If you’ve ever found yourself dizzy with decision fatigue in the probiotic supplement aisle, you are NOT alone. I felt the same. However, at a recent food and nutrition conference, I was provided an excellent resource during a presentation on our microbiome: The International Scientific Association for Probiotic and Prebiotics. My hope is that this brief summary will help you:
  • Efficiently find the right probiotic supplement for your specific needs
  • Save money by obtaining the outcome you are seeking 
  • Increase your confidence that you found a product that actually lives up to its health claim promise

Probiotics play a vital role in our health. They offer something to everyone. While no probiotic will have ALL of the following benefits, certain probiotics may:

• Support the immune system
• Decrease respiratory, gut, vaginal and urinary tract infections
• Relieve some gut symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, and bloating) • Relieve colic in breast fed babies
• Support an effective gut barrier
• Help manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
• Help manage modestly elevated cholesterol levels

I’ve got probiotics on my mind because my husband is going in for shoulder surgery today. He’ll be getting a hefty dose of antibiotics. I turned to the evidence-based supplement experts at Jarrow Formulas to inquire about the optimal probiotic supplement for PJ to take in preparation. I respect Jarrow Formulas because they are committed to superior nutrition and are GMP compliant. Read about their Total Quality Pledge .

Saccharomyces Boulardii supplement bottle from Jarrow Formulas
Jarrow’s recommendation was to look for a probiotic that included the Saccharomyces Boulardii strain. S. Boulardii is a probiotic yeast strain that survives in the stomach and intestines. The strain helps maintain and restore the good gut bugs when the antibiotic aims to wipe both the bad and good out.
 
Now that I was aware of the right probiotic supplement, I still had remaining questions. Here are a few of them with evidence-based answers from the International Scientific Association for Probiotic and Prebiotics:

“Are more strains better than one strain or a few?”

It depends. Some studies support the benefits of a single-strain probiotics. Other studies show that specific blends of probiotics strains have a positive outcome. Simply having lots of strains is not a guarantee of a more beneficial product. It all comes down to matching the right stain for the desired outcome.

“How many CFU (colony forming units) should I be looking for?”

When it comes to microorganisms, more are not better. The studies backing the product determine the ‘effective dose’. Most often, effective doses range from 100 million to 50 billion or more colony forming units (CFU)/dose.

“Should I buy probiotic supplements that are on the shelf or only buy those that are refrigerated?”

Where you buy the probiotic does not matter as much as how you store the probiotics. Even shelf stable, no refrigeration, probiotics will last longer in your fridge. It’s also important to pay attention to the use by or expiration date. This tells you how long the probiotic will contain adequate levels of live probiotic to deliver claimed benefits.

“Which bacteria or strains do I need?”

Different probiotic strains have different benefits: ranging from improving aspects of intestinal function to helping you fight off colds. Choose a product with evidence showing it can give you the health benefit you want. Refer to this page to match the right strain to your particular ailment. You can search by adult health, women’s health, pediatric health and functional foods.
 
As you review the probiotic supplement labeling, remember to only a select a probiotic that provides the GENUS, SPECIES, AND STRAIN OF THE BACTERIA.
 
For the probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus MN5,
  • Lactobacillus is the genus.
  • Acidophilus is the species.
  • MN5 is the strain designation.
 Choose products that identify all 3!
 
You will also want to make sure the probiotic lists the company name and contact information. This ensures you can contact the company with questions, get more information or report any adverse effects.
 
It’s now time to transport my patient. I gave him a gentle reminder he should be lucky that his nurse was also a dietitian. His S. Boulardii supplement has already been hard at work for a couple of days and will continue for a couple more. 
I was not paid or sponsored to mention any specific brands or companies. The following recommendations are based on practice based, scientific-evidence.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.