Probiotics: What to look for
Most Canadians do not have sufficient ‘friendly’ gut bacteria and instead are host to many harmful microorganisms, such as viruses, parasites, fungi and ‘bad’ bacteria. Increased levels of stress, the overuse of medication, alcohol, smoking, and poor nutrition destroy friendly gut bacteria and provide an ideal breeding ground for pathogenic bugs. This imbalance is often referred to as dysbiosis.
Restoring the ideal ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ gut bacteria can be accomplished by supplementing with a high potency daily probiotic. Since shopping for probiotics can be overwhelming, below are 5 tips to help you make an informed decision.
1. Check the potency.
The potency or culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures per dose. I usually recommend my patients take a ‘one-a-day’ capsule with a daily dose of 50 billion active bacteria.
2. Look for multiple strains.
A variety of bacterial strains is important. While some strains are better for increasing your immunity such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, others are better for digestion like Bifidobacterium longum. There are even probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus that can fight against bad bacteria you may have accidentally ingested by eating spoiled food. Be sure to choose a multi-strain probiotic supplement that contains both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium.
3. Ask if the capsules are protected.
Friendly bacteria have to survive the harsh acidic environment of the stomach as they make their way to the intestines. A protective enteric coating or specialized delivery system will ensure the bacteria arrive alive where they are needed the most.
4. Be sure the bacteria is guaranteed alive until the expiry date.
Since bacteria are viable, it’s important that they are guaranteed alive until the expiry date. Make sure you choose a probiotic that is guaranteed potency at expiry, rather than at manufacture.
5. Find one that is right for you, with targeted formulas.
Not all probiotics are created equal. Choose a probiotic that is recommended for your specific health needs. For example, if you are a woman that is constantly battling UTI’s, bladder infections, or yeast infections, look for a women’s support formula. Additionally, if you have been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, you may need a much higher potency, such as 100 billion.
Even though probiotics are an emerging area of research, there are exciting new breakthroughs occurring daily. Current research has provided strong evidence that gut microbes reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and improve digestion. Certainly, these friendly bacteria are our friends.•
Dr. Sara Celik is a Naturopathic Doctor and Homeopathic Master Clinician with over 15 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. With her extensive clinical and educational background, she is a sought-after speaker and health expert that has contributed to various magazines and television programs.
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Article published by Silver & Gold magazine, Summer 2017 issue, in print and online.