You’ve probably seen television advertisements by popular yogurt brands, claiming their products contain billions of probiotics that are beneficial for your gut. It seems that the word ‘probiotics’ is a buzzword in the health and nutrition industries at the moment, and we can see why!
Probiotics have been shown in numerous studies to improve a number of health markers, including digestion, immunity and mental health. They do so by altering the composition of the gut microbiome and improving the communication between the brain and the gut (known as the brain-gut-microbiome axis).
The most common probiotic microorganisms are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Lactococcus, Streptococcus and Enterococcus.
Where Can You Find Probiotics?
The term 'probiotics' refers to the live bacteria that are found naturally in the human gut and also in a number of foods, including:
- Pickled vegetables
- Plain yogurt
While you can consume lots of probiotic microorganisms in your diet, you might want to increase your consumption of probiotics by taking supplements to optimise your health.
Ultimate Guide to Purchasing Probiotic
There is a wide range of probiotic supplements on the market and knowing which are the best for you can be difficult. Below, we’ve created a list of important things to keep in mind when you’re choosing probiotics.
By the end of this article, you should know exactly how to search through the thousands of different probiotics products that are available to find the perfect option for your needs.
1. Be careful with refrigerated probiotics
Refrigerated probiotics are often seen as better than non-refrigerated options because the cold temperature keeps the bacteria alive and enables them to thrive. However, you need to take extra caution when you buy refrigerated probiotics so that you don’t break the cold chain.
If the cold chain is broken, it might decrease the potency and efficacy of the probiotics. Your supplements may not be as effective and you might not experience the positive health benefits of your probiotics.
Choosing room-temperature probiotics makes it easier to maintain a consistent temperature and, therefore, deliver more consistent quality with your supplements.
2. High CFUs don’t always mean high quality
CFU refers to Colony Forming Units, which is a measurement of the number of live and active microorganisms in a serving of probiotics. Generally, for a probiotic to be effective, it should contain at least 1 billion CFUs but this is not a limit. Some probiotic supplements have up to 10 billion CFUs.
While it’s logical to think that a higher number of CFUs means a better probiotic product, this isn’t always the case. If the gut can’t colonise the good bacteria in the probiotic supplement, then the extra CFUs are useless!
To maximise your body’s ability to utilise as many CFUs as possible, take your probiotic supplement with prebiotic foods. As we mentioned in a recent blog post, prebiotics are fibres that can be broken down by probiotic bacteria, helping them to thrive. Also taking supplements with digestive enzymes further helps holistically with gut health.
3. Different probiotics are suitable for different conditions
Some probiotic supplements target a specific health issue, such as IBS or bloating. Not all probiotic species are equal and it’s important to look at the species that are in a probiotic supplement before you buy it to make sure it’s suitable for your needs.
For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum are some of the best known and widely researched probiotics, with proven efficacy in antibiotic associated diarrhoea. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to reduce GI symptom frequency and severity in athletes.
4. Probiotics aren’t a magical cure!
As great as they are, probiotics are a magical cure. They won’t resolve an underlying medical health condition. If you’re experiencing severe gut health issues, it’s important to speak with your doctor to check whether your digestive symptoms are a symptom of something deeper and more concerning.
Remember that a healthy and well-balanced diet that is full of nutritious foods is the most effective way to keep your gut (and your whole body) healthy! Limit your intake of high-sugar, high-fat and ultra-processed foods to keep your gut microbiome balanced and therefore your health optimal.