What Are Probiotics and How to Choose the Best For You?
Probiotics are a category of products that easily gets any health-conscious person excited. They’re the friendly bacteria that keep us in good health condition, and it seems like all of us could benefit from using them. Probiotics help our digestion and maintain the balance of our immune systems, so why wouldn’t we give them a try? But that’s the easy part, because trying to pick one from the seemingly endless number of options we have at this time might seem impossible without solid research. Before you invest in a probiotic product from somewhere like Pharmnet, it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re buying and why you’re buying it.
Because like all alternative health products, some probiotics will work, and some won’t. The benefits of some strains of bacteria are proven by science, and some species are only assumed to be probiotics since they’re harmless and naturally found in our bodies. And because these products are generally believed to be helpful and have become extremely popular, many manufacturers will create their supplements using bacterial species that are not only useless, but probably dead at the time of ingestion. But at the same time, many companies will develop their products with the best possible ingredients and provide their customers with quality probiotics that will do exactly what they promise in the vast majority of cases. Unfortunately, discerning between these products might be problematic given that they’re all available in the same places, especially for a very new consumer. Probiotics are not regulated by the FDA and don’t have to prove their efficiency before being allowed for sale, so the customers themselves must make sure that they’re getting what they’re paying for.
But if you’re not in the mood for doing hours of research, we’ve got you covered. Next we’ll have a look at 3 supplements, and each of them could easily be considered the best. Many other great products are available on the market, but we’ve chosen these 3 not only because they have possibly the best feedback from their users, but because their represent very different types of probiotic supplements, each with it’s specific strengths. Unlike many other products, each of them will provide great results for whomever chooses to use them, but before making a decision, any potential user has to make sure that a probiotic supplement is what they really need.
Are probiotics supplements right for you?
Because they’re alternative health products, probiotics are only able to provide benefits in minor health problems. They’ll help in moderate digestive issues and keep irritable bowel syndrome under control, and are even able to prevent or heal diarrhea and constipation. They’ll also help your immune system and fight germs, but they’re only able to have these great effects in individuals that are otherwise healthy. The best probiotic strains will fight upsetting bacterial and viral infections in strong bodies, but won’t be able to do much for people in delicate conditions.
A very weak immune system will allow them to multiply to the point where they’re causing health problems themselves and pose a very serious danger for the host, so any potential user should know exactly what their health status is when beginning their treatment. A doctor’s approval is mandatory, because what could be perceived as a minor issue that can be treated by probiotics could be a sign for something more serious.
But if probiotics seem the best treatment for you (and many doctors recommend them), make sure that you pick a product that contains the exact bacterial strains that will benefit your particular issue, because while all of them are great for the intestinal tract, some are able to deal with very specific conditions. But you won’t have to be this careful if you’re only interested in using a supplement as a preventive measure, because all probiotics will help both digestion and the immune system.
Anybody could benefit from an increased number of probiotics when traveling in foreign locations (when the body needs extra protection against the unfamiliar bacteria)or when being exposed to sudden temperature changes (which affect the immune system), even if they have a very healthy body and they’re careful with their diet. Also, because in the case of the female body a large percentage of the bacteria is found in the vagina, and local infections seem to become more and more common, some women might find that they need to use probiotics all the time. The vaginal flora is easily disturbed even in the healthiest women, and in many cases a supplement might be all that’s needed for optimal health. But whatever you may want to achieve by using a probiotic, one of the supplements that we’ll present next will surely get the job done.
These 3 products belong to what could be considered the basic variety of probiotics. They’re designed to do exactly what is generally expected from probiotics, as they’re not combined with substances that would make them beneficial for certain conditions (like obesity), or for specific age groups. From children to elderly individuals, everybody can use them with great results (except one, which might be too strong for children), and we’ll start with the one that many new users might overlook because it has a very simple composition, but could actually be the most potent of them all.
Culturelle Digestive Health is manufactured by i-Health (in itself a subsidiary of DSM Nutritional Products), a company based in Connecticut that offers an entire line of probiotics under the brand name Culturelle. This one product comes in 2 varieties, capsules and chewables. But since capsules are proven to be the best containers of probiotics and in their case the final product doesn’t include any of the extra ingredients needed for manufacturing chewables, this is the form of Culturelle that we’ll focus on.
What makes this supplement very different from the vast majority of probiotics is it’s extremely short ingredient list. Culturelle only contains Lactobacillus GG, inulin and vitamin C, and normally a probiotic that includes a single strain of bacteria would be considered useless by many potential customers. But this one strain seems to be the most efficient of them all, and the company, while presenting the product in an honest manner on the website, doesn’t really makes it justice. It’s mentioned that Culturelle can help with digestive problems, diarrhea, bloating and related issues, and that it will support the immune system, but Lactobacillus GG can do much more than that.
