AUTHOR: Dr. Jason Bush
Health supplements offer convenient ways of adding a nutritional boost to our diet, whether it be in the form of a vitamin, isolated protein, or complete meal contained in a single drink. But personal preferences regarding taste, smell, and texture can influence the products you choose.
For example, prepared supplement beverages often have excellent flavours but may require inconvenient cold storage. This would also be the case for many functional foods containing probiotics, including yogurt. On the other hand, powdered supplements may be stable regardless of the temperature, but require that you overcome unpleasant flavours or odours when consuming them.
Beyond storage and taste, it is also important to consider what benefits you hope to gain by taking the supplement. For those looking to supplement their diet with protein, commercial shakes may be an obvious choice. However, many of these supplements also contain added sugar, high levels of sodium, or may not meet their dietary requirements in the case of lactose-intolerant or vegan individuals.
For people interested in using a supplement to improve gut health, pill-form (encapsulated) probiotics may be their first choice, as these products are simple to take and contain live bacteria capable of contributing to gut health. But it should be noted that most bacteria contained in probiotic supplements will not survive the trip through the gastrointestinal tract and many strains are unable to colonize the gut, meaning that they offer only temporary benefits.
Prebiotic supplements also promote a healthy gut microbiome but do so by feeding the beneficial bacteria already present in your digestive tract, allowing them to grow and flourish. And prebiotics offer additional benefits that probiotics cannot: Since prebiotics are fermentable carbohydrates that resist digestion, they generally count towards your daily dietary fiber intake.
Navigating the world of health supplements can be a challenge, even for people who have been using them for years. While the simplicity and convenience of probiotic pills are appealing, it may be helpful to develop a full understanding of the benefits of prebiotics, which come in various forms. By clearly addressing the health challenges that you hope to solve and the benefits you seek, it will be easier for you to choose the best health supplement for you.