Are You Wasting Your Money On The Wrong Probiotics?

Probiotics have been called the “friendly bacteria,” due to their wide range of health benefits. Here’s how to choose the right probiotics for you.

choose the right probiotics, woman holding probioticphoto credit: shutterstock

Choose the right probiotics for your gut

Looking to improve your gut health? Don’t know how to choose the right probiotics for your needs? You’ve come to the right place.

There’s a reason probiotics are dubbed the “friendly bacteria.” Because in fact, they are live microorganisms that provide many benefits, such as hindering the growth of bad bacteria – the kind that causes diseases such as food poisoning, flus, irritable bowel syndrome and infections – in your intestines.

You can take them as a nutritional supplement daily, or acutely to help recover from diseases such as flus or stomach poisonings. They can also be delivered in the form of yogurt, fermented milk, soy drinks and even juices.

However, only a few supplements and foods actually have clinical trials backing their efficacy, warns Dr. Gregor Reid, the past president of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, and director of the London, Ontario based Canadian Research & Development Centre for Probiotics.

“There’s a difference between what the consumers see and what is real,” he notes. “There are a lot of products in Canada called probiotics, but there are not many that actually are probiotic.” 

How can you know what will work for you when trying to choose the right probiotics

Probiotics for during and post-antibiotic use

Lacidofil (Institut Rosell): This probiotic combining two Lactobacillus strains may help relieve antibiotic-triggered diarrhea.

Bio-K+ CL1285 (Bio-K+ International Inc.): Not included on this original list, but since then, its benefits in helping prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea and C.difficile-associated diarrhea have been published in peer-reviewed journals. These fermented milk/rice/soy products and capsules contain L. acidophilus and L. casei.

Probiotics for Gastroenteritis (including diarrhea/traveller’s diarrhea)

Florastor (Medical Futures Inc.): Comprised of Saccharomyces boulardii lyo, this short-term probiotic (meaning it only temporarily resides in the human body) can lessen diarrhea symptoms and also prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Probiotics for pouchitis/ulcerative colitis/irritable bowel syndrome

VSL#3 (VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc.): This capsule combines eight strains of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and Streptococcus.

What you should look for when trying to choose the right probiotics

When perusing the shelves for probiotics, note where your probiotics are stored, suggests Anne Marie Ford, a pharmacist and co-owner of Ford’s Apothecary in Moncton, N.B.

“Some of the probiotics you’re going to find are in the refrigerator to keep the microorganisms active,” says Ford. “There are a few that aren’t refrigerated, but it should state that clearly on the bottle.”

While some experts disagree on how many active cells should be taken daily, Ford recommends that people try to take one dose with each meal. “We try to get between 18-25 billion cells in a day,” says Ford.

Reid cautions that not all probiotics offer the same benefits. “If you take a product that is called probiotic but has not been clinically tested, are you getting beneficial bacteria into your system? Probably, but such products should go by a different name” he says.

“Only clinically-proven products should be called probiotic. It’s like when you take an Aspirin, you expect relief from a headache. So, when you take a probiotic, there should be an expectation that it has provided benefits.”