The information in this post represents a summary of my research on probiotics drawn from a variety of sources, which I list at the bottom. There is A LOT more information on this topic and I encourage you to do your own. Because there is so much good info worth sharing, I'm dividing this post in two parts. This post will address the issue of how to choose a probiotic and which ones I like. And the next post is going to go more in depth on the specific strains of probiotics and what they are good for so that you can use probiotics to target the health issues you want to address for you & your family.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE INFORMATION IN THIS ARTICLE ONLY PERTAINS TO THE REFRIGERATED KIND OF PROBIOTICS. I have not done any research on soil-based probiotics which are used to make the ones that are shelf-stable. That's a topic for a whole other post.
Okay - let's get started.
HOW TO CHOOSE A PROBIOTIC
The best probiotics are the ones that specify the following on the label:
- The genus, species & strain of the bacteria on the label. So for example: LACTOBACILLUS RHAMNOSUS GR-1
- The Colony Forming Units (CFU) PER STRAIN. So for example:
- BIFIDOBACTERIUM BIFIDUM.........2CFU
- LACTOBACILLUS BULGARICUS.......2 CFU
- LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS......2 CFU
- "Viable through the end of shelf". So that you are sure that you are getting that potency from the first capsule to the last.
- Certification by an independent third party. So that you are sure that the CFU stated on the package is actually what you're getting. This is important because probiotics are not regulated by the FDA or other equivalent association. And a lot of the ones out there are duds.
Some researchers add a fifth requirement: encapsulation with a delayed rupture technology to ensure the bacteria survive the trip through your stomach and actually reach your colon. That makes sense to me in theory. However, I'm not convinced that's necessary. The reason for that is there are particular strains which are extremely well researched and have been proven to make through the acidic stomach environment and into the gut (e.g. Genestra Brand probiotics). Other strains are protected by their manufacturer using their own proprietary technology to ensure that they survive both stomach acid and bile (e.g. Natren probiotics). The key here is to buy a trusted brand.
My trusted brands are Genestra, Natren and NFH.
Canadian readers: You can buy these at most health stores.
Hong Kong Readers: You can buy Genestra and NFH at REDWOOD (locations in Kennedy Town and Wanchai (QRE). You can buy Natren at Healthy Delight on Stanley St., Central.
WHY are they my most trusted brands?
- These brands meet the above label requirements so I know I'm getting bang for my buck EVERY TIME I use them. Genestra doesn't always list the CFU per strain. However, their strains are extremely well researched and their efficacy has been proven in random trials for various purposes, such as the prevention of respiratory tract infections and as a treatment against eczema in children. (Click on the links provided).
- I have actually seen a positive difference in my children's and my own bowel movements. And without getting into the gory details...my eldest daughter is prone to constipation. I have been rotating NFH and Natren with her since the start of her ear infection. She's been going every day and her poops have been lovely! In fact, she even said to me the other day, "hey mummy, guess what? I'm pooping every day now!!" Well, that was just music to my ears!
- They are not just my trusted brands. They are the trusted brands of nutritionists, naturopathic doctors and functional medicine practitioners with way more experience in the field that I know have done a lot of their own independent research on probiotics and have seen the efficacy of these brands in their practice.
Now, there's another topic I want to address and I'm going to do it in another post because if not, this post will get too long and you'll stop reading. AND THIS STUFF IS IMPORTANT so keep fresh everyone!
Part 2: Using Probiotics to Target Specific Ailments is coming up.
Thanks for your patience!
N.B.: 1. My clients get a discount at Redwood. 2. Resources used: Natren, Seroyal and NFH websites; Melissa Ramos articles on probiotics; dailyburn.com, naturallyhealthykids.ca. And my own class notes.
Holistic Nutritionist Cristina Tahoces, DHN owns Thrive Nutrition Practice