Not all probiotic supplements are created equal.
Here's what to look for, and look out for, when choosing a high-quality probiotic supplement:
Probiotics are freeze-dried, live bacteria that reanimate in your GI tract. Over time, probiotic products naturally lose potency as a percentage of this bacteria dies off. Inspect packaging for the guaranteed potency or number of CFU (Colony Forming Units) before expiration. That number guarantees a standard of quality and effectiveness that you can rely on.
Don’t trust products without a clearly marked guaranteed potency before expiration, or those that only show the bacteria count at the time of manufacturing. The latter may only contain a few live bacteria as its expiration date approaches, a misleading tactic of some manufacturers.
Beyond inspecting packages for their general integrity, check for whether or not your product needs to be refrigerated. Instead of signifying a higher-quality product, refrigeration is more likely to indicate a lower quality manufacturing process or lower-quality packaging. Look for “shelf-stable” products instead, meaning those that can be taken nearly anywhere without requiring cooler than room temperatures.
Potency & Packaging
Before making a purchase, review the representation of the various strains, and the total amount of probiotics in the products you’re considering. This is measured as CFU, or colony forming units. As a guideline, a probiotic should contain at least 1 billion CFUs, with typical doses ranging from 1 – 10 billion, depending on the usage frequency and intended purpose.
In some instances, doses as high as 100 billion are used to counteract the effects of antibiotic-induced diarrhea or yeast imbalances, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) depression, anxiety, allergies and more.
Packaging is an important consideration for the quality of a probiotic product. As living organisms, probiotics are very sensitive to moisture, temperature, and the permeability of the container. Packaging should be impermeable to moisture, or at least as impermeable as possible. The best quality packages for probiotics are plastic packets and blister packs. The least suitable packages are plastic or glass containers.
Once you’ve chosen a quality probiotic in the right kind of packaging, it’s up to you to ensure potency by keeping your probiotics away from humidity and extreme temperatures such as direct sunlight in hot or cold vehicles.
Remember to also check the contents of prebiotics in a product, the food that fuels the growth and activity of probiotics, a living organism. This important element of probiotic products isn’t essential if you have a perfectly balanced diet. However, most people don’t, and the inclusion of prebiotics in your probiotics can indicate a more effective and higher-quality product. Taking both together is a technique called microbiome therapy and can greatly improve your gut health.