Probiotics. Have you ever heard about this term before? Do you want to know what these things are and what they could do to your body? Are they bad? Are they good? And if so, are they necessary? Well, you are in the right place. If you want to learn more, read our extensive guide to probiotics, along with the best products in this category that are suitable for every age.
The word probiotic comes from the Latin term pro which means “for” and the Greek word biotic meaning “life” – which gives probiotics. According to the official WHO definition, they are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Prebiotics are mainly derived from oligosaccharides, and they represent food for probiotics. Basically, prebiotics keep probiotics living.
How They are Named
You might have noticed, if you have ever taken a look at probiotic supplements, that they have weird names like Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1. That’s because these substances are labeled through a Latin nomenclature. But don’t let that confuse you or repel you. Here’s what those weird names indicate for each probiotic supplement you find on the market:
Their species, acidophilus for example
Their genus — the group of bacteria that the probiotics belongs to. Most commonly we have the Bifidobacterium and the lactobacillus.
The strain designation like DDS-1 for example
What can the name tell us? Well, knowing the bacteria’s name can be useful in linking that organism to studies published about it. For example, the manufacturer of a specific supplement can state that the product they’re selling can help with diarrhea. If that’s the case, then you should expect to find Lactobacillus rhamnosus written on the package.
Do You Need Probiotics?
In short, yes you do.
But answer this first: Can you guess why industrialized nations witness an increase in allergies, asthma and multiple autoimmune conditions? Well, even though the subject needs more research, the thought that germs are harmful to us has led us to believe that keeping one’s self-healthy is dependent on over the top cleanliness. That’s why many take antibiotics for any issue they face and have hand sanitizers by their side at all time. What’s ironic is that this is what helped pathogens get into our insides and cause us multiple problems.
Beneficial bacteria help in maintaining our health at a molecular level. For example, probiotics:
- Help in the production of vitamins K and B
- Maintain healthy gastrointestinal motility and function
- Make sure that nutrient absorption and digestion are optimal
- Enhance the immunity
- Oppose the growth of bacteria and pathogens causing diseases
- Decrease chronic low-grade inflammation
Can Probiotics Cause Diseases?
If you ever decide to change your eating regimen substantially or start using probiotic supplements, there’s a chance that you are going to experience some bad and unpleasant symptoms, called the Jarisch Herxheimer reaction. It happens because of the overwhelming release of toxins by pathogens as they die. This phenomenon can cause a variety of symptoms like:
- Muscle pain
- Excess secretion of mucus
- Skin Rashes
- Brain lethargy and fog
- Stress issues
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Bedwetting, tiredness, and other symptoms for children
Probiotics can lead to flatulence and bloating in easily affected individuals. If these effects continue for more than a week, then it could mean that you might be experiencing some digestion issues, or it could simply mean that you are having an adverse reaction to the supplements.
Who Shouldn’t Take Probiotics?
Now in most cases, taking probiotics won’t do you any harm. But there are people out there that can be negatively affected by them due to certain medical conditions.
There are specific groups of people that must not take probiotics without medical supervision:
- Severely ill people
- Those with vulnerable immune systems
- People with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Individuals with cardiac valvular issues
- People already using broad range antibiotics that the probiotic may resist to
Anyone using sulfasalazine must not use any supplements having Lacidophilus without a doctor’s permission.
These bacteria can accelerate the sulfalazine’s metabolism, which will influence its effectiveness.
Using probiotics through a jejunostomy tube should require precautions. It can elevate the number of probiotic organisms that can reach the intestine and result in die-off (Jarisch Herxheimer reaction) symptoms.
HIV patients can find some use in probiotics as they can improve immune functions.
In one study, researchers gave pancreatitis patients either a probiotic supplement or a placebo. It’s been found that those who got probiotics got more infections than the others. Also, 16% of the probiotics patients died in comparison to 6% in the placebo group.
Now we can’t conclude that the probiotics killed the patients. Severely ill individuals could die from bread yeast infections. It could be that the immune system considered these probiotics as threats and triggered a reaction.
Where Can You Find Probiotics Besides Supplements?
