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Buyers Guide to Probiotics: 5 Mistakes Even Smart People Make

At this point, most health-conscious people know they should be taking a probiotic supplement. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you’re not careful, you could be wasting your time.

Or, worse, you could be wasting your time and money buying billions (or more) of dead bacteria.

Here’s how to ensure you’re getting all of the powerful probiotic benefits to boost your health.

Mistake #1: Buying the Wrong Bacteria

There are trillions of good — and bad — bacteria in your body. The right supplement will make the good bacteria more plentiful so they can outmaneuver the bad ones. Here are my five top picks to do just that:

  • L. acidophilus—The most important strain of the Lactobacillus species, this strain supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods.
  • B. longum—Like L. acidophilusB. Longum is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall and scavenges toxins. 
  • B. bifidum—This strain is critical for digesting dairy products and for its ability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.
  • L. rhamnosus—Known as the premier "travel probiotic," look for this strain when traveling since it can help prevent traveler's diarrhea.
  • L. fermentum—This strain helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion and promotes a healthy level of gut bacteria.


Mistake #2: Buying Dead Probiotics

A probiotic supplement full of dead bacteria—or bacteria killed off by stomach acid—won’t work.

Currently, the best delivery system comes in the form of a controlled-release tablet (or caplet). “Beadlet” technology is also viable, and capsule formulation has come a long way since the days when those pills were instantly obliterated by stomach acid.

Exterior packaging is also critical. Probiotic bacteria are living organisms and can be affected by their environment.  Look for thick, opaque bottles with desiccant pouches (meaning one that contains a packet that absorbs moisture). Plus, there are some new styles of blister packs that also work well.

Mistake #3: Ignoring Expiration Dates

Many people don’t know this, but nutritional supplement manufacturers don’t have to put an expiration date on their products.

A stated expiration date on a probiotic supplement is the manufacturer’s promise that the bacteria in the product will remain active and potent—at the levels specified on the label—until that date.

So, a bottle that contains an expiration date can be a good indicator of a quality probiotic supplement. If you don’t see an expiration date on a probiotic supplement label, it should send up a red flag for you.

Recently, I’ve also noticed a trend of retailers forgoing expiration dates in lieu of stamps that guarantee potency on the date of manufacture. But these potency stamps are useless since all products should live up to their label claim when they leave the manufacturing facility!

The bottom line is that any probiotic supplement you buy should have a clearly stated expiration date, right on the bottle.

Mistake #4: No Money Back Guarantee

Companies that truly believe in their products will give you a chance to try them, and a money back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.

I’ve always found that reputable manufacturers offer a money back guarantee. If they don’t offer one, I wouldn’t trust it.

Mistake #5: Not Getting Personal

Most people think of probiotics as being just for digestive health, but probiotics are one of the best supplements for women—particularly those concerned with urinary and vaginal health.
Why? Because beneficial bacteria are also plentiful in the vagina and urinary tract. 

These bacteria produce lactic acid, which helps to keep the pH level of the vagina and urinary tract slightly acidic. This is vitally important because yeast and other unwanted bacteria—especially those causing urinary discomfort—have a difficult time thriving in an acidic environment.

Women should look for strains belonging to the Lactobacillus species and the strain Bacillus coagulans

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