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Everything You Need To Know About Probiotics


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They can be your digestive system's best friend!

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when eaten in the right amounts, have health benefits including support for digestive health and immune function. They work to keep the gastrointestinal (GI) tract healthy by restoring the balance between good and bad bacteria.

Research shows that probiotics may help with the symptoms caused by the following conditions: diarrhea from antibiotic use, diarrhea from infection, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation and ulcerative colitis. Some people take probiotics for general health benefits as they can improve the health of the digestive system and reduce the frequency of occasional digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea and constipation. Probiotics can be found as supplements (capsules, tablets, powders or drops) or added to foods like yogurt, milk and cheese.

What are probiotics?

How To Choose Probiotics

Different strains of probiotics have different effects, so it is important to choose the correct type of probiotic in the right dose and for the right duration as recommended for the specific health condition or symptoms you want to relieve.

Look for the following information when selecting probiotics:

Genus, species, strain

Probiotics are identified by three names, the genus, species and strain. These names should be specified on the product, e.g. lactobacillus (genus) acidophilus (species) CL 1285 (strain). Find a probiotic with the correct name that is needed to treat your health condition or symptoms.

Number of organisms/serving

The number of live microorganisms in each serving up until the expiration date (not at time of manufacture) should be listed (e.g. 10 billion). Buy your product well before the expiration date.


Check the product label to find out what the suggested dose is. This typically ranges from 100 million to 10+ billion CFU/dose (CFU = Colony Forming Units). However, the dose will vary for different health conditions. The dose should match studies demonstrating their benefit(s).

Storage instructions

Read the package for proper storage instructions. It is often recommended that probiotic supplements be stored in the refrigerator, however not all probiotics need to be refrigerated to remain stable.

Company contact information for customer inquiries

Contact information should be provided on the package for obtaining more information about the product such as scientific studies to support the product.

Probiotics in food

Choosing a probiotic found in food is very similar to choosing a probiotic supplement. When evaluating foods with probiotics you should:

  • Review the product label to determine which strain is present in the food.
  • Determine how many live microorganisms there are per serving and how much you need to eat to get the suggested dose.
  • Find out what published studies have been conducted on the product or the specific strains in the product if the product lists health benefits on its packaging. You can contact the company and ask for further studies and other product information.

What's The Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible food sources that help good bacteria, including probiotics, grow and multiply in the GI tract. They are found naturally in foods like inulin, human milk, wheat, onion, chicory root, garlic, leeks and bananas. Food products may also have prebiotics, such as inulin, added to them.

Tips For Using Probiotics

  • When taking antibiotics, it is recommended to take probiotics 2 hours after consuming the antibiotic, continuing a minimum of 5 days after completion of treatment.
  • Storing probiotics in the fridge may help to ensure that they maintain their maximum strength.
  • It’s important to select a probiotic that provides protection for the bacteria to survive passing through the GI tract until they reach the intestine such as those supplements with an enteric coating.
  • Infants, pregnant women or those with a weakened immune system or major illness should speak with their health care provider before taking probiotics.
  • If you are allergic to milk or soy, be cautious. Some strains of probiotics are grown using a milk or soy protein. Check the label or call the company.

The information provided on this page is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace informed medical advice from a health care professional. Consume foods and supplements according to any guidelines you have been provided from a health care professional. Metro Ontario Pharmacies Limited assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information.

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