Antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners play a major role in preventing serious illnesses. Unfortunately, they also kill beneficial strains of bacteria leaving our microbiome weak and vulnerable. Here is a brief guide on how to choose the best probiotic supplement for gut health and wellness.
Probiotic supplements are found at most grocery stores, health food stores, and pharmacies. The only trick is that they are often quite expensive, and it’s hard to tell whether they are actually effective. Here are some things to consider when buying a probiotic supplement.
How to choose the best probiotic supplement
When buying a probiotic supplement, you can choose between tablets & capsules, refrigerated or not. Here are 3 simple rules for choosing high-quality probiotic supplements:
- Avoid probiotic products that are heavily processed. The point of processing foods is to make them shelf-stable. So skip the probiotic chewing gum and probiotic snacks.
- Tablets are less likely to have live bacteria, so choose gel caps or liquid supplements instead.
- Live bacterial supplements should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Like all probiotic products, if a supplement is shelf-stable then it’s probably not filled with live culture.
Test your probiotic supplement
The best way to make sure a probiotic supplement contains lots of live bacteria is to test it out. Most probiotic supplements contain bacterial strains that will culture in milk. Even a supplement that contains a lot of different strains of bacteria will contain some strains that will culture in milk.
Whether you use vegan milk or regular milk, follow the use yogurt-making procedure using the probiotic supplement as the culture. Most tablets, capsules, and powders claim to contain billions of bacteria, so they should readily culture in 2 cups of milk within 24 hours. If after 24 hours you don’t have a really tangy yogurt then it is not a good supplement.
Despite all of this advice, I generally don’t recommend buying a probiotic supplement. I have tried to culture several very expensive brands of probiotics without any luck. One of them was a purchased liquid supplement through my naturopathic doctor, and despite containing several strains of yogurt-loving bacteria, it wouldn’t culture in milk.
I’m not alone with my dismal findings of the ineffectiveness of probiotic supplements. This British Study tested 8 different brands of probiotics with very little success. At this point, I think you would have better luck growing sea monkeys.
Grocery store probiotics: yogurt, kefir, kombucha and more
Instead of buying an expensive probiotic pill, improve your gut health with probiotic foods. While I always recommend making your own fermented foods, there are a number of probiotic foods that can be found in the grocery store.
- Any probiotic foods that are not in the freezer or refrigerator. Probiotics that are alive will not be shelf-stable.
- Kefir and kombucha are effervescent when they’re alive. If the container is sealed when you buy it, then it is no longer living. Even if it is bubbly… a sealed bottle of kombucha isn’t alive. There are too many risks involved with sealing live kombucha (exploding bottles, alcohol production, a super sour product).
- In fact, I would say MOST generic grocery store kombucha isn’t alive. There are some exceptions, for example, there are kombucha brewers selling to hippy grocery stores in my city. So beware, most grocery store kombucha is just soda pop dressed up as a health product.
- Yogurt! All yogurts have some live culture, though they do vary greatly on how “alive” they are. In my Canadian neck of the woods, I like Astro’s BioBest and Greek Gods, which both have very active cultures.
- Try other cultured dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream, kefir (it’s usually not real kefir, but it does have Lacto-bacteria living in it).
- Refrigerated fresh products like miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi will also be probiotic. It depends on what is being made in your region, but you may be able to find all sorts of live probiotics. Usually, these are expensive, which is a good reason to try making a few DIY probiotics.