I’ve said it before: A healthy gut equals a healthy life. Which is why probiotics will always be a prominent fixture on my Desert Island supplement list.
In fact, study after study shows that probiotics are key in helping prevent a whole variety of health issues. They can help you fight high blood pressure, diabetes, colitis—even cancer. And they can enhance brain health, boost immunity, help lower cholesterol, improve your mood, and help you lose weight.
But, as I’ve also warned time and again, the quality of the probiotic product you choose and the type of bacteria it contains are critical to its effectiveness.
And now a new study bears this warning out in a big way.
Research shows most probiotics don’t
contain what the label says they do
Simply put, probiotics are live bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. These “good bacteria” help digest food, process and manufacture important vitamins, manage and eliminate toxins, and kill harmful bacteria. In essence, we need these good bugs to survive.
But the probiotics that live in your gut can be disrupted, harmed, or even killed by any number of factors. Some of the things that can wreak havoc on the levels of good bacteria naturally present in your gut include:
- steroid drugs
- oral contraceptives
- excess stress
- poor diet
- serious illness
And the worst offender of all—sugar—destroys good bacteria even faster than antibiotics do. Considering the average American consumes between 22 and 47 teaspoons of sugar each day, our guts simply can’t keep up.
That’s why everyone needs probiotic supplements—to boost your supply of good bacteria and help get your gut back on track.
But—as this new study points out—only if the product does what it claims.
Researchers tested 16 probiotic products available in stores in California and online. And the results were troubling, to put it mildly: Only one of these 16 products exactly matched the contents claimed on the product’s label.1
The scientists used a DNA-based model to identify the species of detectable bifidobacteria (a type of probiotic) in each of the products. In addition to finding only one product containing the amount and strain of bifidobacteria the label said it did, the researchers also found pill-to-pill and lot-to-lot variations.
One product didn’t contain any of the probiotic strains listed on the label. And some products contained strains that weren’t mentioned anywhere on the labels.
The easy way to find a quality probiotic
So what’s a consumer to do? Here’s my three-step plan to ensure you’re taking the highest-quality, most effective probiotics.
- Remember that bigger is not better when it comes to probiotics. A lot of probiotic products you see in pharmacies, health food stores, and vitamin shops try to wow you with the number of colony forming units (CFUs) they deliver. But billions of CFUs are not good for you. In fact, ingesting too many of any one type of bacteria can trigger an autoimmune response and cause complete havoc in your body.
- The most important thing is getting the right bacteria—and not too many of the same kind. That’s why you should look for products with multiple strains of probiotics. With trillions of different types of bacteria cells in your body, a supplement that only has a single strain (or even just a few) won’t be much help.
- Choose a probiotic that also contains prebiotics, which are basically “food” for probiotics. Prebiotics make probiotics more effective and longer lasting.
Keep this checklist in mind when you’re shopping for a probiotic. (The product label should include all of this information.) Of course, if you want to save yourself the time, you can always opt for the probiotic formula I recommend: Dr. Ohhira’s.
Dr. Ohhira’s uses special composting and fermentation processes to deliver 10 different strains of live bacteria. Plus, they offer one of the few probiotic products that also contains prebiotics. And Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics even include lactic acid bacteria and bacteriocins, which work to kill off the bad bugs while replenishing the good ones.
As more and more research emerges on the importance of gut health, the market for probiotics will just keep getting bigger. Which is great. But it also means we’re going to start seeing a lot more questionable products. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know what to look for in a probiotic. But with these three simple steps, you have all the tools you need to choose a probiotic you can trust.
1“Validating bifidobacterial species and subspecies identity in commercial probiotic products.” Pediatr Res. 2015 Nov 16.