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How to Choose A Probiotic Supplement

With so many probiotic supplements available, choosing which one to try can feel overwhelming. After all, you want to ensure you’re choosing a probiotic that’s right for you, and delivers the desired results.

Whatever your reason for taking a probiotic, it’s important to remember that probiotic supplements can’t guarantee improvements. And despite the wide range of probiotic supplements available, not all of them have high quality evidence to prove their proposed benefits.

So, when researching which probiotic supplement to use, ask yourself the following questions.

Is it safe to use a probiotic supplement?

Probiotic supplements are generally recommended as safe. However, as with everything, there may be some circumstances in which a probiotic supplement should not be used, including anyone with the following conditions:

  • Severely immunosuppressed
  • Pancreatitis
  • Blood in stools
  • Patients in intensive care units (ICU)
  • Patients with central venous catheters
  • Patients post-cardiac surgery
  • Patients with open wounds following surgery
  • Infants with short bowel syndrome

To understand more about the potential risk of using probiotics with these conditions, speak to your health professional.

Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding should also speak to a health professional to discuss whether probiotic supplements should be used.

Is there strong evidence to support the use of a probiotic supplement?

Always look for a probiotic supplement containing bacterial strains with high quality evidence to prove their effectiveness at supporting the benefits you’re specifically looking for. While there are many probiotic supplements available, unfortunately not all of them have sufficient research to support their properties.

Consider the following when researching probiotic supplements.

Does the probiotic survive the journey to its destination?

It’s essential that the bacteria within a probiotic supplement can make it all the way to their destination alive. This is because the journey through the body can be harsh. If the bacteria aren’t alive when they reach their destination – be that the gut or the vagina - they can’t colonise and offer their benefits.

Can the probiotic bacteria thrive once they’ve reached their destination?

It’s important that research proves the probiotic bacteria can colonise their final destination. In other words, the probiotic bacteria needs to be able to settle down and make the gut or vagina its home and permanent residence. Different strains of bacteria are better suited to different parts of the body, such as the gut or vagina.

Can the probiotic supplement brand be trusted?

Always choose a probiotic supplement from a well-respected and trusted brand in the gut health industry. Generally speaking, these are brands that have high quality evidence to support the effectiveness and benefits of their probiotic supplement.

Why are you looking to use a probiotic supplement?

Ensure you have a clear purpose behind using a probiotic supplement. This will determine the strain(s) of bacteria you’ll need to look for.

Different bacterial strains offer different benefits. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11 is suggested to help with antibiotic associated diarrhoea, while Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 has been linked with vaginal infection support. While these two bacteria share similar names, it’s their strain that differentiates the two.

Do numbers really matter?

It’s common to see probiotic supplement packaging listing the number of strains and billions of bacteria found within their product. But bigger numbers don’t always equal better.

Different strains of bacteria offer different properties and benefits. It’s important to choose a probiotic supplement containing the relevant, evidence-based, bacterial strains to support what you’re looking for. This means the number of strains is less relevant than the type of bacterial strain. Both single and multi-strain probiotic supplements have their place, depending on your needs.

Similarly, you don’t always need to choose a probiotic supplement with the highest billions of bacteria. Focus on choosing a good quality supplement containing the relevant, evidence-based, strains of bacteria to support your needs.

How do you want to take your probiotic supplement?

Probiotic supplements are available as liquids, capsules, powders and gummies. So long as that specific probiotic supplement has high quality evidence to prove its effectiveness for the desired outcome, the form you choose to take doesn’t matter.

You may choose capsules for convenience or you may prefer to swallow a liquid - it’s very much personal choice. Another consideration might be thinking about which one you can more easily add into your daily routine.

Does the probiotic supplement contain allergens?

Probiotic supplements can contain more than just bacteria. Always read the ingredients label to check for any allergens you need to be aware of. Many brands now offer probiotics free from certain allergens or ingredients, such as dairy or gluten. Vegetarian and vegan probiotic supplements are also available.

How does the probiotic supplement need to be stored?

Different probiotic supplements may have different storage instructions. Some require refrigeration, while others need to be stored in a dark, cool place. Consider whether storage requirements may have an impact on your choice. If you’re away from home regularly, a refrigerated probiotic supplement might not be the best choice for you.

In summary

There are many factors to consider when choosing a probiotic supplement. Always look for a probiotic supplement with high quality evidence, containing an appropriate bacterial strain for your needs. Focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to bacterial strains, and ensure you store your probiotic supplement appropriately.


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