Probiotics are packed with plenty of health benefits, including helping people to lose weight. Here’s five key things to know before you invest your money in a weight loss probiotic.
Alrighty then! You’ve decided to get to work and level up your health.
And to get started, this means losing some weight.
Having done some preliminary research on the web you head down to your local natural foods shop and browse the collection of probiotics for weight loss.
Countless labels, smiling back at you, speaking a language that is far out there.
Live bacteria! Good bacteria! Lactobacillus! 100 billion CFU!
Which can make it hard to figure out which probiotic is gonna help you along the path of losing some weight and having a healthier overall gut.
Fret not, mon frere!
In this handy little guide, we are going to give you an overview of what you need to know before picking out a probiotic for weight loss.
Let’s jump right in.
1. What kind of strains does the probiotic have?
If you had to guess how many different types of bacteria line your digestive system, and your guts in particular, what would you guess?
10? 50? 100?
Try between 300 and 500!
This hodgepodge of different species of bacteria comprises around 2 million genes1.
Which makes reading a probiotic label particularly challenging. Each one has a different list of bacterial strains list as their primary ingredients.
The two most common types that are found in popular probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
See also: Are Probiotics Good for Weight Loss?
Additionally, and this should really help you to clarify the different kinds, is each strain either starts with an L or a B.
- Strains that start with an L do their best work in the small intestine.
- Strains that start with a B work primarily in the large intestine.
Okay, now that we’ve got a basic lay of the language, let’s move on to the next thing to know…
2. How many strains does the probiotic feature?
Looking at a label for a probiotic you’ll likely notice that there isn’t just one bacterial strain listed, but a bunch.
For example, one of my favorite probiotics for weight loss, BioFit probiotic, has seven different strains listed in the ingredients:
- Bacillus subtilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
Multi-strain probiotics have been shown to be more effective compared to single-strain probiotics2.
Researchers aren’t sure (at this point) if this is due to synergistic interactions or simply because “more is better.”
In any event, probiotics with a mixture of different kinds of bacteria have better results when it comes gut function, immune function, reducing inflammation3, IBS, and yes, weight loss.
3. How many CFU per dose?
CFU, not to be mixed-up with the thing that powers our computers, stands for colony-forming units.
This is a measurement of how many bacteria are included with each dose.
The numbers here can get really high, to the point that it boggles the mind.
A single dose of BioFit, for example, has 5.75 billion CFU.
Other popular probiotic brands market CFO counts of 10, 20, and in some cases, 100 billion CFUs.
Of course, more doesn’t always mean better, and for most people looking to lose weight, studies have found that dosing with as little as 3 billion CFUs per day was enough to kickstart weight loss3.
Other digestive issues, like autoimmune disorders or rebounding after a heavy run of antibiotics (which can be particularly rough on the lining of the gut), may require upping the dosage to replenish your guts.
(As always, consult with a physician before taking any kind of medication or natural health supplements.)
4. What kind of coating or cap does each dose of probiotic have?
Ever heard the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger”?
Of course you have.
In this case, it’s your stomach and the churning vat of acid that has a gun pointed squarely at anything that enters.
In the past, probiotics that didn’t have an enteric coat or a delayed-release shell died a brave, but ultimately early, death in the stomach, rendering all of those little good bacteria useless.
Nowadays, most (or at least all of the probiotics I’ve seen and tried) probiotics have a coat or shell that allows them to pass through the stomach so that it can get home to the intestine where they can release their payload.
5. When does the probiotic expire?
Although probiotics are an absolute boss once they get into the depths of our digestive system, on the outside they are a little less resilient.
Probiotics have a shelf life and they need to be stored properly.
Intuitively, this should make sense as bacteria is a living thing and all.
For starters, the shelf life of probiotics is around 1-2 years for most quality brands. Probiotics lose efficacy over time, with some brands noting that they can lose up to 10-20% potency month over month. Refrigerating them is one way to extend the life of shelf-stable probiotics.
Ultimately, if you buy them, use them!
The best way to get the most of your fancy-pants new probiotics—and to accrue all of the health and weight-loss benefits associated with them—is to take them consistently.
The Bottom Line
Although probiotics can seem like a wonder supplement—and in some ways, particularly those with digestive disorders—they are simply a piece of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss.
While studies have shown that they can significantly cut down on belly fat (one group of obese individuals saw belly fat go down by over 8% in three months4), they work best when you follow a routine of healthy eating, exercise, and taking care of your mental health and properly managing stress.