By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Probiotics have generated quite a bit of buzz in the health and wellness circuits lately. Not only can you now get your daily amount through supplements and fermented foods, but this beneficial form of bacteria is also frequently added to snack bars, cereals, ice creams and even chewing gums.
However, not all probiotic supplements are created equal, and certain types of probiotics stand out for both their quality and potential health benefits.
So do probiotics do anything? And what is the best probiotic supplement? Let’s look at why you should consider adding a probiotic supplement to your routine and how to pick the best one.
What Are Probiotic Supplements?
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract that can support healthy digestive function, support a healthy immune system and promote regular bowel function.
What’s more, certain types of probiotics can also help to maintain a healthy gut flora, which can impact several other aspects of health as well.
Taking a probiotic supplement is an easy way to increase intestinal levels of beneficial bacteria to support a healthy you. Available in capsule, powder and pill forms, probiotic supplements typically contain a wide range of unique bacterial strains, plus billions of probiotics in every serving.
There are many different types of probiotics on the market, each of which varies based on numerous factors such as stability, strain diversity and CFU count.
There are several genera of probiotics, including Bifidobacteria, Bacillus and Lactobacillus. In addition to being the most widely available in both probiotic foods and supplements, these probiotics have also been extensively studied for their ability to support healthy digestive and immune system function.
There are also many specific strains of probiotics, each of which has been shown to offer unique benefits. Some of the most well-studied probiotic strains include:
In addition to probiotic supplements, many of these strains can also be found naturally in probiotic foods. Fermented foods like tempeh, natto and miso are all great sources of probiotics and feature many different types of probiotics to help maintain a healthy gut flora.
1. Supports Cognitive Health
Some types of probiotic supplements are formulated specifically to support cognitive health. Ancient Probiotics - Brain (on our store), for example, features clinically studied ashwagandha root extract, an ingredient that can help support a healthy response to stress and support focus, a healthy memory, mental clarity and concentration.
2. Promotes Proper Digestion
Adding probiotic foods or supplements to your daily routine can bring big benefits when it comes to digestive health. Not only can it help support healthy bowel transit time and digestive function, but certain strains of probiotics can also support healthy elimination and the body’s natural cleansing process.
Plus, some strains of probiotics may even reduce occasional constipation, gas and bloating while also relieving occasional gut discomfort.
3. Supports Healthy Immune System Function
More and more mounting evidence has found that gut health may be closely connected to immune system function. Many specific strains of probiotics have been shown to help support a healthy immune system and support healthy immune system function.
What’s more, some types of probiotics can also support a healthy inflammation response, another key aspect of immune health.
4. Supports a Healthy Weight
Certain types of probiotics can help promote weight management through several different mechanisms. For example, some strains of probiotics can promote regular bowel function, support healthy elimination and relieve occasional bloating.
Meanwhile, other types can support the normal breakdown of complex carbohydrates and promote proper digestion and nutrient absorption, which could also be beneficial when it comes to healthy weight control.
5. Supports Healthy Skin
Ancient Probiotics - Skin (on our store) is formulated with a blend of clinically-studied, plant-based ingredients designed to support healthy skin and healthy skin elasticity. Some of the herbs and extracts featured in this skin-supporting probiotic include Indian frankincense resin extract, triphala fruit extract, holy basil leaf extract and more.
6. Maintains Oral Health
Not only can probiotics help maintain a healthy gut flora to support digestive function, but they may also help keep your mouth healthy as well. This is because there are many types of bacteria in the mouth, and maintaining the right balance can help optimize oral hygiene.
Certain types of probiotics have been shown to help maintain oral health, which could aid in keeping your gums, mouth and teeth healthy.
How to Choose the Right Probiotic
There are several factors to consider when picking the best probiotic supplement to fit your personal needs and preferences.
Here are a few of the top things to look for when choosing your probiotic supplement.
Brand quality — Buy from reputable retailers with readily available probiotic reviews from customers.
High CFU count — Be sure to purchase a supplement that has a higher number of probiotics, anywhere from 15 billion to 100 billion.
Survivability and strain diversity — Check for strains like Bacillus coagulans, Saccharomyces boulardii, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bacillus clausii and other cultures or formulas that ensure that probiotics make it to the gut and are able to colonize.
Prebiotics and supplementary ingredients — Prebiotics provide the fuel necessary for probiotics to grow and thrive. High-quality probiotic supplements should have both prebiotics and other ingredients designed to support digestion and immunity. Examples of these ingredients are (preferably fermented) flaxseed, chia seed, cañihua seed, astragalus, ashwagandha, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, milk thistle, peas, ginger, mung bean and turmeric.
Stability and organism types — Some probiotic strains need to be kept cold in order to preserve their potency while others are shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration. Unfortunately, most refrigerated probiotics never make it past the stomach because they aren’t stable. Instead, look for a shelf-stable product that contains soil-based organisms.
Sugar — A synbiotic is a dietary supplement that contains both prebiotics and probiotics. The best synbiotics contain healthy plant starches and fiber rather than sugar to help feed the probiotics and help them grow.
Living vs. “die off” — “Live and active cultures” are a better bet than “made with active cultures.” After fermentation, the product may be heat-treated, which helps extend shelf-life, but can cause “die off” of both good and bad bacteria in the process.
Some types of probiotics are also geared towards specific needs and health goals. Our SBO Probiotics line, for example, features products formulated to support other aspects of health that go beyond the benefits provided by many probiotics, including:
- SBO Probiotics Gut Restore (on our store)
- SBO Probiotics Ultimate (on our store)
- SBO Probiotics Ultimate (on our store)
- SBO Probiotics Men’s (on our store)
Probiotic supplements may cause minor adjustment times for some people, especially when first getting started. However, consistent, daily use is important.
As always, if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications, it’s best to consult with your doctor before starting supplementation.
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria found in the gut that have been linked to a number of impressive health benefits.
Certain types of probiotics with select ingredients may help maintain oral health and support healthy immune system function, mental clarity, digestive function, healthy skin and digestive function.
Be sure to purchase from a reputable retailer and pay close attention to the strain diversity, CFU count, supplementary ingredients and stability to ensure you’re getting a high-quality supplement.
Rachael Link, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at the University of Central Missouri and later received her Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Rachael is passionate about plant-based nutrition and enjoys providing easy-to-understand information to readers looking to support their health.