While the best bacterial strains are found in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera and we can expect good results from all of them, none seems to be effective in as many conditions as Lactobacillus GG. This species of bacteria is able to prevent and treat basically any type of diarrhea, no matter what causes it. Either if it can be blamed on the use of antibiotics (which kill all bacteria, not only the harmful types) or it’s the result of a viral infection, Lactobacillus GG will reduce it’s duration and the intensity of it’s symptoms, in most cases. It has been intensively tested through hundreds of subjects and it provides amazing benefits, as it seems like it has the ability to actively fight against germs.
It’s also able to prevent allergic reactions and help in many different skin conditions, and it can even provide protection from dental caries by reducing the numbers of harmful bacteria found in the mouth. This bacteria strain is by far the most studied probiotic and seems to return great results, and the users of Culturelle themselves only have good things to say about the product. But of course, some users have to deal with the side effects before enjoying the positive changes. This is a common issue with all supplements, as the body needs time to adjust to the high intake of bacteria.
The official website of Culturelle actually warns the potential users about possible reactions to the supplement, and it seems like the unpleasant effects could last for up to 2 weeks. Users might experience bloating, gas and other intestinal issues and these symptoms shouldn’t be a reason for concern, except in the situations where they don’t seem to fade over time, in which case it’s recommended for the users to receive medical advice.
But those who don’t have to confront with these issues state that the product is not only great for the intestinal tract, but also for vaginal conditions, a benefit that the company never mentions. Some customers even use Culturelle on their pets (and this should never be done without a veterinarian’s approval), so the supplement is able to provide some truly outstanding results. And this despite it’s somewhat weak CFU count, which is only 10 billion.
This amount is generally considered low, but this product is proof that the number of colony forming units is not as important as the type of bacteria itself. Culturelle doesn’t bother with extra strains and high CFU counts because it doesn’t need to, but the inulin is a great addition. This is a prebiotic, a substance that feeds the good bacteria in the intestine and keeps it healthy, which makes the product fit for users that don’t get much fiber in their diet.
While Culturelle doesn’t contain any type of dairy compounds, it’s still not fit for vegetarians as the capsules are made from gelatin, which is an animal by-product. For this group of consumers the company offers another product (which is completely vegetarian and fits any diet), but this one particular variety of Culturelle seems to receive the best feedback, so it’s the one that we would recommend to potential users.
For best results, the company advises the ingestion of 2 capsules a day (as a form of treatment), but as a preventive measure one capsule will be enough. The product is also very easy to find, with the website redirecting to online retailers while at the same time allowing visitors to search for physical stores that carry the brand. Among other stores, Culturelle is available at Walmart and Target, but the best prices can be found on Amazon, where a bottle containing 30 capsules is available starting at around $10 at this time. The product can also be found in Canada, and the company has a great return policy regarding all purchases.
It seems like no matter where you buy the product, if you’re unhappy with the results and the seller doesn’t issue refunds, you can return it directly to the company and get your money back with no problems. This can be done in 90 days since the purchase, which is more than enough time to try Culturelle, especially because it’s supposed to generate positive results in as little as 2 days. It’s a great product and it comes at an equally great price, but if you’re interested in a more complex supplement, you might like the next one better.
Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 50 Million (formerly known as Critical care) is part of a line of probiotic supplements manufactured by Renew Life. This company is based in Florida and it focuses entirely on digestive health, offering not only probiotics but also fiber supplements, digestive enzymes, weight loss aids and many other similar products. Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic is their best sold supplement but also one of the most popular probiotic brands in general, and with good reason. This product seems to be perfectly balanced, containing 50 billion CFUs from the best strains of probiotics.
Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic contains 3 strains of Bifidobacterium (lactis, breve, longum) that make for 30 billion of the total amount of individual organisms, 7 strains of Lactobacillus (acidophilus, casei, plantarum, paracasei, salivarius,rhamnosus, bulgaricus), and no fillers. And not only does it include the exact strains that are known to be the most beneficial for the digestive system, and in a number that makes it fast acting, but it’s also completely vegetal. It’s fit for all diets, and the vegetal capsules have the advantage of better protecting the contents.
The official website presents Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic as able to relieve digestive discomfort and protect the immune system, which is exactly what it will do. This product has many satisfied customers who claim it as able to do wonders, often times in a matter of hours, and after reading what the company has to say about the manufacturing process, it’s easy to see way. The product is 100% natural, and not only when it comes to it’s ingredients.
