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How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplements

If you’ve seen the avalanche of new probiotic products, it’s no wonder people ask, “How can I choose the best probiotic supplement?”

As a leader in natural healing, my first recommendation is to eat clean probiotic foods. Foods such as naturally fermented “live” sauerkraut, unpasteurized yogurt and kefir are teeming with beneficial bacteria!  

But if you can’t eat these every day—or don’t love the taste—then your best option is a high-quality probiotic supplement.  So, how do you choose?

4 Signs of the Best Probiotics

In my 20-plus years of research and experience, I’ve found that there are four must-have factors when choosing the best probiotic supplements—

  1. The right probiotic strains
  2. Smart packaging
  3. Visible expiration dates
  4. Money-back guarantee

#1 KNOW YOUR STRAINS

A lot of retailers claim that the best probiotic supplement is the one with the most bacteria (typically measured in colony-forming units, or CFUs). The truth is that scientists don’t know yet if more bacteria is actually better for you.

My view is that it’s not the total number of bacteria that is most important; it’s the number of different strains or types of bacteria. Why? Because each type serves a different function in the body.

What’s more, probiotic supplements that contain multiple strains tend to be more effective than those containing a very high concentration of only one or two types. This is because many bacteria strains work synergistically.

The 5 Best Probiotic Strains

Based on my findings and the latest research, the best probiotic supplements include these strains:

  • L. acidophilus—the queen-bee of the Lactobacillus species; it supports nutrient absorption and the digestion of dairy foods.
  • B. longum—helps maintain the gut wall and scavenges toxins.
  • B. bifidum—helps digest dairy products, breaks down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
  • L. rhamnosus— known as the "travel probiotic" since it can help prevent traveler's diarrhea.
  • L. fermentum—helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion that cause gas and bloating.

Special Probiotic Strains for Women

In addition to helping everyone’s digestive health, probiotics can be particularly effective for women concerned about urinary and vaginal health.

Why? Because beneficial bacteria are also plentiful in the vagina and urinary tract – and that’s a good thing.

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

#2 PROTECTIVE PACKAGING

Once you know what type of bacteria you are shopping for, make sure you get them home safely!

Protective packaging and safe delivery methods may be the most important factor in choosing your supplement. The best technology ensures that bacteria will reach your intestines alive.

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

In recent years, there have been a lot of advances in delivery technology. Currently, the best delivery system is the controlled-release tablet (or caplet). “Beadlet” technology is still 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. 

For example, remember when you needed to keep probiotic supplements in the fridge? New delivery systems have mostly made that unnecessary, but you still need to protect the bacteria from too much exposure to light, heat, and moisture

Look for thick, opaque bottles with desiccant pouches; some new styles of blister packs that also work well.

#3 EXPIRATION DATES MATTER

The supplement industry does not require expiration dates on supplements, so an expiration date (or lack of an expiration date!) can be telling when it comes to product quality. 

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.

The best probiotic supplements will display clearly labeled expiration dates. If you don’t see an expiration date on a product label, it should raise questions. 

Without expiration information, it’s impossible to know how long the bacteria in the supplement are expected to last. It could be a year, or it could be a week. Or the bacteria may already be dead—you have no way of knowing!

Recently, I’ve also noticed a trend of retailers forgoing expiration dates in lieu of stamps that guarantee potency on the date of manufacture. 

These potency stamps are useless. Why? Because all products should live up to their label claim when they leave the manufacturing facility!  As a buyer, I want to know that the product will still be potent 3–4 months later (particularly if I’m buying a few bottles at a time). 

#4 MONEY BACK, OR ELSE

Finally, always insist on this for any supplement you take, including your probiotic. Companies that truly believe in their products will stand by them.

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