Many high-quality probiotic supplements are available today, but there’s one overarching consideration when selecting a supplement: probiotics are living organisms, and if they are to have any therapeutic value, they must be alive when you ingest them.
Probiotics are available in several different forms, including powder, capsule, tablet, wafer and liquid. Experts tend to prefer powders and capsules, especially enteric-coated capsules, which pas through the stomach intact and release the bacteria directly into the intestinal tract. Some experts discourage the use of liquid probiotics, as they can lose their potency fairly quickly.
Most experts recommend looking for supplements with at least one billion organisms per capsule or two billion organisms per teaspoon. Some products offer even more.
Whichever product you choose, ensure that it has a guaranteed expiration date. If it doesn’t, don’t’ buy it. Also, beware of products that qualify potencies with statements like “at the time of manufacture” or “at the time of shipment”. Who knows how long after those dates you will actually buy the product!
Avoid products that indicate they have undergone a centrifuge or ultrafiltration process. These processes can break down the bacteria, rendering them less effective or even useless. They also artificially inflate the bacterial count by including damaged and partial organisms in the count.
Store probiotics in a cool, dry place, and keep the lid on tight. The refrigerator is a great place to keep probiotic supplements, but be careful they don’t freeze.
Take probiotics on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and then close to mealtimes throughout the day. Some experts recommend taking probiotics with filtered, lukewarm water because tap water may contain chlorine, which will kill bacteria, and cold water can have a debilitating effect on bacteria.
Don’t take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time; the antibiotics will simply kill the probiotics, rendering them useless. Some experts recommend doubling or even tripling your normal probiotic dose for three weeks after finishing antibiotic treatment.
The Bottom Line
Decades of research indicate that friendly bacteria offer wide-ranging benefits for you and your health. They defend against dangerous pathogens, including harmful bacteria, fungi and yeast such as Candida albicans. Probiotics help produce vital nutrients and digestive enzymes. They discourage infections of the vagina and urinary tract, prevent diarrhea and constipation, alleviate various gastrointestinal ills, lower high cholesterol and can even relieve symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia.