When you purchase a probiotic supplement, it’s very important to be an informed consumer–and a label reader.
For example, when a consumer watchdog group recently tested 25 popular probiotic products, it found that 8 contained less than one perfect of the live bacteria they advertised on the label. Even worse, six had only a few million living cells at the time they were tested — not the one or two billion they advertised.
Here’s what to look for when purchasing a probiotic supplement.
#1. It should contain both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
The first thing any probiotic product should contain is a blend of several ‘live’ cultures. Ideally, these should be a blend of both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
Lactobacillus bacteria are lactic acid-producing bacteria that work in your small intestine. They help digest the sugar (lactose) and protein (casein) in dairy products but the lactic acid they produce also kills harmful bacteria.
Bifidobacteria live in the large intestine. Members of this strain park along your intestinal wall and stop dangerous pathogens as well as the yeast candida albicans to grab hold. Bifidobacteria also help you absorb health-enhancing B-complex vitamins.
We have high levels of bifidobacteria when we are young but levels plummet dramatically as you age. This causes gas and indigestion. It also hampers your ability to digest certain foods. As a result, a probiotic supplement should contain several strains of both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
#2. It should contain several billion viable cells per capsule
The second thing you should look for is how many viable cells the probiotic contains.
Many store-bought probiotics provide as few as one to three billion cells per capsule.Sure–that may sound like a lot. But with close to 80 trillion bacteria in your intestines, one or two million “good” cells deliver few–if any–benefits. Researchers say a probiotic supplement should contain at least seven to ten BILLION cells in order for you to feel any benefits whatsoever.
#3. The cultures should be well protected from light and air
Finally, probiotics are delicate and very sensitive to light, heat and air. To get around this, some manufacturers use a special enteric coating. However, this doesn’t always work. Many times this coating is applied at high heat which kills the microbes inside. This renders the product useless.
Although probiotics can survive at room temperature for several days, it’s best to purchase supplements that are kept refrigerated. This puts the microbes in a state of “suspended animation”. As a result, they will live longer and you will reap the health benefits much faster.