How To Choose a Probiotic Strain and Why It Matters

How To Choose a Probiotic?

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Looking to improve your gut health with probiotics but not sure where to start? How to choose a probiotic strain is essential to ensure you get the health benefits you need. In this article, we’ll discuss why it matters which probiotic strain you choose and provide tips on how to pick the best one for your individual needs.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer health benefits when consumed in sufficient quantities. They help maintain the natural balance of microorganisms in the body, particularly in the gut but also in other areas like the mouth, vagina, urinary tract, skin, and lungs. Due to their “friendly” nature, probiotics are sometimes referred to as “friendly bacteria.”

How to choose a probiotic strain

Why should I take probiotics?

There are several potential reasons why someone might consider taking probiotics. Probiotics are known to promote a healthy gut, support the immune system, restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiota during and after antibiotic use, and possibly have a positive impact on mental and skin health. However, it’s important to note that the specific benefits of probiotics can vary depending on the strains, dosages, and individual health conditions. That’s why “How to choose a probiotic?” is a common question among consumers looking to reap the benefits of these supplements.

Read more: What are The Signs You Need Probiotics for Better Health?

What are the benefits of probiotics to my health?

How To Choose a Probiotic Strain?

Probiotics have a wide range of potential benefits for human health, and research has shown that they may be particularly effective in promoting digestive health, supporting the immune system, and improving overall well-being.

One area where probiotics may offer benefits is in dental health. Studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics can reduce the risk of gum disease and cavities by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the mouth.

Probiotics may also be helpful in reducing bloating and constipation, two common digestive issues. By promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut, probiotics can improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut, which may help to alleviate these symptoms.

For individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), probiotics may be particularly helpful. Research has shown that certain strains of probiotics can reduce symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain in people with IBS.

Probiotics may also offer benefits for individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While research in this area is still ongoing, some studies have shown that probiotics can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve symptoms in people with IBD.

Overall, probiotics have a diverse range of potential benefits for human health. While the specific benefits can vary depending on the strains, dosages, and individual health conditions, taking probiotics may be a simple and effective way to improve gut health, boost the immune system, and promote overall well-being.

Different Types of Probiotics: Different health benefits

The supplement market offers a plethora of probiotic types, each tailored to address specific needs. For instance, some people may require probiotics to alleviate white tongue, while others may benefit from probiotics that target bloating. Seniors may require probiotics to mitigate diarrhea, while children may need probiotics to manage eczema. Therefore, it’s crucial choosing the right probiotic supplement that aligns with your particular needs.

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Best sources of probiotics

There are three primary sources of probiotics, including supplements, yogurts, and fermented foods. However, each of these sources has its own advantages and disadvantages.

It’s important to note that not all yogurts and fermented foods contain probiotics, as only those that have been scientifically proven to provide health benefits qualify as probiotics. Additionally, some yogurts and fermented foods may contain bacterial strains that haven’t been shown to have any benefits, and refrigeration may be necessary to preserve the microbial populations.

Probiotic supplements are available in various forms such as capsules, powders, and chewables. The choice of supplement will depend on personal preferences like taste, ease of swallowing, convenience, and packaging to preserve the colony-forming units (CFUs). However, the most important consideration when selecting a supplement is choosing a product that contains the desired probiotic strain(s) to achieve the expected health benefits.

Read more: Top 20 Probiotic Foods That Are Super Healthy

Choosing a probiotic: Are multiple probiotic strains always better?

How To Choose a Probiotic Strain?

While having multiple strains of probiotics in a supplement can be beneficial, it’s not always necessary or better.

Different strains of probiotics can have different effects on the body, and some strains may be more effective than others for specific health issues. For example, a supplement that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus may be helpful for digestive health, while Bifidobacterium lactis may be more effective at boosting the immune system.

In some cases, a supplement with multiple strains may be beneficial, as it can provide a wider range of health benefits. However, it’s important to note that the quality and quantity of the probiotic strains are also important factors to consider. A supplement with a high number of strains does not necessarily mean it is more effective than a supplement with fewer strains but higher quality and quantity.

What should I look for in a probiotic supplement? How to choose a probiotic supplement?

