With all the probiotic supplement options on the market, it can feel overwhelming when trying to decide which one is the best fit for you. Not all probiotics are created equal: Some have poorer quality ingredients, while others may not have the bacteria strain that can help with your needs. When spending money on a supplement, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not only getting what you’re paying for, but that you’re picking an option that will actually target the right area of your health.
“Probiotics include various strains of live microorganisms that try to promote a good balance of certain gut bacteria,” says Physician Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe. “In general, someone may want to take a probiotic to try and ease some issues [that] they may have with their digestive tract. For instance, those who battle inflammatory processes of the digestive system sometimes find probiotics helpful.”
As is the case with many supplements, it can’t hurt to take probiotics if you want to improve certain aspects of your health, especially if it comes accompanied with a healthy diet. However, it’s always best to try to get the majority of your nutrients from whole foods and use your probiotic supplement as a backup plan. Research is mixed when it comes to the effectiveness of probiotic supplements, so it’s always best to focus on your diet first and foremost. And, it’s also useful to complement your diet with a good workout, which you can find on the Aaptiv app.
Nevertheless, if you do choose to add a probiotic supplement into your routine, you’ll want to make sure that you’re choosing the highest quality probiotic that will help fulfill your needs. Here are six things to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement.
Choose a reputable strain of bacteria
When choosing a probiotic supplement, you first want to make sure that you’re choosing a product that contains a reputable strain of bacteria. “Although there are many supplements that claim they have millions of separate strains, very few of them have been scientifically proven to have any benefit on our health,” says Registered Dietitian Gabrielle Mancella. “Choosing one with a proven strain, such as the bacteria strain called lactobacillus, can save you money and time, as far as determining which supplement on the shelf to choose.”
Consider the best bacteria for your needs
Some people take probiotics mainly for digestive reasons, others for an improved immune system. Depending on your goals, you will want to make sure that your supplement includes specific strains of bacteria. “Lactobacillus is good for immune system strengthening,” says Family and Emergency Doctor Dr. Janette Nesheiwat. “It can also help prevent yeast infections and BV (bacterial vaginosis) in women. Saccharomyces Boulardii may help if you suffer from acne on any part of your body. Again, lactobacillus (most common and popular) and bifidobacterium may help with some of the symptoms of IBS/ulcerative colitis or if you are suffering from bloating/cramping.”
Make sure that it has been clinically researched
Since probiotics are sold as supplements, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate them for safety or for the health claims made by the manufacturers. “When picking a supplement, I would recommend purchasing a name brand that has been studied and tested for the issue that you are looking to address,” says Family Physician Dr. Wayne Jonas. “You could also ask your physician for their recommendation.”
Look for prebiotics
“When you take probiotics, it is key not to forget about the prebiotic fiber, as well,” says Mancella. “Prebiotic fiber is essentially just fiber that probiotics can use in order to ferment and attach themselves to in order to be rid from the body. This can be found in foods such as oatmeal, and can reduce bloating, increase G.I. motility, and also decrease those petty negative G.I. symptoms, such as constipation and gas.”
Check for allergens
If you’re someone with allergies, you’ll want to check the formulation of your probiotic supplement to ensure that it doesn’t include an ingredient that you have an allergy to. “Ultimately, if you are considering a probiotic supplement, it is always best to check in with a doctor to determine an appropriate regimen to suit your needs,” says Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe.
Pay attention to dosage
When looking at a label, you’ll always want to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of bacteria in each dose. “Colony Forming Units (CFUs) is the measurement of bacteria in each dose,” says Dr. Jonas. “A probiotic supplement should contain at least one billion CFUs of live and active bacterial cultures, which should be specified on the product label.”
When choosing a probiotic supplement, you want to find something reputable, filled with quality ingredients, and with a bacteria strain that fits your needs. A probiotic can be a useful addition to a healthy lifestyle, as long as it’s a legitimate brand. When in doubt, ask a physician what they recommend, and continue to eat a probiotic-rich diet supplemented with a regular workout regimen on the Aaptiv app.