2014 Probiotics Buyers Guide

probioticsProbiotics have easily become the most popular digestive supplement in recent years. For good reason, given the endless studies that show a balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract is an integral part of digestive health.

Besides being an effective treatment for bloating, gassiness, and other uncomfortable digestive problems, there is evidence that probiotics can also help alleviate problems associated with serious diseases like IBS and Crohn’s disease. Users have also reported that probiotics provide a number of other benefits as well, like brain health and increased energy levels.

However, with the popularity of probiotic supplements, there’s a staggering number of probiotics manufacturers out there, with varying formulas, and, as you might expect, varying levels of effectiveness and safety.

In the search for the best probiotic supplement, it’s easy to get caught up in extravagant claims and confusing scientific jargon. So to make things easier, I put together a list of components that every probiotic should have. 

Use this list to make informed decisions when considering a probiotic supplement.

1. At Least 20 billion CFUs

CFUs, or Colony Forming Units, are the actual mechanisms of action inside probiotics. CFUs are like the “building blocks” for a healthy gut: these units are essentially the eggs for bacteria, hatching untold more amounts of beneficial bacteria in your belly.

When you take a probiotic supplement, you’re often times not consuming live bacteria, but these “building blocks” that cultivate vast colonies of good bacteria.

When looking a probiotic supplements, you’ll see this number on the back. And you’ll notice the number is all over the place. It could range from 1 billion to 30 billion. There are two primary reasons why you want the number of CFUs to be high:

  • Colonies die. Between exposure to heat and moisture on the shelf as well as the journey through your stomach, it is inevitable that some of the bacteria will die. A high CFU count means the best odds that an effective number of colonies will still be viable when they reach your digestive tract.
  • As I’ll explain next, diverse probiotic strains are important. Higher CFUs means each of those strains is represented enough in the supplement to be effective.

2. Look For These Specific Strains

Though there are many different strains of bacteria out there that can work their way into your bacterial supplement, there are a few strains that are pretty much standard across the industry. There’s a reason for that: these are the most potent, most effective strains of probiotics.

Diversity of strains is hugely important because different strains reside in different areas of you digestive tract. A high CFU of any given strain helps ensure that enough of that strain makes it to its proper destination in the digestive tract.

Some of the strains you should make sure are in your probiotic are:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus – bolsters the immune system, and is the most effective and versatile probiotic
  • Bifidobacterium longnum – prevents growth of bad microbes in the digestive system.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis – fights against bacteria and bolsters immune function. Increases antibodies in the gut.
  • Bifidobacterium breve – able to break down any kind of food more effectively.
  • Lactobacillus casei – inhibits growth of bacteria that cause ulcers and other gastrointestinal diseases
  • Lactobacillus plantarum – one of the toughest strains of bacteria, fights IBS and collitis.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus – helps with urinary tract infections, and respiratory problems. Can also improve skin and decrease anxiety.
  • Lactobacillus salivarus – decreases bad breath while also aiding digestion.
  • Lactococcus lactis – one of the most popular bacteria used in vaccines, lactococcus lactis is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Lactobacillus paracasei –  reduces effects of chronic fatigue — gives you more energy by increasing digestion.

3. Avoid Additives & Potential Allergens

If you are looking for a good probiotic, it’s possible that you have allergies that could be exacerbating your symptoms. Some probiotics contain gluten, lactose and soy. If you’re having gut problems, it is possible that you’re allergic to ingredients like these. So why would you want them in a supplement designed to support your gut health?

It’s also important to be aware of cheap additives if you have other dietary concerns. Some probiotic supplements contain cost-cutting stabilizers. These can be synthetic or come from animal bi-products. An additive-free probiotic will always advertise that it is all-natural, vegetarian and free of gluten, lactose and soy.

4. Third Party Tested Ingredients

As with all the supplements you buy, third-party testing is essential.  These third-party laboratories exist for the sole purpose of analyzing the ingredients in a specific supplement. For probiotics, they test to make sure the capsule contain the correct number of colonies and that the colonies are still alive. Additionally, they test for microbiology and heavy metals.

Microbiology testing is for finding the presence of mold, e. coli, salmonella and other dangerous microbes.

Heavy metal testing is for finding dangerous levels of mercury, lead and other toxic metals.

Supplement companies that use third-party testing are the only companies actually putting their money where their mouth is. If you want a probiotic supplement that contains everything the label claims and nothing it does not, third-party testing is the only way to know.

5. At least a 60 Day Money-Back Guarantee

This is important because everyone is different. Some people notice results from taking a probiotic supplement within a few days. But some people don’t begin to experience results for over a month. It is quite possible that a month is not long enough to get a sense of if a probiotic is a good solution for you. So a 30 day guarantee just doesn’t cut it. It may take at least that long to know if you’re a good match for probiotics, so a 60 day guarantee is crucial.

I hope you have found this guide to be helpful.

If you’re not ready to buy a probiotic supplement yet, I invite you to read our article about foods that are rich in probiotics.

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Categories: Supplements