3 things to know before buying probiotics

3 things to know before buying probiotics

Did you know the majority of your immune system is actually within your GI tract? That’s why it is so important to keep your intestinal system healthy to help you stay healthy and fight off colds, flu and even cancer.

Within your intestinal system, there’s a mixture of good bacteria and bad bacteria. In fact, scientists estimate there are three pounds of microbes inside the human digestive system — some 40 trillion organisms.

And it’s a delicate balance. When there’s more good bacteria than bad, things go well. When the bad bacteria have the upper hand, that’s when you can get not only gas, diarrhea or constipation — but your ability to fight off diseases may decrease, too.

So how can you ensure you keep the right gut balance? Some studies suggest taking probiotics helps digestive health. Some evidence, though, shows probiotics may not be beneficial for healthy people. Probiotics are live beneficial microbials, and come in all kinds of forms, from capsules, tablets and even added into foods.

If you decide to take a probiotic, how do you pick the right one? Dr. Jeffrey Katt, an internal medicine physician who works at Aurora Health Care, advises to look for these three things if you’re buying a probiotic supplement:

  • Look for products that contain a specific strain. Not all strains are alike. Simply listing Lactobacillus acidophilus on the label may not be good enough, but listing a strain designation like Lactobacillus acidophilus 123 can help you find more solid information to help in your buying decision.
  • Be sure there’s research. Check online for studies that have been done on the specific microbial strain.
  • Look at the count. Check the label for the number of live organisms you’re getting when you use the probiotic before it expires, not just at the time of manufacturing. Because the organisms are live, the live count – or Colony Forming Units (CFUs) – can go down quickly if the manufacturer doesn’t use good stabilizing techniques.

There are also fermented foods that naturally contain good bacteria. Consider adding these powerhouses to your diet:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut (the unpasteurized kind)
  • Tempeh (fermented soybean product)
  • Acidophilus milk
  • Gouda, mozzarella and cheddar cheese

Want to be sure you’re doing all you can for your intestinal health? Take an online assessment of your colon health. Or get a colonoscopy. In Wisconsin, schedule through your doctor, and in Illinois, book online now.

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  1. Which ones do you suggest we take? It would be nice to see a top 5 list of the ones you think are good.

  2. Which brand should I consider?

  3. Can u recommend a brand?

  4. Great article, but would be great to have a few trusted brands to choose from. 🙁

  5. From my own experience, the best brands can be purchased at health food stores. Avoid the ones promoted by pharm. companies like Align which have low counts of limited strains. I prefer refrigerated brands at health food stores but there are shelf stable brands which package individual capsules in a bubble seal. I usually buy brands which have at least 20 billion which have at least 12 or more strains. Certain strains are good for specific colon health such as infantitis which can help IBS. Check them out at health food stores and ask for recommendations. Sorry, but physicians and nutritionists are not usually helpful in recommending brands.

  6. I take Align, and it seems to work. Would you consider that a good option?

  7. Life extensions is a good brand and you can choose specific strains.

About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.