How to Choose Good Gut Bugs

I've been getting a lot of questions lately regarding how to choose a quality probiotic. Not only that, but what type of probiotic one should take. Here is an older post about one of my favorite gut bugs, Sacchromyces. That's a great bug for most people while you're taking antibiotics (it won't die because it's actually a yeast, not a bacterium). It's also great for those suffering from loose stools, or diarrhea. For the most part, for basic maintenance, pretty much any probiotic will do. The thing you want to look out for is quality. Many of the probiotics getting big commercials and being prescribed by MDs aren't even refrigerated. Refrigeration is a big clue on whether it is a quality product or not. But again, not always, as there are some probiotics made to withstand room temperatures so that they can be easily packed for a camping trip. Here are some tips you can keep in mind when looking for a quality product:

  • What are the ingredients?
    • If the ingredients contain more than the bacteria and the capsule, take note of what's used as a filler. If you can't pronounce it, it's likely not very good for you. Be wary of anything in tablet form, as they are mechanically pressed and usually heated, thereby killing the bacteria. Some products are enterically coated, which means it has a special gel-like coating made to withstand the acidity of the stomach and therefore make it through to the small intestine where you want the bacteria to thrive. These can be good products if you do your homework.
  • Are the strains certified?
    • If so, it should say on the bottle. Certification is usually done by a third-party testing facility to make sure what is on the label is in fact what's in the bottle. This is extremely important for any supplement since there are so many out there, which is why it's important to check with a naturopath before buying a random brand of supplement (that you might not even need!).
  • What is the number of live cells at the "Sell by" date?
    • This may not be on the bottle, but it should be available if you call or check their website. Some companies test their products only at the time of manufacturing, which is before it's been sitting on a truck, possibly not refrigerated, then sitting under fluorescent lights at a grocery store, etc. You want to go with a company that actually guarantees the strains are alive AFTER the "sell by" or expiration date. That way you know they are properly testing their products for quality assurance.

Fortunately and unfortunately, the supplement biz has become a muti-billion dollar enterprise, which means anyone can market a product (sometimes very well) and put it on the shelf at your local biggy mart. Just ask yourself - do you really need that product? And if so, know the questions to ask to make sure your getting a quality product. If you call up a company and the person doesn't know who the quality assurance rep is, or they say "that's me!" might want to recheck your product choice!

...or just come see me :)