With all the buzz about probiotics right now, it can be hard to tell the truth from the hype. (Not sure what they are/why they are helpful? Read my post: What's The Deal With: PROBIOTICS). If you’re considering the decision to add probiotics to your daily routine, it can be hard to determine how/what product to proceed with.
The advice of a health care provider (dare I say, like me?) is key in making sure your probiotic is strategically right for your body and your health concerns. Today's article will talk about probiotics for maintaining an already healthy GI tract.
Of course there are a variety of dietary sources that allow you to incorporate probiotics into your diet. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir are among my favourite choices... it is recommended to have one probiotic food every day. (Remember, eating these foods will only maintain a healthy GI tract, not correct an unhealthy one!)
For those who need a little extra help, a probiotic supplement may be the answer.
But with so many options out there, is there a good way to determine what to look for? As it turns out, there are three key factors to keep in mind as you search for a great probiotic:
01. CFU Count!
Probiotic supplements contain live bacterial cultures, which are quantified in a unit called a CFU 's (colony-forming units). While there are seemingly endless probiotic options on the market, it’s important to choose a formula that includes a substantial enough quantity of probiotics to ensure you reap their benefits. For maintenance of a healthy GI tract, aim for a supplement with about 1 billion CFUs minimum. That’s not to say that any less than 1 billion is ineffective, rather this is a benchmark at which most people will experience much of the intended effect of the supplement. You will find that there are formulas on the market with vastly more CFUs than this. That doesn’t mean that these formulas are super-effective, rather those supplements are likely intended for a medically specific type of person, and are typically taken under a doctor’s recommendation. If you have questions about what’s right for you, or getting a targeted probiotic for your concerns, be sure to consult with your naturopathic doctor.
02. Bacterial Variety
Research shows that probiotic cultures tend to work best when they contain more than one type of bacteria. The most effective probiotics will have at least two different strains, which more efficiently out-compete “bad” gut bacteria and keep them from thriving in the diverse environment. Also, keep in mind that there isn’t one perfect strain combination, rather, some strains work best in tandem with others for specific types of conditions, and others for other conditions.
03. Culture Viability
Remember that the live bacteria in probiotic supplements will die over time, and we want to ensure we’re ingesting an optimal amount of live bacteria in order to reap the benefits. For this reason, it’s extremely important to abide by the expiration dates on the formula bottle, and to store the product as indicated on the label. Probiotic expiration dates represent the date by which the company can promise that the CFU count is still live, so past that date, you may be ingesting less “good bacteria” than you think. There are, of course, other reasons to pay close attention to expiration dates as well.
Ultimately, finding a great probiotic for your regimen is up to your personal preferences, needs, and conversations with your healthcare provider.
In the clinic, I recommend select pharmaceutical grade probiotic formulas targeted to address specific concerns ranging from IBS to sinusitis to eczema. If you have a specific concern, I encourage you to reach out and schedule an appointment.
If you are looking to maintain an already healthy GI tract and want more info... including specific product comparisons... reviews.com has done an excellent guide. Check out the full guide here: https://www.reviews.com/ probiotic-supplement/
As always, I hope this information has helped/served you in some way. Any questions can be left in the comments section down below this post.
Dr. Laura Nurse, BBA, ND
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