Seems like lately, whether you’re watching TV, surfing the net, or grabbing your favorite magazine, probiotics will no doubt be the subject of an ad or a health article. So, you may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal about probiotics?”
Actually—they are a big deal when it comes to your overall health. So, what are probiotics? Simply stated, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that populate a healthy digestive system—also known as the human microbiome. They interact with other living entities inside your body, creating their own circles of life. They support the human body, helping it to support life. According to Mayo Clinic Health Organization, these beneficial bacteria play a pivotal role in supporting immune function, aiding in digestion and our ability to absorb nutrients from our foods, helping us maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and so many other body activities.†
What to Look for in a Probiotic
Several key factors are important when choosing a probiotic supplement. Here are the answers to some of the questions you may have.
1. What is a CFU and How Much do I Need?
You want to look for a high CFU (Colony Forming Unit) count—which just means the number of cultures contained in each serving. This will vary for all people, but a good to place to start if you’re new to the probiotic game would be a minimum of 40-50 Billion CFU. Depending on your needs, you can find probiotics with CFU counts of 100-200 Billion—these would be for seasoned probiotic users.
2. Are Probiotics with More Strains Better?
You do want a diversity of probiotic strains to ensure your gut will receive the full benefit of these good bacteria. But, not all strains are created equal! Look for strains that have been clinically studied such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus subtillus, just to name a few. Or you may want to seek out strains that have been studied for a particular focus—women’s health, men’s health, mood—there are many!
3. How about Prebiotics and do I Need Them?
It’s wise to seek out a formula that includes prebiotic fiber—and try to include it in your diet as well. Prebiotic fiber nourishes and feeds those probiotics that support the immune and digestive systems.† So the answer to the second part of this question is obviously—yes—you need prebiotic fiber in your diet and it’s helpful to have it in your probiotic supplement.
4. When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?
That’s simple—any time! Whenever it’s convenient for you. There isn’t a set time you need to take your probiotics, it’s more about consistency and making sure you take them every day for the best result. Make it part of your morning routine or always take them before meals. Whatever works for your particular lifestyle.
You may also be hearing about “postbiotics.” According to the National Library of Medicine, the use of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics together to alter the gut microbiome has attracted recent interest. We already know that prebiotics nourish and feed probiotics, probiotics are good bacteria that support overall health, and now postbiotics are known to make probiotics more powerful when they are present. So, this may be something to consider when choosing the right probiotic for you.
And lastly, choose a probiotic supplement from a brand you can trust. A brand that offers diverse clinically studied strains to provide the most bang for your buck.