How To Choose A Good Probiotic
Probiotics are one of those supplements I think everyone should be on.
(Exception if you’re one of those people who happen to eat tons of fermented foods, but most of us don’t!)
We have more bacterial cells in our bodies then human cells so its super important to nurture a good balance of beneficial bacteria. Good gut bugs help with everything from digestion to neurotransmitter production (think good, stable mood). There are two important components to keeping your gut bugs happy:
1- Eating nice, whole foods and avoiding processed foods and sugars as much as possible. Whole foods with fiber intact help feed good gut bugs. Sugar and processed foods tend to support the bad ones, and yeast like candida.
2- Eating fermented foods (think kimchi) and other probiotic-rich foods (yogurt and kefir). And for most of us, supplementing with a good probiotic.
So how do you pick a good probiotic?
There is A LOT of information out there, and some of it conflicting.
There are several key issues when it comes to probiotic supplements:
1- Different strains of beneficial bacteria often live in different parts of the digestive tract. When they’re put together they’re often antagonistic (meaning they compete for resources and essentially kill each other). This is why a multi-strain probiotic is not necessarily better than a single one. Really well manufactured probiotics are able to keep multiple strains separated.
2- Storage. Probiotics should contain live bacteria. This is why all probiotics, except for fermented varieties, should be refrigerated. If its not fermented and says that it does not require refrigeration, it is probably not a top-notch supplement.
3- As pointed out by digestive and hormone specialist Melissa Ramos (you can read her article on the ‘probiotic scam’ here), many probiotic companies source their probiotic cultures from the same manufacturing firms. Companies that get their cultures from another source have less control over the quality, and you might be paying more for one label than another when they each technically have the same strain.
I really like her reasoning and trust her research. She’s a big supporter of the probiotic company Natren, and their Healthy Trinity product, which delivers three different strains separately.
I trust her judgment and really do like Natren’s Healthy Trinity. However, its one of the more expensive probiotics out there (you get what you pay for, I guess!), so I tend to rotate it with other probiotics. This also ensures that I get exposure to different strains.
Guidelines for picking a good probiotic:
There are a few things you can look for when purchasing a probiotic.
First, ignore labels that claim 10 billion units or something crazy on the front. This is usually a statement based on what the bacterial levels were at the time of manufacture and do not take into account die-off rates.
Second, check the strand types in multi-strain probiotics. There are some that play well together.
Third, check the packaging. You should never buy probiotics in a clear bottle, only in bottles that obscure light. I also typically like probiotics that have each capsule isolated in a foil pack. This way when you open the bottle to take your daily dose, moisture isn’t going to affect the rest of your pills.
Fourth, try to buy probiotics that are stored in whats called the supernatant, basically the culture they were developed in. This provides them with food and helps to prevent die-off.
If you don’t want to go for Natren Healthy Trinity, these are some other options. OK, so these don’t all meet every single thing mentioned here. But I believe they hit most of them, are good for the money, and I don’t notice a noticeable difference in my skin, mood, or digestion when I switch between them.
1- Dr. Ohirra’s Probiotics: I REALLY like this one. Its also much more cost effective so its a regular in my rotation. This is a fermented probiotic and the probiotics are encapsulated with the supernatant in individual blister packs. It is a multi strain, mostly with the ones that are said to get along well together, so I think its a good pick. Also, because it is fermented, it does not require refrigeration. I refrigerate to help extend shelf life but don’t worry about it when traveling. This one is probably my favorite.
2- Sakara’s Botanical Body: This is also a multi strain probiotic containing mostly varieties that are reported to be able to coexist. It also contains prebiotics to help feed the probiotics and digestive enzymes. It does not get delivered with ice, unfortunately, so keep a look out to pop it in the refrigerator immediately. I take 2-3 per day instead of the recommended 4.
3- Jarro-dophilus EPS from Jarrow Formulas: This is the budget option. Individually blister packed with enteric coating, but claims to be shelf stable at room temperature. I have not been able to find information on why this is on their website. It does say that refrigeration will increase shelf life, whichmakes me wary. I try to buy from the manufacturer to ensure that they have not been out of the refrigerator for too long, as third parties are unlikely to refrigerate. Jarrow Formulas does cool ship but unfortunately only sells in packs of 3. (Can also find on Amazon)