Close up photo of lactobacillus bacteria
Friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus can help balance gut flora

How to choose a probiotic supplement

3 November, 2011

Probiotics are live organisms or ‘friendly’ bacteria which when used in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to us. Billions of bacteria live in the intestinal tract, and good health is largely determined on the amount of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ bacteria balance we have.

Probiotics are an essential part of health, as they prevent the overgrowth of undesirable micro-organisms in the gastrointestinal tract. They also help to digest food, help the absorption of food and strengthen the immune system.

There are many probiotics which make claims to be the best supplement to buy, so how do you choose which ones to buy?

When choosing a probiotic look for ones that:

  • Contain a few billion active bacteria. Opinions vary but between 1 and 10 billion is reasonable
  • A clear label. It’s helpful if the label tells you how many viable organisms there are in the product at its expiration date, since this will be less than when they are manufactured. This figure guarantees the minimum dose you will receive.
  • Are resistant to stomach acid, or can be dissolved in water so that they pass through the stomach environment fairly quickly
  • Contain the best researched strains: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria

The best times to take them can be a confusing issue. Generally, it is thought if taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or before bed, the stomach is least acidic, and more bacteria can therefore survive to the intestines. For optimum effects, probiotics should be taken regularly throughout the day to establish intestinal adherence.

Probiotics and children’s brain health
Certain young children may experience less than optimal digestive health, with reduction in learning capabilities and capacity to focus. Supporting digestive function with friendly bacteria and the amino acid L-glutamine may play a positive part in underpinning children’s cognitive health and general mood. These two nutrients combine to support the health of the digestive tract and cognitive well being.

  • Penny Taliadoros is a nutritional therapist and iridologist.