In a healthy diet, fermented foods are necessary, and they do contain a lot of probiotics. These foods include:
Kefir/coconut kefir, Kimchi, sauerkraut, Kimchi, Nattō, Miso, carrot kvass and beet, Sauerruben, Kombucha, fermented pickles
Make sure that commercially made fermented foods aren’t pasteurized if you intend to buy them. Pasteurization considers good and bad bacteria all the same and eliminates them. Thus, it results in products with no probiotic values.
Why Most Yogurts don’t Contain Probiotics
Many yogurts are advertised as having active cultures. But it’s unlikely that you’ll find any probiotic benefits in them.
The milk is often pasteurized and contains antibiotics. Some companies use pasteurization after adding the cultures.
Adding flavors can weaken the probiotic properties of organisms existing in the product.
How to Choose What’s Best for You?
There’s an ocean of probiotic supplement out there on the market, so naturally, it can be quite overwhelming to choose one. So hopefully, this guideline that we’ve constructed can help you determine what will be suitable for you.
These Three Kinds of Bacteria Should At Least Be Present in the Probiotic:
Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum): They can commonly be found in the adult digestive system. They protect the inner wall of the gut by producing anti-inflammatory substances and keep pathogens and toxins away from it.
Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum): They are essential for digestion and can be found in the large and small intestines
Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus): They exist naturally in the mouth, vagina, and intestines. They produce lactase and vitamin K, and they help out with the absorption of nutrients and digestion of dairies.
Products that also contain additional strains (e.g., Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus Plantarum and Lactobacillus bulgaricus) would be better candidates
Make Sure That it States the Expiry Date:
Probiotics won’t do you any help if they’re not alive when you use them. Yes, that’s an undeniable fact, but just make sure to buy a product with a clearly stated expiry date as you have no way of knowing how much bacteria are still alive without it.
Stability tests and formulation determine the expiry date. It lets you know how long the bacteria will remain alive and competent in accordance to the levels stated on the package.
If you have a supplement A states on its label that it contains “X CFUs at the time of manufacture” (X being a certain number) and a supplement B that has “X CFUs at the time of consumption, prior to expiration” on its label, then product B would provide more probiotics than A.
You Need to Protect the Bacteria:
The stomach acid kills much of the bacteria that gets into the digestive tract. And 80% of the surviving ones would perish before reaching the intestines. Many probiotic products state that they deliver billions of living bacteria cells with each capsule, but only 15 to 25% actually make it to your gut.
To make sure that you get as much as possible from the product, you’ll have to buy one that’s microencapsulated. A lipid envelope protects the bacteria from oxygen, bile, stomach acid and light in the microencapsulated supplements. Research shows that microencapsulation can allow for all the bacteria in the package to survive in the stomach. In fact, the lipid protection will only start to dissolve once it reaches the intestines because of the alkaline pH. But unfortunately, microencapsulation is not used in most probiotics on the market.
How About Enteric Coating?
Enteric coating is a kind of protective layer that can withstand gastric acid and would dissolve in alkaline environments such as the intestines. That may sound just as good, but actually, the enteric coating needs heating which will, unfortunately, destroy the probiotics unless done with some innovative technology. As it is in the case of New Rhythm probiotics, giving it its targeted release technology.
Should You Check the Packaging?
Absolutely. The wrong environment can kill probiotics. Heat can destroy them for example, and excessive moisture can render them active within their packaging, and because of that, they can die due to the absence of a suitable environment and nutrition. Make sure that the product you use comes in an opaque, thick package with a desiccant.
Would it Not be Better to Purchase the Supplement That Has Got the Highest CFU?
CFU, which is short for colony-forming units, is the unit by which the experts measure the number of working bacteria cells that are present in the probiotic supplement. Several marketers claim that the probiotics that come with the highest CFU are the best one. But that’s not necessarily the case. That’s just a marketing ploy. Research has shown that going with several different strains of bacteria would be better and more beneficial for the following reasons:
- Different bacteria provide different benefits for your body
- They are located in various areas of the gut where each one would have a different vital role to play.
- The combination of different bacteria can deliver better health results
So, to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your investment in a particular product, try to get your hands on a supplement containing a variety of bacteria strains instead of maintaining your judgment on the CFU number. But having said that, the product that you’re going to buy should at the very least contain a minimum of 3 strains, and 2 billion cells for each strain that it provides to ensure that you’re getting the results you want from every kind of bacteria
So, How Many CFUs Are Required Each Day?
