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What are the Best Natural Probiotics?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

The best natural probiotics will depend on several factors. First, different types of bacteria colonize in various areas of the body, and the products chosen should be tailored for each particular area. For instance, the intestinal tract may require probiotics containing one particular strain of bacteria, but those meant for vaginal infections will need to contain an entirely different strain. One should also look at the number of live cultures in each capsule, and look at consumer or organizational studies showing which brands survive the longest. Some capsules may originally have several billion organisms per dosage, but if most of them die in the digestive process, they won’t do the body any good.

When choosing the best natural probiotics, it is important to keep in mind what they will be used for. Some are combined in capsule form to aid with a particular ailment, such as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance. Others are meant to aid digestion in general. Although probiotics are more commonly sold for digestive purposes, microorganisms also live in the reproductive tract and other areas of the body.

A bowl of yogurt.
A bowl of yogurt.

It also a good idea to check for the number of cultures found in each type to determine the best natural probiotics. In theory, the more cultures a product contains, the more of them that will actually reach the intended destination. This is not always true because digestive acids may kill many of the bacteria before they reach farther areas of the digestive tract, such as the colon.

To combat this, some makers of probiotics include specialized carbohydrates or simple sugars to protect and feed the bacteria. These are called prebiotics, and they help to ensure that more helpful bacteria make it to the lower portions of the digestive system where they can work. Unless a particular product says on the packaging that it contains prebiotics, it should not be assumed that they are present.

Sometimes it is difficult to determine if a particular probiotic formulation is right for a particular ailment. Some makers list potential benefits on their products, but they may not include whether it is intended to treat a condition, prevent an illness, or work equally well for digestion and the reproductive tract. Although most of the best natural probiotics will be beneficial, those tailored to mimic bacteria found naturally in certain areas of the body work most effectively. Consumers can choose based on the type of bacteria a formulation contains to target certain conditions, but it might be difficult to determine which flora are found in which areas of the body. For example, yogurt contains a strain of lactobacillus, but this is a different strain than what is commonly found in the vagina, making it less effective for treating vaginal infections.

When it doubt, it is best to choose a product that states clearly what it is intended to treat or prevent. If one like this isn’t available, then a product with multiple bacterial strains is the second best choice. Consumers should be advised that consulting a doctor or another health care provider about any particular medical condition is a good idea. Self-diagnosing and treating is not recommended.

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    • A bowl of yogurt.
      A bowl of yogurt.