You’ve heard about all the health benefits probiotics can provide, from boosting gut and digestive health (think less bloating, constipation, and abdominal discomfort) to immune system support, increased energy levels, stress relief, clearer skin, and more.
You’re ready to try probiotics but just want to make sure you do your due diligence first and get some more information. Because there’s nothing worse than regretting a decision you’ve made and having buyer’s remorse.
So at this point, you might be thinking: Well, how do I choose the right probiotic?
There are many different factors when it comes to choosing a probiotic, such as the different bacterial strains, the amount of CFUs they have, or general ingredients.
Let this post be your guide on how to choose the right probiotic for you.
What Factors Should Be Considered When Choosing Probiotics?
1. Make Sure Probiotics Are Okay for You to Take
The first step in choosing a probiotic is making sure it’s safe for you to take one. For most people, taking probiotics won’t present any issues. But there are a few situations where probiotics are contraindicated (i.e. taking them could be harmful because of a current condition). In these cases, you should talk to your doctor before starting probiotics.
These situations include:
- Being in the last trimester of pregnancy
- Being severely immunocompromised because of:
- Radiation, chemotherapy, or any other cancer treatment
- HIV positive status
- Taking immunosuppressant medications
- Having had a recent surgery
- Being in the ICU
- Having a serious illness that compromises the gut barrier integrity
Again, this only applies to a limited number of cases and probiotics are okay for most people to take.
2. Check Out the Different Bacteria Strains
Next on our list of what to look for in a probiotic is checking to see the different bacterial strains it has. When choosing a probiotic supplement, you’ll want to go with one that contains a diverse set of bacterial strains, aka a multispecies or multistrain probiotic.
You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. And choosing a probiotic with multiple strains helps keep up with the diversity of your gut. For example, Nella Probiotics contain a potent proprietary blend of three bacterial strains from the Lactobacillus genus:
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Speaking of Lactobacillus, high-quality probiotics will likely either contain strains from that or the Bifidobacterium genus. These two types of beneficial bacteria are basically the gold standard of gut health.
You’ll find most Lactobacillus bacteria in your small intestine, as they work to create an environment that lets “good guy” bacteria thrive and that help you achieve better digestion, healthier immune function, and much more. These probiotic strains are responsible for breaking down food, aiding in nutrient absorption, and strengthening your body’s defenses against harmful, disease-causing organisms. As we mentioned previously, examples of Lactobacillus probiotic strains include L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, and L. rhamnosus.L plantarum has been shown to help with anxiety and stress relief. But maybe most important of all are its anti-inflammatory properties that help boost the number of healthy bacteria, heal the lining of the gut, and provide relief from gut-related conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS.
Check out this study, which examined how L. plantarum impacted those with IBS. Over four weeks, participants took either an L. plantarum probiotic or were given a placebo daily. The study found those given the probiotic experienced less abdominal discomfort and bloating versus the placebo group.L acidophilus brings a lot to the table as well. There’s a ton of research that notes its ability to prevent and treat vaginal bacterial and yeast infections. Other research suggests that L. acidophilus is the most effective probiotic at lowering cholesterol levels (lower cholesterol is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease).
Let’s not forget about L. rhamnosus. Are you always getting UTIs? According to a review of studies published in The Canadian Journal of Urology, L. rhamnosus, along with other Lactobacillus bacteria, was found to be a good treatment for preventing UTIs.
If you’ve ever experienced traveler’s diarrhea then you know the struggle is too real! It can get annoying having to take extra precautions and always mapping out the nearest bathroom wherever you go. The good news is that L. rhamnosus has been shown to help with that. And really, just any type of diarrhea in general.
This strain of bacteria is mainly housed in your large intestine. Bifidobacterium helps increase the number of good bacteria in your gut, while also playing a key role in helping your body properly absorb vitamins and minerals during digestion.
One of the main things Bifidobacterium does is create butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid that provides the cells in your colon with energy and helps them operate at peak efficiency. Butyrate also plays a role in insulin sensitivity and is crucial to blood sugar management.
There are two strains of Bifidobacterium you’ll want to be aware of:
- B. lactis
- B. longum
Both strains have been shown to improve digestive health and bolster immune function, as well as improve symptoms from gastrointestinal disorders like IBS (i.e. less stomach pain, bloating, and constipation).
They also help when it comes to healing a leaky gut, which occurs when your gut barrier stops working as well and allows its contents to leak out into the bloodstream and for harmful substances to find their way in.
This results in inflammation and frustrating symptoms like chronic constipation, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, and skin issues like acne or eczema. But how Bifidobacterium helps is that, similar to Lactobacillus, it restores the lining of the gut and improves intestinal permeability (i.e. patches up the leaks).
If you have celiac disease, research shows that beneficial bacteria like B. lactis and B. longum may help improve how the body reacts to gluten (by counteracting its inflammatory impact) and provide relief from symptoms. Also, if you’re lactose intolerant or struggle with digesting lactose, B. lactis has been shown to have a positive impact.
3. Look at the CFUs
CFU (Colony Forming Units) represents the number of live microorganisms a probiotic supplement has. When choosing a probiotic, make sure it has enough CFUs. And by enough, we’re talking in the billions. A higher CFU equals more bacteria.
Most probiotics for gut health will contain CFUs ranging anywhere from about 1-10 billion, but if you have more than 1 strain in the probiotic mixture, you want to make sure you’re getting enough of each strain. For example, Nella Probiotics are designed to deliver at least 10 billion CFU until the expiration date or ~3 billion CFU per strain.
4. Read the Label for Other Health Information
The label details other things besides the strains and CFUs that are important for choosing a probiotic. Here are a few other things you’ll want to pay attention to:
- The dose: This lets you know the serving size for optional results. Make sure everything checks out with the CFUs per dose.
- Other ingredients: Check the label to see if the probiotic has anything you might be allergic to or have a sensitivity to, like gluten, soy, or lactose. If you’re following a certain diet, such as eating plant-based, you’ll also want to make sure it fits with that. Nella Probiotics are vegan-friendly and gluten-free!
- The expiration date: Some probiotics contain fewer CFUs after they expire, so make sure you’re aware of the expiration date. As we mentioned a little ways up, you can expect 10 billion CFU with Nella Probiotics until they expire.
- How it should be stored: A lot of probiotics don’t require refrigeration (like Nella). But some do, so make sure you understand the best way to store it.
Choosing a Probiotic Wrap-Up
See? Choosing a probiotic doesn’t have to be difficult! There are just a few key things you’ll want to look out for.
- First and foremost, make sure that probiotics are safe for you to take. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
- Go with probiotics that contain multiple strains of bacteria. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacterial strains are some of the best ones you can pick.
- Understand what you’re getting and check the number of CFUs. This number should be in the billions and will typically range anywhere from about 1-10 billion.
- Scan the label for other key info: Check to make sure the ingredients fit your lifestyle and diet, be aware of the proper dose, know the expiration date (CFUs may go down after the probiotic expires), and make note of the best way to store the probiotic.
Ready for some probiotics in your life? Nella daily probiotics for women and men were formulated based on extensive research of the gut profiles of some of the fittest people in the world. We arrived at a unique blend of three elite Lactobacillus bacterial strains designed to help you achieve optimal gut health and digestion, and provide you with other benefits like more energy, better sleep, and less stress.
About the Author: Chad Richardson is a blog copywriter from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s not cooking up content, Chad enjoys jumping rope in his backyard, putting his Chef Boyardee hat on and trying new recipes, and hanging out with friends while rooting on his hometown sports teams.