Guide to choosing a probiotic

Probiotics are a quick and easy way to improve the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms, so you want to make sure that the product you are buying actually contains live microorganisms.

When choosing a probiotic, it is important to purchase from a reputable company who sells products that have been well researched. Look at the company’s website to ensure they are credible and have independent research supporting their claims and the ingredients in their products.

When looking at the label of a probiotic, consider these four things:

1. Probiotic Strains: The number of different strains is typically listed on the front of the bottle as well as in the ingredient list. The more strains the better. Some products limit the number of strains to only well-researched strains, which have been shown to have specific benefits. (See resources below)

2. Colony Forming Units (CFU): This is the unit used to measure the number of active or live organisms in your probiotic. The CFU is the number of live organisms that exist at the time you take the probiotic, not when it was manufactured.

3. Expiration Date: A quality probiotic supplement should have an expiration date. Even if they are stored properly, bacteria can't live forever. You want to know how many live microorganisms are in each serving or dose, which should be constant, as long as the product is not expired.

4. Proper Storage Conditions: Remember, probiotics are live organisms, so they require proper handling to maintain their potency. When you are purchasing in a store, take note of where and how the probiotic is being displayed. In general, refrigeration in a dry environment promotes stability, but not all probiotics need to be refrigerated to remain stable. Advancements in manufacturing and packaging have allowed companies the ability to package shelf-stable probiotics in a way that keep out heat, light, moisture and air. You should always check the company’s website and read the label to ensure you are storing your probiotic properly.

• If it was in the refrigerated section, it probably needs to be refrigerated after you bring it home.

• If it was bought off the shelf, read the label to see if it needs to be refrigerated after opening. Not all probiotics need to be refrigerated to remain stable. The advantage of shelf-stable probiotics is that they are great to take with you when you travel.

• If you are purchasing online, make sure you know how the manufacturer is shipping the product. Some of the bacteria in probiotics can be killed or damaged when it is being shipped in a hot truck for too long, or even when it sits in your mailbox on a hot day.