3 things to know before buying probiotics

3 things to know before buying probiotics

Did you know that much of your immune system is actually within your GI tract? That’s why it’s 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 to 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

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range here. 

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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.

    • I agree and would love to see a list of recommended probiotics. That being said, what is the opinion on PREBIOTICS?

  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.

  8. This is my area of expertise and passion in life! Health begins and ends in the gut. Your gut is your root system and your second brain. The one I take is Probiotics 10. I highly recommend it. It can be ordered on http://www.tlsslim.com

  9. What about kombucha?

  10. Margaret Gonzales-Charles September 24, 2019 at 10:41 am · Reply

    Charles E. I agree with you completely. When looking for a probiotic you need 3 things. 1. At least 10 different bacteria; 2. at least 50 billion count; 3. some sort of protection from the stomach. It needs to get to the small intestine before the stomach acids kill the bacteria.

  11. should probiotics be taken on an empty stomach?

  12. Gloria Picchetti March 4, 2020 at 12:33 pm · Reply

    I only buy plain yogurt. I add cinnamon or ginger, stevia or honey, nuts, and fruit. Most flavored yogurt is full of sugar and chemicals.

  13. The refrigerated floragen is what I was told is the best from multiple MD’s! You can get adult, womens, and kids.

  14. I personally use Florasave because combine Probiotics and Prebiotics. At this moment works perfectly.

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. 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.