Six things to know before buying a probiotic supplement

What are probiotics?

The word ‘probiotic’ comes from the Greek word ‘biotikos’ which translates to ‘for life’. Probiotics are friendly, good bacteria that assist in supporting healthy digestive function. There are literally trillions of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract at any one time, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Our body’s own innate intelligence knows how to balance the levels of good and bad bacteria so that they can coexist happily within the gastrointestinal tract resulting in a well functioning digestive system.

Many people associate the word ‘probiotic’ with a supplement which you buy in the pharmacy or health food store. However, probiotics are naturally abundant in fermented foods which can just as easily be incorporated into the diet to support digestive health. Examples of probiotic rich foods include plain yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kefir, kimchi, tempeh and kombucha tea.

How can they help?

Factors such as illness, antibiotics, certain medications as well as high stress, alcohol and poor dietary habits all contribute to the growth of unfriendly, bad bacteria which leads to an imbalance in the intestinal microflora. This can result in acute and chronic digestive problems such as constipation, bloating, diarrhoea, flatulence, abdominal cramping and increased susceptibility to infections.

Taking a good quality high strength probiotic can help support and maintain a healthy digestive system and improve resistance to illness.

Probiotics have been shown to assist in:

  • Maintaining healthy digestive function
  • Managing traveller’s diarrhoea
  • Alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Managing allergy type symptoms and food sensitivities
  • Reduce symptoms associated with uro-genital infections
  • Support the immune system
  • Minimise the number of sick days in young children
  • Reduce side effects associated with antibiotic use such as yeast infections and/or diarrhoea

 

Six things you need to know before buying a probiotic supplement:

Not all probiotics on the market are the same quality. Things to look out for when buying a probiotic supplement include:

  1. Is it from a reputable company? Good quality brands typically invest more in product research and development to ensure that the end product is of high standard and effective in delivering results.
  2. Does it need to be refrigerated? Probiotics are live bacteria which generally need to be refrigerated to keep them alive. If you see a product on the shelf outside of the refrigerator, you need to ask the company how they have been able to achieve this without compromising the quality and strength of the probiotic.
  3. What is the genus, species and strain of the probiotic? Some have been clinically proven to be effective in managing digestive symptoms whilst others do not have a therapeutic effect at all. It is important that the company states which type of probiotic is being used as they all exert a slightly different action in the body.
  4. How much do you get with each dosage? The strength of the probiotic will determine how effective it will be and how often you need to take it.
  5. Do you have a dairy intolerance/allergy? Unless otherwise stated, almost all probiotics on the market have been cultured on dairy so if you are intolerant or allergic to dairy, then it is important to buy a dairy free probiotic product instead.
  6. How much do they cost? Good quality products generally have this reflected in its price. Avoid products which are found in discount bins or sales tables.

With the wide range of probiotic supplements available in health foods, pharmacies and even supermarkets, it’s important ensure you get the right probiotic supplement for your health! So it’s always best to follow your qualified health practitioners advice.