With 80 percent of our immune cells located in or near the gut, our digestive systems are critical for optimal health. Probiotics are good bacteria which support the normal functioning of the digestive system and help with the absorption of nutrients. If we have enough, they can stimulate our immune systems and prevent us from getting sick.

Though probiotics can be found in fermented foods and yogurt, commercially prepared foods often don’t provide high enough amounts of good bacteria to offer true health benefits. This is where probiotic supplements can help.

“Probiotics are for everyone. You can take them daily or seasonally during cold and flu season,” says Dr. Nikky Contractor, a microbiome specialist and Head of Research and Development at Metagenics. “It can be challenging for consumers to know which probiotic is best to use.”

According to Dr. Contractor, the best probiotics have been clinically studied and the health benefits have been approved by Health Canada. Friendly bacteria like L. acidophilus NCFM® and B. lactis Bi-07® meet both of these criteria and have been shown to support immune health and a healthy intestinal environment.

Different strains for different folks

There are different strains of probiotics which provide different benefits — some support allergy relief, while others help digest proteins. That’s why it’s important to match the right one with your desired outcome.

To make it easier to understand probiotics, Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic, a clinical pharmacist, created a guide for health care professionals on the variety of vetted, clinically studied probiotic products available in Canada. “You want to be selective in the type of probiotic you take,” she says. “This guide enables clinicians to select the appropriate probiotic and dose for their patients.”

To choose the best probiotic for your needs, speak with a pharmacist or your health care practitioner. Visit probioticchart.ca for more information.