A healthy gut flora is incredibly important to prevent disease and to promote a healthy body. The bacteria in your gut work for you by killing off harmful invaders, help you to absorb nutrients, enhance your immune system, and help to digest your food. However, choosing the right probiotic is tricky because there are hundreds of different types of probiotics on the market and it can be difficult to know which one to choose.
Here is a list of 10 considerations when choosing a probiotic:
1. Probiotic must have at least 5 billion CFU
Your gut has literally trillions of bacteria and for a probiotic to make any sort of impact you need to find a probiotic that has billions of CFU (colony forming units - aka amount of bacteria). Don't look twice at a probiotic if it has anything less than"billions CFU" listed on the nutrition facts section.
2. Multiple strain or single strain probiotic?!
One good single strain is better than multiple strains that don’t do anything. The most important thing to consider when choosing a probiotic is what type of strain(s) it contains - good brands of probiotics will list the evidence showing their strain(s) of bacteria efficacy on their website.
3. If you are constipated
One strain in particular that has shown effective in numerous studies for reducing constipation is Bifidobacterium lactis. Other strains that may help with constipation include Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus plantarum.
4. If you have diarrhea or want to prevent traveler’s diarrhea
Strains that studies have shown to help with preventing diarrhea or traveler's diarrhea include Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
5. If you want to lose weight
Probiotics that have shown to help you lose weight include species of Lactobacillus, specifically Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus gasseri. VSL#3 is a probiotic in particular that may help with weight loss because it has been shown to promote satiety by increasing GLP-1 (satiety inducing hormone).
6. If you want to gain weight
Strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus have been shown to help you gain weight.
Note** Before you go and throw away your probiotic that has L. acidophilus because you have been trying to lose weight, understand that there are many types of L. acidophilus and not all will necessarily promote weight gain.
7. If you are taking antibiotics
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary for large bacterial infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics will also kill off good bacteria which can lead to stomach upset and even weight gain and immune suppression. Start taking probiotics immediately when prescribed antibiotics and continue taking the probiotics for 2-3 weeks even after you have finished the course of antibiotics. Aim to take the probiotic a few hours from the antibiotic because there is the possibility of the antibiotic inactivating the probiotic - remember antibiotics kill bacteria and probiotics are bacteria.
8. If you have IBS
As of date, the best strains to treat IBS symptoms come from Bifidobacterium, particularly Bifidobacterium infantis. IBS can include alternating periods of bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain.
9. If you are prone to bacterial vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is often associated with low vaginal lactobacilli bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus are two strains that studies have shown to increase vaginal lactobacilli and decrease incidence of recurrent bacterial vaginosis.
10. If you get frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Studies have shown that both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus can reduce and may prevent the incidence of UTIs. Studies have also shown that when antibiotics were taken with probiotics for treatment of an active UTI, treatment outcomes were better for those who took the probiotic.
Note: all references are included in the hyperlinks.