Probiotic Supplements: 5 Purchasing Tips

Do you understand how to buy probiotic supplements? Or, are you unclear on how they differ? Well, take heart, you are definitely not alone. It seems even some healthcare providers are confused, but they may not know it!

Case in point

My father lived in an assisted living facility a few years ago. The assisted living physician ordered probiotics for him. I remember the doctor sitting at his desk writing the order and at the same time quipping that “all probiotics are the same!” The comment took my breath away. This was only a few years ago, and most health care providers should know they are NOT all the same! There is plenty of research available on how probiotics are both similar but also different. And, there is plenty to consider when purchasing probiotic supplements due to those differences.

Bacteria benefits

A healthy functioning gut has a good balance of bacteria. But, occasionally, that balance of bacteria becomes unbalanced. This may occur due to antibiotic use, illness, stress, or even a poor-quality diet. Research on the health benefits of probiotics is vast and ongoing. Researchers are evaluating how probiotics may affect mental health, cholesterol levels, weight, and various gut conditions. Even our pets are taking these supplements!

 5 probiotic purchasing tips

1. Packaging of probiotic supplements

Probiotics need to be alive to be effective in your body. If they are dead on arrival on purchase, they will be useless to your gut. Therefore, always take a good look at the packaging. Keep in mind that many strains need to be refrigerated to stay alive. If the product needs refrigeration, be sure online shippers are shipping the product with dry ice during warm weather. Blister packaging is an alternative form of packaging and these supplements do not need refrigeration. It’s also important to keep in mind that the supplement companies are doing their own regulation. Therefore, you might want to use a name brand product to insure quality control.

2. Dosages

Potency is usually noted on the label as CFU which stands for “colony forming units”. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by the strain and intended therapy. For general use, take supplements that have a CFU of at least 1 to 10 billion. Many reputable brands may have higher dosages but they are still safe for the consumer.

3. Strains in probiotic supplements

Contrary to the thoughts of my father’s former physician, bacterial strains do matter. For instance, for antibiotic-related diarrhea, it may be advisable to start taking a common drugstore brand such as Culturelle. This product contains Lactobacillus GG which research has suggested to be effective for some types of diarrhea. Other research suggests that it may be even more effective to take a probiotic with multiple species of organisms. In adult women with IBS, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to reduce pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. For cholesterol reduction, Lactobacillus reuteri may be therapeutic.

4. Dosing of probiotic supplements

If you are taking probiotics for overall wellness, keep in mind that the organisms only survive for a few days to weeks. Because of this, it is necessary to keep taking them. Speaking of surviving, some probiotics have an outside coating which allows the product to be effectively delivered to the digestive tract.

5. Food

probiotics from food

Many foods also contain probiotics. Think yogurt, kefir milk, sauerkraut, and kombucha as common sources of probiotic rich foods. And, nutrient dense complex carb foods are usually great sources of prebiotics-the food probiotics use. Those gut bacteria need their own fuel, and fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supply that fuel.

Take away

Remembering to keep these key points in mind when buying supplements: packaging, dosages, strains, and dosing should be driving your purchasing decisions. And, while supplements can be purchased, there are plenty of foods that also contain probiotics. To keep those probiotics well fed, be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Has probiotic use helped your health? Share your thoughts!

For information on purchasing other supplements, read on. 

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Hey Seniors, Reach for These 5 Dietary Supplements


Supplements for seniorsWhile daily use of multi-nutrient supplements has fallen out of favor by some health professionals due to some recent studies, there are five supplements many seniors should take. While food is always the best source of nutrients, certain circumstances with aging may warrant adding these supplements to your diet! Here are the 5 recommended supplements for seniors :

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We have too little of these essential fatty acids in our diet. While fish can be a good contributor of omega-3-fatty acids, eating fish a few times a week is not necessarily going to be insurance requirements are met. Other food sources include walnuts and flaxseed, but consistency is key. If these foods are not eaten regularly, a fish oil supplement a few times per week may be helpful.


We make this nutrient, but we make less of it as we age. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol level, the statin drug will limit your body’s ability to make this nutrient. Consider taking CoQ10 if you are aging or on a cholesterol lowering statin!


While distributed in a wide variety of foods, my clients are often consuming too little of this nutrient. Magnesium may be easily washed and peeled away from foods during processing. A decreased calorie consumption also means less is being consumed through food.

Vitamin D

It is best to get your baseline blood vitamin D levels checked, but chances are you will benefit from at least some additional supplemental vitamin D. While we can make this vitamin, we make less as we age. Increased use of sunscreen will further decrease production of vitamin D. With mounting evidence that vitamin D plays roles in promoting strong bones, healthy blood pressure, fighting infection, and decreasing inflammation and cancer risk, supplementation is frequently warranted.  For more information on why it is hard to actually get enough vitamin D from foods, read on.


If you skip the dairy group, there is a good chance you may not be meeting your calcium requirements. Calcium is important for more than our bones-it also protects against colon cancer and high blood pressure. If you opt out of drinking regular milk and eating dairy products, choose soy, rice, or almond milk. Just make sure the brand you choose is fortified with calcium. If you avoid these products altogether, consider a supplement. Consume 1000 mg up to 50 years of age; for 50+ the requirements increase to 1200 mg.

While my preference is always going to be to get nutrients through food, eating less as we age, medication, and lifestyle may impact our nutritional status.

Any one have other supplements they think we should be taking as we get older?