Pay close attention to the following factors when looking for the best probiotics to enhance the function of your gut microbiome: colonies forming units (the number of bacteria per dose), study and research about the strains or brand names’ efficacy, types of bacterial strains used and how to store the probiotics. You may also want to focus on probiotic-containing foods rather than supplements.
One can find a diverse range of probiotic bacterial strains in the market’s wide variety of probiotic products. You must select the best one for your specific issue or concern to reap the benefits.
1. Colony Forming Units And Dose
A probiotic product must contain active and live bacterial cultures to be considered a true probiotic, which the company should indicate on the packaging. You should pay close attention to colony-forming units (CFU), which show the number of bacterial cells in each dose.
A general recommendation is to select probiotic products containing the genus Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Bacillus, or Saccharomyces boulardii, some of the most researched probiotics. Even so, you may need to look further because each genus of bacteria contains numerous strains that produce different results.
Before starting probiotic supplements on the spur of the moment, consult with your doctor to determine how many colony-forming units you require to help with a specific condition.
Observe the label and follow the recommended storage procedures for your probiotics. In general, you should keep them refrigerated (and make sure the place you buy them from does as well). If your probiotics are not stored correctly, heat can kill the microorganisms.
You’ll also need to keep an eye on the expiration date, as CFUs are inclined to degrade over time, making them less viable.
Additionally, search for probiotics enclosed in a food source, such as inulin, so they have something to eat and can survive on the shelf.
3. Study & Research About The Strains And Brand Names’ Efficacy
Australia classifies their probiotic products as either functional foods governed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) or corresponding medicines regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
While complementary medicines are required to disclose the amount of an active ingredient, foods are not required to disclose the number of probiotic bacteria in a product, making it challenging for consumers to make an informed decision about purchasing the right probiotic.
The probiotic should maintain the total number or amount of probiotic bacteria in a product to provide health benefits until its shelf life. On the other hand, manufacturers do not always perform stability testing, and independent testing has revealed that some products contain far fewer probiotics than claimed.
“I’d probably avoid store brands and pay a little more for a well-known and researched name brand,” suggests Dr Cresci. Hence, it is best to look for a product that has previously been tested for the same issue you’re trying to solve. It may claim to help with IBS, but you wouldn’t take it if you were taking antibiotics and trying to avoid antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. For this, you’d want a probiotic that helps with immunity rather than bowel irregularity.
Some labelling can also be deceptive. For instance, yoghurt consists of two primary bacterial cultures: Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Nevertheless, these bacteria are frequently destroyed by stomach acid and provide no beneficial probiotic effect. However, some companies add extra bacteria to the product, so read the label and choose products with bacteria added above the starter cultures.
Prioritising Probiotic Foods Instead Of supplements
One significant benefit of intaking probiotics through whole foods is that they can provide a much more complete source of nutrition than supplements. A recent study comparing food intake versus supplements discovered that while supplements increase total nutrient intake, distinct benefits are associated with nutrients found in foods. These benefits are absent in probiotic supplements. Foods rich in probiotics, for example, plant compounds that can help safeguard your body from oxidative damage and stress, provide micronutrients necessary for your body’s routine functions, and, perhaps most importantly, fibre.
Fermented foods provide a nourishing environment for healthy bacteria to thrive and release important byproducts such as short-chain fatty acids. These include kimchi (made from fermented cabbage), yoghurt, kefir (a yoghurt-like beverage), sauerkraut (refrigerated, not shelf-stable), kombucha (fermented black tea), and tempeh and miso (made from fermented soybeans).
Many fibre sources act as prebiotics (aka “food” for the probiotics in your gut). After all, probiotics, like humans, require food to function.
Prebiotics Can Help You Take Care Of Your Good Bacteria
Although the probiotic industry is thriving, the benefits of probiotic products and the number of effective bacteria they contain can differ. So, rather than consuming bacteria from another source, you may be better off consuming prebiotics, such as fermentable fibre, that support your beneficial bacteria. Onions, dried beans and other legumes, certain artichokes, garlic, green bananas, asparagus, cold-boiled potatoes, wheat, and leeks are all excellent sources of prebiotics.
According to doctors, fermentable fibre is what bacteria like. An individual does not need a probiotic if you eat a healthy diet high in fresh vegetables and fruits and deficient in saturated fats, sugar, and processed foods. If you want to try a one-size-fits-all approach to improving your gut health, focus on your diet and include prebiotics. What we eat has the most influence on our gut microbiome.”
One should avoid probiotic supplements and foods if their immune system is already weak or compromised (for instance, if you have a severe illness, is receiving chemotherapy, or have recently undergone surgery) despite probiotics generally being considered safe. You may experience an allergic reaction in some cases, so it is always a great decision to carefully read the label of your probiotic products.
Regardless of your situation or concern, you should consult with your doctor before attempting to use probiotics. They can even assist you in determining which probiotics are best for you.