Probiotic Supplements: Buyer's Guide
Listed below are our key tips to help you buy probiotics. Follow these guidelines and you can be sure that you are buying a good quality probiotic supplement. Remember, if in doubt ask your chosen retailer questions before you buy probiotics. Here are our suggestions:
- Ensure the probiotic supplement you are buying has been stored under refrigeration. The vast majority of supplements need to be kept cool.
This keeps the friendly bacteria in the product in a hibernation-like state so that the product remains potent.
Probiotic supplements can survive for a few days without refrigeration so it’s also ok to buy from mail order or Internet companies. Always buy probiotics at the start of the week on a Monday or Tuesday so that they arrive before the weekend and don’t spend time languishing in a UPS truck or warehouse.
If you are ordering in the height of summer though select a company that uses cool packs in its packaging and consider using expedited shipping so that your product spends as little time as possible without refrigeration. Alternatively buy probiotics and stock up on your products before the heat of the summer begins!
- Choose a product with good shelf life. These are generally found in stores that sell large quantities of probiotics and therefore have to replenish their stock frequently. If ordering by phone, mail or Internet, ask about the remaining shelf life of the product before buying.
- A probiotic is named by its genus (plural is genera), species and strain. Put simply, think clan name for genus, surname for species and fore or first name for strain. The genus is also often abbreviated to its first letter and the strain is not always included on the label. A good product will contain a good mixture of genera (usually Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria), species and strains as this improves the chance of at least one of the probiotics being effective.
- The bacterial genera, species and strains used in the product should be scientifically proven to provide health benefits. Many strains of Lactobacilli fulfil this criterion including L. rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, L. salivarius, L. acidophilus and L. casei Shirota.
- When deciding between products look to see how many live probiotic organisms are contained in them.
This information should be listed on the product label and is measured in colony forming units (most often abbreviated to CFUs on packaging). With the exception of a subtype of probiotics known as homeostatic soil organisms or HSO, be wary of products which do not provide CFU microbe counts. Currently there is no set minimum number of probiotics in a product. We suggest that you select products with no less than 10 billion CFUs per serving.
- Look for products which are able to survive the stomach acid, digestive enzymes and bile salts. Those probiotics, which have an enteric coating, will withstand their passage through your digestive system so that they arrive live in the large intestine. That said, there are also many effective probiotics without such a coating that can survive their passage through your digestive system.
- Choose a product with as few inactive ingredients (e.g. fillers, used to fill capsule space, binding agents etc) as possible. These ingredients are listed on the label as “other ingredients” and include substances such as cellulose and magnesium stearate.
- Select products that are made with “freeze-dried” microbes. This production process is the most effective way of extending the life of the probiotics, increasing the likelihood that the organisms are viable when they reach your digestive system. Freeze dried probiotics are available as powders, capsules and liquids.
As well as using our buyer's guide to help you select only the best quality products on the market, you can also compare the prices of different probiotic supplements using our easy-to-use
cost comparison tool.
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