How do you choose a probiotic?

How do you choose a probiotic?

  • Probiotics 101

  • By Vanessa Daigle, Nutritionist-speaker and content creator

    It's Monday night, and you're on your way to the pharmacy to pick up some probiotics. You'll be traveling soon, and you think it's a good idea to pick up a few capsules to prevent traveler's diarrhea. But once you're there, you realize just how wide the selection is. How do you choose? Which probiotic is right for you? How many bacteria should it contain? Is a higher bacteria count necessarily better? I agree, it's not always easy to know how to choose. Let's take a look at what to look for when selecting probiotics.

    The importance of the strain

    You've probably noticed how long and complex the names of some probiotic strains are. Are these terms confusing? Yet they're actually quite appropriate. In fact, each strain of bacteria has specific properties. In other words, one strain may be effective in boosting immunity, while another may be beneficial for constipation, for example. Although strains are important, there's no need to spend hours trying to memorize the ones that suit your needs, since the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products does the job for you. More on this below. 

    More and more bacteria? 

    The question that always comes up in connection with probiotics is certainly that of the bacteria count present in the supplements. Is “more” bacteria better than “less”? Not necessarily! Once again, scientific evidence is the key. 

    Choosing a probiotic: 3 simple steps

    Although the terms may seem complex, choosing the right product for your needs can be as simple as 1-2-3. Literally. Let's have a look.

    Step 1: Identify the reason for using the product: First of all, define the reason for taking the product. Is it for digestive symptoms, to prepare for a trip, after taking antibiotics or an infection, etc.? Just like medication, different strains of probiotics are effective for specific needs. There's a solution for every cause.  

    Step 2: Consult the Clinical Guide to probiotic products: The Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products available in Canada lists all the scientific evidence relating to probiotics. You'll find a ranking of products that have demonstrated their efficacy, according to the different reasons for their use.

    Step 3: Note the changes: The response to probiotics varies from person to person. For this reason, it can be interesting to take note of the effects experienced when taking a supplement. This remains subjective, but you can still keep a journal to record any symptoms (if any) and their progression. This way, you will have a better idea of what works, or doesn't work, for you.

    Warning: some probiotics contain lactose. If you are lactose-intolerant, make sure the product of your choice is lactose-free. 

    In conclusion, I agree that the information displayed on probiotic supplements may seem complex at first glance. However, taking the time to make the right selection that's consistent with your needs can certainly improve your user experience. Referring to the steps presented above will undoubtedly help you navigate it more quickly, but above all, avoid unnecessary expenses.

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    Vanessa Daigle Nutritionist-speaker and content creator
    About the author
    Vanessa is a member of the “Ordre des diététistes - nutritionnistes du Québec”. She works daily in private clinics and as a self-employed communication specialist. As passionate about people as she is about nutrition, she takes great pleasure in sharing her knowledge on a larger scale, via her blog, her podcast Zone Grise, but also through radio shows and conferences.
    View all articles by Vanessa Daigle
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