There are countless supplements on the market that claim to help with anything that ails you. Often, they have little research to back up their claims. Probiotic supplements, however, have been scientifically proven to help with certain health conditions.
Science has only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the benefits of probiotics. We know that the state of our body on a microbial level can reveal a lot about our health. It’s no wonder – for every one of our own cells in our body, there are ten “other” cells. (source)
So, how do we optimize this aspect of our health? Well, a healthy diet goes a long way but taking the best probiotic supplements is a good shortcut if you’re looking for a quick boost. In this article, I’m going to look at some of the most popular brands of probiotic supplement, their pros, cons and my personal favorite.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” (source) Our bodies are already full of these microorganisms – the medical term for them is “microbiota” or “normal flora”.
While we tend to think of the word as referring to supplement pills, these microorganisms are also occur naturally in some foods.
The point of consuming probiotics is to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the body. Unlike the harmful, disease-causing bacteria you are familiar with, probiotics can actually help your body perform certain functions and protect it from disease. Positive effects are most adequately noted in the gut where the bacteria play a role in digestion and immunity.
Who Should Take Probiotics?
Although most people won’t know if they have an imbalance in their microbiota, there are a few signs. If you have taken antibiotics recently, it will have wiped out some of the good bacteria along with the bad. This can leave you vulnerable to stomach upset and fungal conditions such as thrush. Taking a probiotic supplement after an antibiotic can prevent this. (source)
Probiotics are also reported to provide some relief to people suffering from chronic digestive ailments such as inflammatory and irritable bowel diseases (source) and lactose intolerance. (source)
Although probiotics are relatively harmless, elderly adults, those who are immunocompromised, and children should check with a healthcare professional before taking them.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
As I have already mentioned, probiotics are most commonly used to help with symptoms of digestive ailments and boost immunity after antibiotic use. Other potential benefits include improving seasonal allergies and eczema. (source) Studies show that taking probiotics may also help maintain dental health. (source)
How to Choose a Good Quality Supplement
Companies which produce probiotic supplements are held to some government and consumer standards, but the regulations that bind them are not as stringent as the pharmaceutical industry. This is because they are considered a food rather than a medicine. This means we need to be extra careful when searching for the best probiotic supplements.
When shopping for a probiotic or any other supplement, check if the product is made in a GMP (good manufacturing practice for pharmaceuticals) certified lab, ideally in the US. Next, check out the product’s rating with an independent testing agency like Lab Door. Last, check the ingredients on the label – the dose and bacterial strains may influence efficacy.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Probiotics are considered safe for the general population. (source) There are very few risks when taking probiotics. However, people who have a compromised immune system due to an autoimmune condition or another illness should be more wary.
As always, it’s best to inform your healthcare provider of any supplements and complementary treatments that you are using. This helps your doctor keep you safe from potentially harmful drug interactions.
Choosing the Right Probiotic Supplement
The probiotic supplement which is right for you depends on your particular health needs. While there’s significant research indicating that probiotics help certain conditions, the research is based upon different strains of yeasts and bacteria used and various dosages.
If you’re hoping to address a specific health concern by taking a probiotic, it makes sense to research the relevant studies. In most cases, they will specify the most effective bacterial strains.
Choose a supplement that contains strains of probiotics in appropriate amounts. In general, a higher CFU (colony forming unit) count makes a better probiotic.
And the Winner is…
Our pick for the best probiotic supplement is the Primal Defense Ultra by Garden of Life. The high number of bacterial strains present means it’s likely to help most users. In addition, the whole food approach is a nice touch. If you’re looking to improve digestive and immune health, I think this product is a good choice.
If you have any other questions about probiotics or which product may be right for you, please contact us here at Health Ambition. We’re always glad to help you find your way in the confusing world of supplements!
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