In essence, there are three factors to pay attention to in your search for the right probiotic supplement: Method of manufacture, CFU count, and the specific culture(s) which address your health needs.
Look for a supplement which is ‘manufactured in accordance with cGMP guidelines’. This is one of the few applicable FDA guidelines for nutritional supplements.
The CFU, or ‘Colony Forming Unit’, count is important as, in the worlds of the World Health Organization, probiotics are only effective in adequate amounts. As adverse effects are not common, look for a CFU count of greater than 10 billion per capsule. Most probiotic supplements have between 10 and 20 billion CFU, although they go much higher.
The cultures supplemented by a probiotic will be what ultimately defines the health benefits that you will see.
As for what culture(s) address your health needs, here is a quick run-down, courtesy of WebMD, and a reference table from NewHope to help you decide on a supplement. Look for the probiotic strains mentioned below, as they are well-documented and effective.
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- Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 1;78(9):1073-1078.