Originally published August 1 2012
What to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement
by Eric Hunter
(NaturalNews) When most people think about consuming beneficial bacteria, probiotic supplements and dairy products with added bacteria usually come to mind. These products provide some of the microorganisms needed for good health.
Hunter-gatherers and people living in non-westernized settings have usually been very healthy, and they don't have access to a jar of probiotic pills in the morning. Food, water, dirt/soil, human contact and other environmental factors provide these people with an abundance of probiotics. Today we have lost a lot of these benefits because everything around us is cleaned, processed and sterilized.
Trying to recreate "primitive" settings with organic and raw produce, fermentation, quality drinking water etc. will be the best bet in ensuring healthy gut flora. Probiotic supplements can also provide additional health benefits, but the quality differences are huge.
Unlike many other supplements, the health benefits of probiotics are well studied, and they are safe even in very high doses. Some supplements contain a combination of pro and prebiotics, but prebiotics can also be included on their own from foods or supplements.
Probiotic supplements account for billions in sales each year, and global sales are predicted to grow substantially over the coming years. Manufacturers and sellers are drawn to the market, but not everyone delivers quality products.
Besides avoiding supplements containing GMO's, artificial ingredients, etc., there are several aspects consumers have to consider before buying a probiotic supplement.
A well-know and trusted brand
Choose a probiotic supplement from a trustworthy manufacturer which provides research and thorough information about the product.
Billions of live bacteria at the time of expiration
15 billion and upwards of live probiotics in each capsule is a good recommendation. Look for a supplement that displays potency at time of expiration. A lot of the ingested microorganisms won't survive through the gastrointestinal tract, and more bacteria usually means better survival rates.
Several different bacterial strains
Different strains of bacteria have different survival rates and health benefits. Choosing a supplement with strains from different groups of probiotic bacteria will be the best bet in ensuring optimal results.
The health benefits of certain microorganisms have been well documented through research and clinical trials. Each manufacturer should be able to provide proof that their probiotic supplement contain well-researched and health promoting strains of bacteria.
Acid and bile resistant
The stomach acid and bile will kill a lot of microorganisms. Selecting a probiotic supplement with acid and bile resistant strains will ensure optimal survival.
Some probiotic supplements have enteric coating or other delivery systems that are supposed to ensure survival. Using these types of delivery systems raises some concerns:
- Their effectiveness varies and few manufacturers provide proof that their coating ensures survival
- If these microorganisms aren't supposed to survive through the GI tract, is it wise to artificially ensure their survival?
- Some enteric coatings use synthetic ingredients
- Beneficial microorganisms from natural sources don't have any enteric coating.
Sources for this article include
Pharmacol Res. 2011 May;63(5):366-76. Epub 2011 Feb 22. Probiotics and health: an evidence-based review.
Aureli P, Capurso L, Castellazzi AM, et al.
Price, Dr Weston, A., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. 6th edition, 14th printing. La Mesa, CA, USA. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 2000.
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