Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial for human health, particularly the digestive system. These friendly bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms are present naturally in many foods we eat and are also available as supplements. In this ultimate guide to probiotic supplements, we’ll cover the basics of probiotics and their benefits, the different types of probiotic supplements available, and how to choose the best one for you.
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Work?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in certain foods or supplements that are eaten in order to give your gut health a boost. When taken, these ‘good’ bacteria enter your digestive system and interact with the microorganisms living inside you. The interactions between the living organisms in your gut can have a significant impact on your overall health.
The benefits of probiotics are numerous. They can help to break down food, make nutrients easier to absorb, and may even help to regulate the immune system by improving the body’s natural defenses against disease. Diets rich in probiotics have also been shown to help with weight loss and improve digestion.
Types of Probiotic Supplements
There are several different types of probiotic supplements available, and the type you choose will largely depend on your specific needs. Here are the most common types of probiotics:
- Lactobacillus: This is the most common type of probiotic, and it is usually found in fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir. Lactobacillus is known for boosting overall gut health and improving digestion.
- Bifidobacterium: This type of probiotic is particularly beneficial for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive issues. Bifidobacterium can help to reduce inflammation and improve digestive function.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: This yeast-based probiotic is particularly beneficial for individuals who have taken antibiotics recently. Antibiotics can kill both bad and good bacteria, but Saccharomyces boulardii can help to restore the good bacteria population in the gut.
- Streptococcus thermophilus: This probiotic is commonly found in yogurt and is known to improve the digestion of lactose, making it an excellent choice for individuals who are lactose intolerant.
Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplement
When selecting a probiotic supplement, there are a few key factors to consider:
- Strain: Look for a strain of probiotic that is known to address your specific health concerns. For instance, if you have digestive issues, a supplement containing Bifidobacterium may be the best choice.
- CFU count: CFU (colony-forming units) is a measure of the number of live microorganisms in the supplement. A higher CFU count doesn’t necessarily mean a better supplement, but a lower count may not provide enough of the desired bacteria to be effective.
- Special considerations: If you’re lactose intolerant or have other dietary restrictions, look for a supplement that is designed to accommodate those needs.
- Quality: Look for a reputable brand and check for certifications such as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to ensure that the supplement has been made with high-quality ingredients under strict manufacturing standards.
How to Take Probiotic Supplements
Probiotic supplements can be taken in a variety of forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids. Some people prefer to take their supplements with food, while others prefer to take them on an empty stomach. It’s best to follow the directions on the label of your specific supplement, but here are a few general tips:
- Timing: Try to take your probiotic supplement at a consistent time every day so that the bacteria can establish a routine in your gut.
- Dosage: It’s important to take the recommended dosage of your supplement. Taking too much can cause digestive discomfort, while taking too little may not provide the intended benefits.
- Storage: Probiotics are sensitive to heat and moisture, so it’s important to store your supplements in a cool,