Americans are expected to spend $2.5 billion annually on probiotic supplements by 2018. Which makes sense because probiotics have numerous health benefits, from digestive and immune support to weight management. But some experts, including leading pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos, BSc, Phm, RPh, warn that common myths may be keeping us from getting some or all of these benefits.
“Probiotics can be very beneficial for overall health, but there’s a lot of confusion in part because there are so many different types and strains,” she confirms. “It’s worth educating yourself so that you and your family can start getting the rewards of everyday usage.”
What you need to know when selecting a probiotic
Torkos, an integrative health expert who has authored 18 books and booklets, says that while probiotics are very popular there are still too many misconceptions about them. She reviews the top four below.
Myth #1: Yogurt and other fermented foods are sufficient probiotics sources. “You’ll want to include these in your diet because they provide a great base. But chances are you’re not going to get enough probiotics to enjoy the full health benefits. It’s hard to quantify how many probiotics you’re consuming. A lot of yogurts, for example, don’t state the amount of live cultures on their labels because probiotics are highly unstable. Also, stay away from yogurts made with added sugar, because sugar destroys the beneficial bacterial.
If your intention is to boost your probiotics intake through your diet, you also need to feed the beneficial bacteria with soluble prebiotic fiber. Good sources are beans, bananas and artichokes.
Myth #2: The higher the probiotics count on the label, the better the product . “A lot of people believe that if it’s extra strength, it must be better. That’s rarely the case with probiotics, because so many factors affect their quality, from the type of strain used and manufacturing process to packaging and shelf stability. You can’t always rely on what’s on the label. Manufacturers will often overload their products with probiotics because the strains they use may not survive shelf storage until the expiration date, and they can also get destroyed in the gut after consumption. So even if they are “supersized” there may be no benefit.
“Choose a brand that is independently verified to meet its label claims. Then follow the storage instructions on the label because probiotics are affected by light, moisture and temperature. Don’t store them in your bathroom or on your windowsill, for example.
“Freshness dating is critical. Consider brands such as Hyperbiotics that have subscription program. That helps ensure you’ve always got access to a fresh batch.”
Myth #3: All probiotic strains are created equal. You need to evaluate what each strain does compared with your health goals, because each probiotic strain has different benefits. My advice is to keep it simple. Look for a variety of strains, as opposed to single strain products, that are targeted to your specific needs. For example, Hyperbiotics has several specific formulas including those designed for moms, kids, weight management or for people over 50.”
Myth #4: The most effective probiotics are expensive and must be refrigerated. “That used to be the case, but not anymore. Now refrigerated probiotics are seen as having poor or inferior stability. Plus refrigeration isn’t convenient. You can shop for Hyperbiotics at Target. Hyperbiotics uses a new patented time-release technology. Their probiotics formulas are shelf-stable and they are protected as they pass through your stomach into the gut, so more of them survive.”
Torkos concludes: “Always opt for clean supplements with clean ingredients. And remember: If it’s not survivable or it’s not the right strain, it’s not the right one for you.” For more information on the health benefits of targeted probiotics, visit www.hyperbiotics.com.
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author, and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. Sherry graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since that time, she has been practicing holistic pharmacy in the Niagara region of Ontario. Her philosophy of practice is to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Sherry has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care.