We all know (or should know) that it is generally good practice to include a probiotic (good bacteria) as part of our daily nutritional protocol. Remember “good bacteria” are essential for a healthy gut, and a health gut is at the core of maintaining health in our other body systems. Although cultured and fermented foods can be good sources of beneficial bacteria, typically too few are consumed in most modern day diets. Additionally, use of medications such as antibiotics can destroy good bacteria, altering that gut balance. All of this makes it necessary to use a daily probiotic supplement to support healthy gut bacteria. But what to choose?
A few tips to keep in mind when selecting a probiotic:
- Refrigeration: Keeping beneficial bacteria cool keeps a larger volume of microorganisms alive and viable. There is no sense taking a probiotic if after sitting on a shelf or in your cabinet there are too few of them viable to populate the gut.
- Volume of Active Cultures: Look for at least 5 billion of active cultures, guaranteed to be alive until the date on the bottle. Most beneficial bacteria reside and flourish in the more alkaline environment of the intestinal tract. To get there they must survive the acidic environment of the stomach. Coatings on capsules help, but volume plays to the odds and increases survival where you want them.
- Multiple strains: For general GI and immune system support, choose a broad spectrum multi-strain variety with five or more beneficial lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. The reality is there are hundreds of bacteria strains which inhabit our GI tract, the intent is to maintain a balance.
- Empty stomach: I typically recommend my clients take their probiotic on an empty stomach, simply to reduce the stomach acid present and increase the numbers that survive. When you eat, stomach acid secretion increases to promote digestion. Again coatings on capsules help, however I prefer to be conservative rather than test the efficacy of those coatings.
- Allergen free: For those with food allergies or sensitivities, in particular gluten, corn, dairy and soy, be very careful to look at labels. Probiotics can be derived from fermentation on cultured dairy and soy, also gluten and corn are common fillers in many supplements. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, I recommend choosing “allergen free” varieties that specifically say no gluten, no dairy, no corn, no soy – this applies to not only your probiotic but any nutritional supplements you use.
In health and wellness,