How to choose probiotics supplement

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how to choose probiotics

Have you ever been to a grocery store to buy probiotics but left empty-handed because you were overwhelmed by a sea of choices?

That is why it is important to do some research beforehand and know which one is the right pick for you. 

If you’re unsure about how to proceed, don’t worry. Here are six easy steps to help you choose the best probiotic supplement for yourself.

Six simple steps to Choosing the right probiotic product


  1. Find your match 
how to choose probiotic supplement

Your symptoms and the probiotic strain you choose need to be fit like missing puzzle pieces. 

It might claim it is a very high-quality probiotic product that helps with constipation, but that product would not be your best bet if you were looking for probiotics to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. 

How to find it – evidence-based medicine

As healthcare professionals, we integrate clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information (scientific evidence) to back up our choices. 

So, read up on some research.

When scientists research how well probiotics work on different health conditions, they use very specific strains. Therefore, look over research reports to determine which probiotics have made positive outcomes on specific conditions.

To give you an idea….

According to research, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 51%.

One large study revealed that Bifidobacterium longum has great potential as an adjuvant therapy for inflammatory bowel disease.

In a study of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, Lactobacillus acidophilus showed improved symptoms of abdominal pain and bloating.

2. Colony forming units (CFU)

what is CFU?

CFU reflects the potency and effectiveness of a probiotic supplement. It tells you the number of viable microorganisms in a probiotic supplement. 

Is the higher CFU, the better it is?

If you do not take enough CFU, you might not see the beneficial outcomes. Thus, it is generally recommended to choose probiotic products with higher CFU counts. Most probiotic supplements contain 1-10 billion CFU per dose, but some contain more than this.

But more does not always mean better.

The recommended dosage of CFUs varies depending on the specific strain of probiotics, the intended use, and the individual needs.

Therefore, to discover how many colony-forming units you need to help with a specific condition, talk to a doctor before starting probiotic supplements.

3. Aim for high-quality brand probiotics

what probiotics to buy

Since the probiotic industry is thriving, the quality of probiotic supplements in the market seems more confusing.

Like other supplements, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotics. So companies can thus throw whatever they want into a supplement, and you cannot assure what you are getting.

So, to make sure you are bargaining for the benefits of probiotics, look for a trusted brand that has been studied in clinical trials and reviewed by dietitians, nutritionists, and healthcare professionals.

4. Opt for probiotic supplements that use a safe delivery system

choosing probiotic supplement

To ensure that your probiotics do beneficial work, you want to safeguard probiotics through their journey to the large intestine (colon), where they thrive and work. To colonize your gut requires a safe delivery strategy that allows the probiotics to get through the harsh environment of your stomach.

Delay-released probiotics

Delayed-release forms are designed to release the active ingredient (probiotics) later after taking it. This way, it helps to prevent the capsules from being broken down too early in the stomach.

Enteric-coated and microencapsulated forms

Enteric-coated and microencapsulated forms are also promising techniques for a safe delivery system. These capsules act as a shield that protects the probiotic bacteria from the acidic environment.

They remain stable at the acidic pH present in the stomach but will quickly break down and will release their contents in exposure to alkaline pH in the intestines.

5. Read the label for storage instructions and expiration date

storage instruction for probiotics

To see a clinical difference in your condition, you want to ensure that your probiotics are alive when you purchase them. But, not all probiotics displayed on the shelves of grocery or pharmacy stores stay as effective as the day of manufacture.

Keep your eye out for storage instructions on the label.

If the label says they need to be refrigerated, make sure the place you’re buying them from does so. When you get home, do the same. Heat can kill off the microorganisms in your probiotics if they’re not stored correctly. Although shelf-stable ones can sit at room temperature, you should keep the heat-dried ones in the fridge.

Never buy the probiotic product close to or after the expiration date.

Probiotic supplements generally expire 1-2 years after the date of manufacture. Since the CFU counts tend to fall over time, taking the expired probiotics will not make any clinical difference.

6. Make sure you can safely consume them 

side effects of probiotics

Generally speaking, probiotics have an excellent safety profile. Possible side effects are mild upset stomach, gas, and bloating. These symptoms tend to occur when you start taking them in large amounts since your system has to adapt to an increasing number of bacteria. They are not a cause for concern if you start low and go slow with your probiotics.

You could be allergic to the added ingredients in your supplements.

You can develop an allergic reaction to the supplement ingredients, especially inulin. Some people are allergic to inulin and may experience anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction. Inulin is also not suited for those following a low FODMAP diet.

It is best to check with your doctor first to see if they’re safe. 

If your immune system is too fragile, these live organisms can enter the bloodstream and cause bacteremia and sepsis (a life-threatening condition).

And talk to your doctor if you have damaged heart valves since there exists a rare risk of infection of the heart valves (endocarditis) by taking probiotics.

You will never know until you try it on 

Overwhelmed by a lot of information going through your brain? Rest assured since no one makes a perfect choice. 

We are all unique, with different gut microbiomes and diets, so there is no 100 percent guarantee that a probiotic will work for you until you give it a go. 

Another important thing is to check the signs they are working for you and know when to move on.

Your healthcare provider could lend a hand to you

Consulting with your doctor can simplify matters for you. You can talk about the possibility of taking a probiotic supplement, and the doctor can suggest the most suitable one based on your situation. Additionally, they can review your medication and supplements and address any other health concerns.

At the end of the day, the important thing is to give your gut the love it deserves whether it is by taking a probiotic supplement or indulging in probiotic foods, or both.

Photo of author
Dr Tun Min is s GP working in NHS UK and writing articles about supplements and vitamins based on personal clinical experience and clinical research.

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