When choosing a probiotic supplement, there are several factors to consider. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Strain diversity: Look for a supplement that contains a variety of probiotic strains, as different strains can have different health benefits.
  2. High CFU count: CFU stands for “colony-forming units,” which is a measure of the number of viable bacteria in a probiotic supplement. Look for a supplement with a high CFU count, ideally in the billions, to ensure that you are getting a sufficient number of live bacteria.
  3. Quality: Look for a reputable brand that uses high-quality ingredients and employs rigorous testing and manufacturing processes to ensure the safety and efficacy of their products.
  4. Storage and handling: Probiotics are living organisms, and they can be sensitive to heat, moisture, and other environmental factors. Look for a supplement that is stored and shipped in a way that ensures the viability of the probiotic bacteria.
  5. Additional ingredients: Some probiotic supplements may contain additional ingredients, such as prebiotics or digestive enzymes, that can help support the growth and function of the probiotic bacteria. Consider your specific health needs and goals when choosing a supplement with additional ingredients.
  6. Allergens: Make sure to check the label for any allergens that may be present in the supplement, such as milk or soy.

It’s important to note that not all probiotic supplements are created equal, and what works for one person may not work for another

The right probiotics for your individual needs:

Choosing the right probiotic supplement is essential as each strain of friendly bacteria has distinct properties. To ensure the supplement meets your unique needs, it’s essential to look for the strain names in the ingredient list, which probiotic experts typically provide. Knowing the strain name enables you to learn about its researched benefits and whether it aligns with your requirements.

For adults:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: This strain may help improve digestion, boost immune function, and reduce inflammation.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: This strain may help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and improve immune function.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: This strain may help prevent and treat diarrhea, reduce inflammation, and improve gut health.
  • Streptococcus thermophilus: This strain may help improve lactose digestion and reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance.

For babies:

  • Bifidobacterium infantis: This strain is often found in the gut of breastfed infants and may help reduce colic and improve digestion.
  • Lactobacillus reuteri: This strain may help reduce episodes of colic and improve digestive health in infants.

For pregnancy:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: This strain may help reduce the risk of eczema in infants when taken by pregnant women.
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: This strain may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

For seniors:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12: This strain may help improve digestive health and reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in seniors.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum: This strain may help reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and alleviate symptoms of IBS in seniors.

 Probiotic strains 

There are many types of probiotic strains, each with its own specific benefits. Here are a few examples:

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus: This strain is commonly found in the human gut and can help improve digestive health, alleviate diarrhea, and boost the immune system.
  2. Bifidobacterium bifidum: This strain is also found in the human gut and can help alleviate constipation, improve immune function, and reduce inflammation.
  3. Streptococcus thermophilus: This strain is often used in the production of yogurt and can help improve lactose digestion, reduce diarrhea, and boost the immune system.
  4. Lactobacillus plantarum: This strain can help alleviate digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation. It may also help reduce inflammation and boost immune function.
  5. Saccharomyces boulardi; Lactobacillus rhamnosus; Bifidobacterium lacti; and more…

It’s worth noting that different strains of probiotics can have different effects on the body, and the benefits can vary depending on the individual.

Benefit Proof

finding the right probiotic

Probiotics have been extensively studied for their numerous health benefits. Here are some of the proven benefits of probiotics, supported by scientific research:

  1. Improved Digestive Health: Probiotics may help improve digestive health by balancing the gut microbiome, alleviating symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and promoting regular bowel movements. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics significantly improved symptoms of IBS compared to placebo (1).
  2. Enhanced Immune Function: Probiotics may help boost immune function by increasing the production of antibodies and improving the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics had a positive effect on immune function, reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (2).
  3. Reduced Inflammation: Probiotics may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics significantly reduced markers of inflammation in people with metabolic disorders (3).
  4. Improved Mental Health: Probiotics may help improve mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, and improving mood. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics had a positive effect on mental health, improving symptoms of anxiety and depression (4).
  5. Lowered Blood Pressure: Probiotics may help reduce blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (5).
  6. Alleviation of Allergies and Eczema: Probiotics may help alleviate allergies and eczema by regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that probiotics had a positive effect on allergies, reducing the risk of atopic dermatitis (eczema) (6).

