If you’re interested in general health, immunity, or high performance, probiotics might hold the key to upgraded health. But, in order to unlock the benefits fo probiotics, you need to make sure you are eating the right foods and -- more importantly -- supplying your body with the right strain that boosts the way your body works.

Before you purchase another probiotic-infused product, be warned that most are useless. Here's how to make sure you supplement wisely.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. These microorganisms are important for everyone because gut bacteria can help with everything from strengthening your immune system and absorbing vitamins and minerals, to protecting the health of your brain and supporting fat loss.

We know that probiotics can potentially increase the number of healthy bacteria in your body or support new growth if your gut is unhealthy. But, there are endless types (called strains) of probiotics and not all of them have benefits.

While there isn’t risk in taking probiotics, if you’re going to invest, you want to make sure you are taking supplements that actually benefit your health, or combining them with the right foods to ensure they are absorbed.

What Do Probiotics Do?

If you’re interested in high performance, probiotics might have some very valuable benefits. When you exercise, research suggests that physical activity provides a long-term boost to your overall immune system. But, in the short-term, when you push your body — especially if you have other stressors (like work or a lack of sleep) — your workouts might make you more vulnerable to disease.

That’s because the stress of exercise leads to a short-term decrease in your immune function (while your body recovers). This isn’t a bad thing in terms of creating a serious risk, but it can make you more susceptible to illnesses like the common cold.

Some research suggests taking specific probiotics may support immune health and potentially reduce the risk or duration of the common cold. In particular, the research focused on endurance athletes and people who train during the winter, which is when your risk is the highest. Supplementing with the right probiotics (more on this in a moment), might keep your immune system stronger and help fight off illness that can keep you out of the gym.

What Are Probiotics Good For?

First off, if you're going to add probiotics to your diet, skip the fortified foods. That means foods like popcorn, cereal, granola, and breakfast bars that are "infused" with probiotics are a waste of your money. Probiotics are bacteria that can't survive in the foods listed above. They need a cool, dry environment, or to be grown in a cultured environment such as dairy, yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut. 

If you’re looking for an all-in-one product, probiotics that are added to protein powders are a better option. These powders provide a transport system that helps the probiotics survive your digestive tract, which means they have a better chance of colonizing in your body and delivering all the intended benefits.

When it comes to the ideal strains, different probiotics offer different benefits. Here's what you should be looking for on the label:

For immune support: Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum.

For fighting stress-induced fatigue: Lactobacillus casei

For improving cholesterol (and lowering triglycerides): Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus reuteri.

For fat loss and digestion: Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and the combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis.

For fighting inflammation: Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum

The Right Probiotic For You

In general, you want to look for products with a minimum of 2 billion CFU and multiple strains to help survive the environment of your stomach. Ladder formulated high-performance Whey Protein and Plant Protein that provides the correct dose of probiotics your body needs. Each serving offers 8 different strains that support immune function and fight fatigue that results from stress and exhaustion.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.