Are All Probiotics the Same? 5 Reasons Why They’re Not
Probiotics are more prevalent than ever. According to Align Probiotic user Julie, “Three years ago, you didn’t even really hear much about probiotics, whereas now, it’s all over.” It’s great to have options on the shelves, but it also means you need to be more informed to be able to choose the best probiotic for you. Always do research on the brand and the bacteria strain so you know that you’re using the most effective supplement.
Probiotic brands are all different. Even within one brand, most offer different products that will do different things. That’s simply because not all probiotic strains have the same benefits. Before picking the best probiotic for you, you first need to decide what health benefit you want to gain from it.
Think about how you might choose a vitamin. If you want healthier hair, you might choose biotin. If you want stronger bones, you might take calcium. You wouldn’t take calcium for your hair, and you wouldn’t take biotin for your bones.
Similarly, every probiotic is unique and can offer different benefits. More importantly, some can back up the claims on their strain(s). Others simply can’t.
Its best to walk into the store knowing what key details to look for so you can confidently choose the right probiotic supplement.
5 Things You Need to Know Before Picking a Probiotic
1. The type of strain matters most.
The most important thing to consider when choosing a probiotic is its strain. Different supplements use different strains of bacteria to deliver their intended health benefits. Some of the strains found in Align’s products include:
- 24/7 Digestive Support**§: Bifidobacterium 35624—Align’s flagship strain with more than 20 years of research. It helps protect against occasional digestive upsets, maintain healthy bowel function,* and protect against digestive imbalance.*
- Resistance Formula: Saccharomyces Boulardi CNCM1-1079—An effective probiotic that survives antibiotic use.**
- DualBiotic Prebiotic + Probiotic Gummies: Bacillus LactoSpore® —The probiotic strains found in Align’s gummies adds good bacteria to your gut to support your digestive system.*
And yes, all of these products report the respective strains on the label: 35624, CNcm1-1079, and LactoSpore®.
2. The probiotic bacteria must be alive to deliver any benefit.
By definition, a probiotic is alive. If the bacteria isn’t alive, it isn’t a probiotic, plain and simple. If the good bacteria aren’t alive when they reach your digestive system, they can’t give you the benefits you the benefits that they promise.
Even though a probiotic supplement or food with live cultures may have live bacteria in them at some point, the handling and transporting of these products may kill some or even all of the good bacteria that were intended to reach your gut alive. Bacteria are sensitive to heat, and so if not made to survive at room temperature, a probiotic brand may require refrigeration.
The best way to guarantee the culture is alive in your probiotic is to take a dietary supplement with highly engineered packaging that eliminates the need for refrigeration. If you choose to take a probiotic supplement like Align, you can trust that from creation to packaging to you, you’re getting plenty of the good bugs into your gut microbiome.
3. More probiotics doesn’t always mean more benefits.
A colony-forming unit (CFUs) is the measurement used for probiotic supplement dosing. When browsing store shelves for a probiotic supplement, you might see labels with numbers too high to count, or claims that imply more CFUs means a better probiotic. Not true.
Each probiotic strain requires a specific amount of CFUs to deliver its intended health benefit. Adding more CFUs over that specific amount doesn’t mean you are benefitting “more” from that probiotic supplement. So when looking for a probiotic supplement, don’t focus on what has the most CFUs. Instead, focus on what has the right number of CFUs you need to get the health benefit you want.
4. Not all probiotics are tested and backed by research.
There are trillions of bacteria in your gut, so there are plenty of options for bacteria strains in a probiotic. But not all products have science that backs up their claims.
For example, Align’s flagship strain Bifidobacterium 35624 has 20 years of research on this unique probiotic strain, ensuring the strain in the probiotic you choose has been studied to deliver the benefit that matters most to you.
When searching for a probiotic, do research on the probiotic strain in the products you consider to confirm the claims aren’t just empty boasts on the label.
5. Correct packaging is crucial for probiotics to remain alive.
It’s great that more people are talking about their gut health and searching for ways to improve their digestion, but it’s important to ensure the quality of the probiotic you’re taking.
Packaging of probiotics is important in ensuring that the culture remains alive until it reaches your gut. Because bacteria can die in heat, and have a predetermined shelf life, packaging plays an important role in the effectiveness of the supplement. Looking to trusted manufacturers can be a good option to help in your selection process.
Sources (Accessed May 2020)
- International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, “Are all probiotics the same?”
- World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines, “Probiotics and Prebiotics”
- International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, “How to Choose a Probiotic”
- International Probiotics Association, “Let’s educate? What are Probiotics?”