Choosing a probiotic that works for you

Published: 25-Sep-2023

Nutritional expert shares five things to consider

Probiotics have been long-known to play an important part in improving and maintaining gut health, but what might be the most important thing to consider is which type of probiotic will suit you best depending on your gender, age, lifestyle and presenting health concerns.

Here are five things to think about when choosing the right probiotic for you from expert Nutritional Therapist and CEO of market-leading supplement brand Cytoplan, Amanda Williams.

“The gut health space can be overwhelming to someone who is looking to improve or maintain their digestive system. First, there are a wide range of well-known and lesser-known symptoms from chronic abdominal pain, indigestion and food intolerances to skin irritation, anxiety and sugar cravings — all linked to poor gut health."

"What we do know is that it is often said that the gut is the seat of all health; a damaged or stressed gut can trigger inflammation and the gut is also the site of 70% of the immune system and is therefore fundamental for protection against infection."

“The gut flora is involved in the production of neurotransmitters and short chain fatty acids which communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve, hence gut issues can have a significant effect on cognition."

"Also, the gut flora is heavily involved in hormone metabolism particularly of thyroid, adrenal (stress) and reproductive hormones, so with any hormone dysregulation condition, gut function should be considered. There is also strong evidence that gut dysfunction can contribute to obesity and metabolic syndrome."

“Therefore, in almost any health condition, the gut can potentially be playing a role.”

“Any gut health programme should involve health and lifestyle choices such as eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole foods and fibre, getting plenty of water, mindful eating, and a focus on prebiotic and probiotic foods."

“However the balance of bacteria within the gut can be easily disrupted by stress, poor diet, excess alcohol, illness, medication and antibiotic use and this is where a probiotic supplement can help us to maintain a balance of beneficial bacteria. I believe the power in probiotics is choosing a probiotic supplement that is specifically created with age, gender and lifestyle in mind."

When choosing a probiotic supplement it’s important to consider the following to ensure the best chance of optimal results.

Age: Our guts age as we do and we see changes to the balance of bacteria in the gut. We also see changes in our ability to produce stomach acid, digestive enzymes and absorb nutrients, these factors have an influence on the bacteria further down the digestive tract.  

Different strains are more suitable depending on our age too, so look for a probiotic that is specifically formulated for your age. For example after the age of 40 our levels of Bifidobacterium tend to deplete, therefore it can be useful at this age to select a probiotic that provides higher levels of Bifidobacterium strains.

There are also probiotics which have been designed to support children and babies microbiome. For young children (under 3) it is important to consider strains that have been specifically researched and selected for this age group, these include Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium infantis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.

Gender: It’s important to consider the difference gender plays too, for example a probiotic formulated for women might include Lactobacillus helvecticus — a specific strain that has been shown to provide support to the female ecosystem.

Preference: When choosing the right probiotic supplement it's important to make sure that the strains collectively have activity throughout the whole GI tract, and are acid, bile and antibiotic resistant.

Choosing a probiotic that works for you

A multi strain is always a good idea as this will support a more diverse microbiome, and to effortlessly include a probiotic into your daily regime consider using either a capsule if that’s how you usually take nutritional supplements or if you have a morning smoothie for example; a probiotic powder would be an easy addition here.

Lifestyle: It is useful to support the health of the gut before and during travelling. Changes to the environment, food, water and other bacteria can lead to disturbed digestion or gut derived infections.

The probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii is often used by travellers to protect against infections. It competes with pathogenic micro-organisms for space and resources as well as supporting gut immunity.

A good multi strain probiotic can also be useful for travelling. A healthy balance of gut flora supports normal nutrient absorption, waste product detoxification as well as immune function, therefore a multi strain probiotic including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera can be supportive for those with more active lifestyles too.

Use: A broad multi strain probiotic can be appropriate for long-term use. A hundred years ago every mouthful of food had 1000 times more bacteria in it compared with today, so we were constantly re-inoculating our guts.

In today’s society we exist in a more sterile environment and therefore have less exposure to these health supporting bugs. A probiotic supplement can help to provide beneficial bacteria that we no longer obtain from the diet.

If using a high potency or specific strain probiotic it would be more beneficial to utilise these in the short term and then switch to a broad spectrum multi strain probiotic. Pets can also benefit from obtaining more live bacteria, however always ensure that products are specifically designed for your furry friends.

“Overall try to look for a probiotic with several different species of live bacteria and effective strains which can withstand stomach and bile acids. A multi strain is always a good idea as this will support a more diverse microbiome.”

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