – bolsters immunity
Lactobacillus bulgaricus – aid for digestive problems
Bifidobacterium longum – Studies show benefits in liver, breast, colon cancer research
Bifantis – a patented strain found in Align Probiotics, helpful for IBS and digestive disorders
Lactobacillus GG – patented strain found in Culturelle, helpful for a variety of digestive disorders
Bacillus Coagulans – brings control to digestive and stomach problems
Bacillus Subtilis – rids the body of bad bacteria in the intestines
Enterococcus Faecalis – a recreation of the natural bacteria in our digestive system
Lactobacillus Salivarius – helps to relieve chronic bowel syndromes
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus – stimulates the immune system
Streptococcus thermophilus – helps eliminate pathogens such as E. Coli
You should make sure that the probiotic supplement you choose has been through numerous scientific studies and is supported by clinical evidence to be beneficial. The correct amount and strain of probiotic for a specific condition is paramount if you are seeking relief for a specific condition. Reliable probiotic supplements will always be supported by clinical trials and these trails and other research should be available for you to examine.
Packaging of Probiotics
If not properly packaged, probiotics may lose their potency. These supplements come in many forms:
Food Products (incorporated into yogurts, fermented milks, miso, tempeh, some juices)
Which form is best is an ongoing debate. The delivery mechanism of the probiotics to the digestive system is important. It`s important for the bacteria to survive the hostile environment that the stomach provides and make it all the way to the digestive system to get established and therefore be effective. Different types of coatings are available which can withstand the harsh stomach acids.