By Mary Galloway, ND

Many people equate probiotics with Lactobacillus acidophilus. But there are hundreds more strains in the body, each with their own special purpose. The goal is to determine which strain or combination of strains is best for you.

Probiotics are very important to our complete health and well being. This quick guide will show you what to look for.  

Probiotics have been a part of the human diet as far back as the discovery of cheese and fermented foods. They have been used to treat:

1. Oral infections
2. Constipation
3. Diarrhea
4. E. coli
5. H. pylori.

Researchers have also shown that probiotic blends are often more beneficial than single strains.

Currently, the most popular probiotic strains include:
1. L. acidophilus
2. L. casei
3. L. plantarum
4. L. reuteri
5. L. rhamnosus
6. L. salivarius
7. B. bifidum
8. B. breve
9. B. longum
10. S. boulardii.

So, how do you choose???

Because you have unique health needs, you may need to experiment with various probiotic products to find the one that works best for you.

This is the hard part! There are so many supplement brands to choose from!

A probiotic supplement should meet the following criteria:

1. The Supplement Facts panel should list the potency of the product as cfu’s (colony forming units) per serving. Cfu’s are the number of viable organisms per serving. They are listed in the millions or billions. The label may list the cfu’s of the each strain or for the total blend. Do not buy products that list the probiotic content in milligrams (mg).

2. The Supplement Facts panel lists the strains you are interested in at the top of the panel. Strains are typically listed in order of potency, with the most potent strains listed first. Be sure the strains you are interested in are at or near the top of the list.

3. Other Ingredients. I prefer products that do not contain inulin or FOS. While these are a food source for the probiotics, they can cause gas and bloating in sensitive individuals. I prefer to give them separately.

I’d love to hear what your experience has been with probiotics in the comments.