The manufacturing equipment doesn’t use any kind of chemicals that might affect the probiotics, and apparently much of the labor involved in the process is manual. It seems like the only thing that keeps this product from being the perfect probiotic is the lack of the Lactobacillus GG strain, but it works great nonetheless. It’s rather expensive compared with other brands, starting at $19.79 for a bottle containing 15 capsules, but on the plus side users only have to ingest one capsule a day for the product to work as advertised. It’s also available in bottles containing 30 capsules ($35.99), 60 capsules ($61.19) and 90 capsules ($80.99), and while it can be found in many stores that carry health supplements (in both US and Canada), including Walgreens and Vitamin Shoppe, the best offers are available on the website. The official Renew Life website offers a best price guarantee, and signing up for the auto-delivery program will have the products shipped for free.
But this auto-delivery program is not the usual marketing scheme that upsets internet shoppers, as it’s designed to actually help customers. They are able to choose if they want to sign up for it and how often they would like to receive the product, with the possibility of setting their delivery intervals from 4weeks to 6 months. And it seems like the program works just fine, as no customers have yet complained about having any kind of issues with customer service.
Also, the company offers a 60 day money back guarantee, but only for low quality manufacturing. Since it doesn’t seem like the manufacturing process itself can be faulty, what they probably refer to is a defective product that has been damaged in storage or during shipping. Probiotics are very sensitive to light, moisture and especially heat, and storing them in an unfit location could kill them in a matter of hours. But the guarantee only applies for products purchased through the website, and the company won’t be responsible for faulty products provided by other sellers.
Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic seems to be one of the few product that can help all users, but if you feel like 10 billion CFUs is not enough, the last supplement on our list might just be what you’re looking for. This blend of bacteria, yeasts, enzymes and fruits is one of the most complete digestive supplements on the market, and seems to be the perfect solution for any person that has tried other probiotics with no positive results.
Raw Probiotics is a blend of 34 probiotics, 3 digestive enzymes and 7 fruits and vegetables, with a total CFU count of 100 billion. This is has one of the highest numbers of live organisms available in a single capsules, and all the ingredients are raw. The product is manufactured by Garden Of Life, a company based in Florida that takes pride in offering some of the most natural health products on the market. Their products are untreated and contain no genetically modified organisms or fillers, and while nothing is mentioned about the nature of the shells of this particular supplement, they’re clearly vegetal since the product itself is vegetarian.
Half of the probiotics included in this product belong to the Lactobacillus genus, while only 2 of them belong in Bifidobacterium. Raw Probiotics also includes Streptococcus Thermophilus, one of the few bacterial species outside of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus that are scientifically proven as having probiotic qualities, and many other species of bacteria and yeast that are naturally found in fermented dairy. Still, none of these yeast strains is S. boulardii, the only yeast species proven as effective. The digestive enzymes are protease, acid protease and protease S, while the plants are red bell pepper, green pea, carrot, plum, cherry, strawberry and raspberry. And while this supplement has so many ingredients that it’s difficult to tell exactly which of them actually helps, it does work great.
Only half of the ingredients are demonstrated as true probiotics, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t work. We simply don’t have enough proof for their qualities at this moment, and even if they were completely useless, this product contains other 17 strains of bacteria that are very beneficial. The digestive enzymes will only make them more effective, while the fruits and vegetables are a good source of prebiotics.
Raw probiotics has great feedback from the customers, who claim it as able to fix intestinal issues when no other products seem to work. It’s also fast acting, and the sheer number of organisms makes it a great option for anyone looking to improve the balance of their intestinal flora. Because even if some of the strains might not work as probiotics, they’ll still contribute to the improvement of the intestinal ecosystem.
This supplement is perfect for someone that’s looking for variety in their probiotic product, and given it’s properties the price is very decent. Raw Probiotics is available in many online and on location stores (including Vitamin Shoppe and Drugstore.com), but the best offers seem to come from Amazon, where it’s sold at prices starting at $33 for a bottle containing 30 capsules. It should be kept in mind that while expensive, the recommended dosage for this supplement is only one capsule a day. Prices for bottles of 60 capsules start at $70 (also on Amazon), and it seems like the company doesn’t offer any guarantees at this time. Also, while probiotics in general are great for children, this one in particular is not intended for them. The CFU count is very high, and children would benefit from a milder product.
So which probiotic supplement is the best?
We’ve counted one supplement that has amazing qualities despite it’s simplicity and low CFU count, one that might be the perfect blend of bacterial strains, and one that includes both quality probiotics and other possibly beneficial ingredients. Culturelle can keep infections at bay, Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic focuses on best ingredients, while Raw Probiotics, with it’s 100 billion CFU count, could help even the most stubborn digestive system. Which one can be considered the best depends entirely on the user and their individual needs, but one thing is for sure, any one of these products will help where others fail. All of them are very popular and have great reviews from customers that have been counting on them for years, so they’re proven as able to be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.