No two probiotic strains are same and it is important to have the right strains for maximum probiotic benefits.
Probiotic foods and supplements are overcrowding the store shelves after multiple research breakthroughs have demonstrated the benefits of these microbes.
Probiotics are found in many healthy foods and drinks, from yogurts to sauerkraut and even some unorthodox foods so you will not expect Homer Simpson or Dan Conner from Roseanne to share this diet.
This guide will explain the importance of probiotic supplements and how to find the right one in the store by reading the label correctly.
Probiotic Supplements vs. Dietary Sources
Probiotics offer a wide range of benefits from treating internal and external infections, to preventing digestive disorders and even helping strengthen the immune system. Research indicates that the most effective method of consuming probiotics is through supplements.
There are over 400 different strains of bacteria that have been researched and found to provide numerous health benefits. It can be very difficult to acquire a diverse range of beneficial bacteria through dietary sources alone.
Most manufacturers design their products to address specific issues, such as colon health, immunity boost, digestive disorder, pregnancy supplements and infant supplements. These specific supplements contain particular strains that are researched and proven to be beneficial.
Probiotics are living organisms and you need them to be alive to reap any benefits. You get complete control over bacteria strains and CFUs (colony forming units) with supplements.
The harsh stomach environment is designed to kill most microbes that come with food. Most supplements come with delayed-release mechanisms that ensure viable strains reach your gut.
Why is it Important to Read Probiotic Labels?
The efficacy of probiotic strains can be evaluated from the label. Purchasing probiotic supplements can be difficult and different from buying any other nutritional supplement.
You can easily gain confidence in purchasing a probiotic supplement by looking for and identifying specific information. Understanding probiotic labels lends the ability to choose healthy, living organisms that promise to provide you with the tools for optimal well-being.
While evaluating the label you need to look for bacteria genus and species, CFU per serving, expiration date, and storage information.
Bacteria Genus and Species
The species included in a product are the most important things to look for. Steer clear of probiotic supplements that do not mention the names of bacteria strains present since you have no assurance that you will be getting any useful ones.
Certain strains of bacteria, as per clinical studies, are found to make especially powerful and useful probiotics. Different strains also have different effects on your body.
For instance, Lactobacillus gasseri helps in losing weight, while Lactobacillus acidophilus may promote weight gain. However, Lactobacillus acidophilus is a powerful probiotics along with many other Bifidobacterium strains and Streptococcus thermophilus.
There are two main probiotic species, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. On the supplement label, you will notice that there are two different parts if a bacteria name. The first part is indicative of the species and the second part is the genus.
In some researched strains, there might be a third part as well indicating the strain. For instance, in B. lactis Bi-07, Bifidobacterium is the species, lactis is the genus and Bi-07 is the researched strain.
Lactobacillus bacteria are predominantly found in the small intestines. They help maintain healthy functioning of the small intestine and provide benefits towards immune health and overall digestive balance. Some of the more common Lactobacillus strains include rhamnosus, acidophilus, and gasseri.
Bifidobacteria, on the other hand, are found in the large intestine or colon. These help in promoting regular and daily bowel habits. Most adults typically experience a steady decline in the levels of Bifidobacteria as they age. This is why people experience an increase in bowel and digestive issues after age 30.
Colony Forming Units
Identifying the value of CFUs is an important step in choosing the right probiotic strain. The potency of your probiotic is measured in terms of the number of active or live organisms.
This measurement should not be confused with the status of bacteria in laboratory conditions. Instead, CFU listed on the bottle is the number of viable organisms present in the supplement capable of surviving ideal circumstances.
Probiotics are found in a variety of forms, including tablets and capsules. Mostly CFU is listed on the pill itself.
However, if the recommended serving size is 2 – 3 pills in a day (which are awesome to take unlike the product the irrational and egotistical Walter White was making in the hit show Breaking Bad!), then the CFU will be listed in total serving size and will be visible on the package.
It is important to find a supplement with clear CFU indications because it stands as one of the best factors of comparison.
CFU value lists the exact number of live microorganisms you are ingesting through the probiotics. It is recommended to opt for a product that has more CFUs as compared to a lower one.
Supplements that list the total number of bacteria by weight (such as grams) cannot be compared because the number listed is not always indicative of the number of live bacteria available in the supplement.
Most reputable probiotic brands state the number of CFUs at the time of manufacture and at the time of expiration as well. This is important in choosing the right supplement as the label displays whether you are getting an ideal number of microbes or not. CFUs tell a lot about a brand, its quality, and value for money.
Expiration Date & Storage Information
While all probiotic supplements should come with an expiration date, most do not. Bacteria cannot live forever in a contained environment, even when stored properly.
Hence, always make sure to check the expiration date in lieu of the CFUs, because bacteria are living beings and even in the best supplements their numbers continue to decline.
The label also includes storage directions or information. Most probiotics require refrigeration. However, there is a new breed of supplements that can survive on the shelf as well.
These supplements employ a variety of modern techniques to ensure viable strains, like freeze-drying and microencapsulation.
Know What You Buy
Probiotic supplements must always be procured from reputable brands since they are not yet FDA regulated.
You need to ensure that you are receiving a live, potent, and viable bacteria strain that do not all perish in the stomach. Reading the label on your supplement can help you make a better probiotic decision.