Transparency: Dose and colony-forming units, Storage and expiration information, and Corporate contact information

Finding The Right Probiotic

When it comes to finding the right probiotic product, transparency is key to ensure that you are getting a high-quality supplement that meets your individual needs. Here are some important factors to consider when evaluating the transparency of a probiotic product:

  1. Dose and Colony-Forming Units (CFUs): The dose and CFUs (a measure of the number of viable bacteria in a supplement) are important factors to consider when choosing a probiotic supplement. The label of a transparent product will clearly state the dose and CFUs, allowing you to ensure that you are taking the appropriate amount to support your health. Studies have shown that higher CFUs may provide greater benefits, especially for certain health conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  2. Storage and Expiration Information: Probiotic bacteria are living organisms that require specific storage conditions to maintain their viability and effectiveness. Transparent probiotic products will provide clear storage instructions and expiration dates, ensuring that you are taking a product with live bacteria that is still effective. It’s important to note that improper storage can lead to a decrease in the number of viable bacteria, reducing the potential health benefits of the supplement.
  3. Corporate Contact Information: Transparent probiotic companies will provide clear and accessible corporate contact information, including a website, email address, and phone number. This allows you to contact the company with any questions or concerns you may have, and to ensure that you are buying from a reputable company.

In addition to these factors, it’s also important to choose a probiotic product that contains strains that have been researched for your individual health needs. The strain names should be clearly listed on the label, allowing you to research their specific health benefits and select a product that meets your requirements

Read more: Do Probiotics Require Refrigeration? The Right Probiotics Storage Temperature

Trusted, expert brand

Since probiotics are sold as supplements, they are not subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Consequently, supplement manufacturers have the freedom to include any ingredient they wish and label it as a probiotic. To ensure that you are taking the right probiotics and to keep yourself safe, you need to be vigilant when checking the labels and carry out research on scientific studies and reports that have demonstrated positive outcomes of certain probiotics on specific conditions.

One way to know if a brand is reputable is to look for seals of approval from independent organizations. For example, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) are two organizations that evaluate supplement manufacturers for quality and safety. If a brand has these seals of approval, it indicates that they have met certain standards and can be trusted.

Additionally, you can look for recommendations from healthcare professionals or search for reviews from other customers who have used the brand. This can provide you with valuable insights into the effectiveness and quality of a particular brand’s probiotic products.

In summary, choosing trusted and expert probiotic brands is crucial to ensure that you are taking a high-quality probiotic supplement that meets your individual health needs. Look for clear labeling, reputable brands, third-party testing, and recommendations from healthcare professionals to make an informed decision.

How long should I take probiotic supplements?

The duration of probiotic supplementation depends on the individual’s health condition and goals. Some people may only need to take a quality probiotic supplement for a short period to address a specific health issue, while others may benefit from taking them regularly as part of their daily routine.

For example, individuals who are taking antibiotics may take a quality probiotic supplement for the duration of their antibiotic treatment to help restore the beneficial bacteria that antibiotics can deplete. Similarly, individuals with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may benefit from taking a quality probiotic supplement regularly as part of their management plan.

It is also important to note that the effectiveness of probiotics can vary depending on the strain, dosage, and individual response. Therefore, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate duration and dosage of a quality probiotic supplement for your specific needs.

Read more: The Best Time of Day to Take Probiotics: Why it Matters?

What to avoid when picking probiotics?

When picking probiotics, there are certain things to avoid to ensure that you select a high-quality product that is safe and effective. Here are some things to avoid:

  1. Vague labeling: Avoid products that do not clearly label the strains and colony-forming units (CFUs) of the probiotics they contain. Without this information, it’s difficult to determine the quality and effectiveness of the product.
  2. Unrealistic health claims: Avoid products that make unrealistic or unsupported health claims. Probiotics have been shown to have many potential health benefits, but no single product can cure all health conditions.
  3. Excessive sugar and additives: Avoid products that contain excessive amounts of sugar or artificial additives. These can negate the potential health benefits of the probiotics and may even have negative health effects.
  4. Lack of transparency: Avoid products that do not provide clear information about the manufacturing process, storage conditions, and expiration date. This can indicate a lack of quality control and may compromise the effectiveness of the product.
  5. Unknown or untrusted brands: Avoid products from unknown or untrusted brands. It’s important to choose a reputable brand with a good track record to ensure that you are getting a high-quality product.

References:

  1. Ford AC, Quigley EM, Lacy BE, et al. Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(10):1547-1561.
  2. King S, Glanville J, Sanders ME, Fitzgerald A, Varley D. Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2014;112(1):41-54.
  3. Yao K, Zeng L, He Q, et al. Effect of probiotics on glucose and lipid metabolism in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials. Med Sci Monit. 2017;23:3044-3053.
  4. Wallace CJK, Milev R. The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 201
  5. systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension. 2014;64(4):897-903.
  6. Zhang Q, Wu Y, Fei X. Effect of probiotics on natural killer cell activity in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. World J Gastroenterol. 2017;23(42):7740-7749

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