Shopping for probiotics can be an amazingly overwhelming experience. Which is strange for such a straightforward bottle of supplement pills. But as they’ve continued to grow in popularity, so too has the competition.

Last week I set forth on a mission to conquer those tricky Latin-filled labels (acidophilus bifidus or bacillus laterosporus?) because it was a shopping conquest that I’d decided was important. But why was I obsessing over buying the right probiotic?

After having battled yet another bad succession of colds last winter I happened upon an article on the far-reaching benefits of taking probiotics. I’d only ever bought probiotics when I was prescribed antibiotics so I’d never given them much thought as anything more. But the article heralded probiotics as a preventative measure against everything from colds and flus to colon cancer, allergies and autoimmune conditions. Colds aside, I’m also a life member of the allergy club (you name it, I’m allergic to it) so my curiosity peaked even more.

It turns out that all these claims are indeed backed by scientists. They believe that many of these conditions either directly relate to, or are exacerbated by an imbalance in those little microorganisms that live in our guts.[1] It turns out that when Dr. Hippocrates declared that “All disease begins in the gut” in the 4th Century B.C. he may actually have deserved a little more credit.

It’s not just antibiotics killing off the “good bacteria”. Stress, illness and bad dietary habits can all wreak havoc as well.[2] The result of this culling of healthy flora is that it allows certain diseases and conditions to flourish. So, it only makes sense that we may need to introduce good bacteria into our guts on a more regular basis.

The way probiotics work is bizarrely fascinating when you think about it. Probiotic pills are crammed with millions, even billions, of living organisms that are on a mission to do battle in our guts. Grossed out? If so, remember that you’ve been eating yoghurt for years and yoghurt is jam-packed with them.

Speaking of millions and billions, it’s can be funny to observe the multitude of probiotic manufacturers trying to outdo each other with their highly competitive bottle advertisments – “4.4 billion probiotics”,  “Targeted Release”, “50 billion guaranteed with 16 strains”. That is, until you actually have to select one.

I find myself at my local pharmacy, standing blankly in front of the probiotic section for ten whole minutes without making a selection. Every bottle seems to shout a new claim at me and I don’t know which is better than the next. I look at the prices. Perhaps the more expensive ones are best?  But then this cheaper bottle is “gastroenterologist recommended” and surely that must count for something? I hate pills so I eye off the chewy kids-style gummies. But they appear to have less strains – don’t I need more strains? Let the meltdown begin.

I left without any probiotics that day.  I decided I needed to do more internet research so that I could be absolutely sure that I was buying the best (and ideally, best value) product. I got home and took to google in a frenzy but quickly faced down page after page of even more products than the pharmacy shelves. Luckily, I happened to click on a brand that took me over to read more over at Amazon.

Now, I’ll proudly give Amazon a plug any day. I’m obsessed with Amazon Prime for both its postage and film and TV and I buy more books from them than a retired librarian. But I certainly didn’t think I’d find myself exploring the pro and cons of probiotic consumption on Amazon.

As with everything else they handle, Amazon seem to have a way of organizing products in a clear and informative way. They also have the beauty of “the review” which I’ve utilized in the past to ensure that I was getting the best high-powered blender, car stereo adaptor and even Star Wars coffee thermos.

If you search the term “Amazon Probiotics” you’ll automatically see all of Amazon’s top selling probiotics in your search feed. These are going to be the ones that people love and keep buying and/or keep reviewing highly. But better yet, if you click on what should be the first item on those search results, “Amazon Best Sellers: Best Probiotic Nutritional Supplements” you’re going to get all of these on one simple page, in their rated order – well, five pages in reality if you’d like to view the top 100 Amazon probiotics. This is incredibly helpful. I literally just took the first page – the top 20 – and starting reading the reviews as well as info about each product. There’s also a Q & A section where most suppliers happily answer consumer questions. In a nutshell, what you’re getting is everything in the one place rather than having to explore excessive amounts of websites. With the added bonus of full reviews and answers on each of the ranked Amazon probiotics.

After diving into to all this information, I felt really empowered with my buying choice. I felt as if I was getting the best product for the right price with the help of other consumers, not just big business health companies trying to impress me with fancy words.

Another great tip with Amazon probiotics is that Amazon now has subscription services for many of its products which means you can get everything from your protein powder, shampoo, baby diapers or probiotics delivered at regular time intervals. By doing so, you end up with larger discounts and you won’t have to remember to renew your order. This is handy with pills because your supply will always be limited. With probiotics you’ll usually only get 30 – 60 pills or 1 – 2 months supply in each jar.

So, here I stand, a probiotics pro.  Who’d have thought?

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867412001043

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/