Well, it really depends on a number of factors. One of them is your age; a kid won’t be having the same number as an adult. Another would be whether you are in need of a maintenance dose or a therapeutic dose. For me personally, I try to follow the guideline mentioned below when I take my supplements (The highest and lowest doses correspond respectively to the therapeutic and the maintenance doses):
- Babies under 12 months: a dose of 1 to 2 billion bacteria cells daily
- Kids that are 1 to 2 years old: a dose of 2 to 4 billion bacteria cells daily
- A child between 2 and four years old: a dose of 4 to 8 billion bacteria cells daily
- Kids between 4 and ten years old: a dose of 8 to 12 billion bacteria cells daily
- Children between 12 and 16 years old: a dose of 12 to 15 billion bacteria cells daily
- Adults: a dose of 15 to 20 billion bacteria cells daily
But you need to know that if you are just starting to use probiotic supplements, then it’s vital that you start building up the dose that you take quite slowly. Take note of any die-off symptoms that you might experience. If you don’t encounter any symptoms, then you can gradually elevate the dose. Again, if something feels off, you’ll have to settle on that dose until the signs wear off. When they do, then you’re allowed to increase the dose once again and then let your body to get used to the new amount. You’ll keep elevating the serving until the point where you hit a therapeutic dose. Do not rush the process as this can take a few weeks to accomplish or even as long as a few months. At the end of the day, it all depends on the person.
Now, when you hit that therapeutic dose, you’ll want to maintain it for six months or so. This will give your body a sufficient amount of time to destroy the pathogens that might be causing you trouble and commence the colonization of the gut with the bacteria that’s going to help you out.
Let’s take an example:
If an adult individual is using a probiotic supplement that offers up to 2 billion CFUs with each capsule, then that person is allowed to start taking only one capsule each day. After some time, they can gradually begin elevating the dosage to up to 10 pills each day (With 2 billion CFU in each capsule and having a dose of 10 tablets, we end up with 20 billion CFUs being consumed each day). Now this individual is then going to have to keep going with this therapeutic dose for about six months. After that, he will have to take it down a notch to 8 or 7 capsules each day, and that would be his maintenance dose.
Will You Have to Take Probiotic Supplements Every Day?
The reality is that that won’t be a necessary thing. After hitting the maintenance dose, you would want to maintain that dose for about two weak or so. After that, it is recommended that you consume about 10 billion CFUs only twice per week. One advice I can give you is that you should start paying attention to your body’s reactions to different things. For example, if by consuming supplements twice a week only cause suboptimal alterations to start happening with your bowel movements, then you should pay attention to that. And to fix that, you might want instead to begin taking the supplements on every other day.
How to Go About Taking the Supplement?
Ingest it separately from food as that would allow the bacteria to better take over your gut. Besides that, eating leads to more production of gastric acid in the stomach and of course, you don’t want that. Also, do not use pepsin and betaine supplements with the probiotics at the same time.
Should You avoid Probiotics When Using Antibiotics?
No. On the contrary, it is encouraged to take probiotics with high potency when using antibiotics. But you have to separate them by 3 or 4 hours. Also, it can be beneficial to keep ingesting probiotics for over a month after being done with your antibiotic medication.
How Can You Make the Probiotics More Efficient?
Simply put, keep a diet that consists of real food, as in food that your grandma is familiar with. Chemical additives, sugar, and processed foods can give the pathogens a boost and oppose to the Probiotic’s activity.
What to Keep in Mind Before Purchasing
Probiotics won’t just miraculously make your conditions magically disappear. To make sure that you’re getting the most out of the supplements that you’ve purchased, you’ll have to be eating real food. In addition to that, do note that all body-type are not the same, and what works for somebody else might have adverse effect on you. With that in mind, it is advisable to consult with a Physician before taking any Probiotic supplement. So as to know what strains will be helpful to you based on your body-type. Then you build up your dosage capacity gradually as advised earlier in this guide.
Best Probiotic Supplements 2019
Best Probiotics for Adults
1. Vitamin Bounty – Pro 50 Probiotic
With 50 Billion organisms per serving, Vitamin Bounty’s Pro 50 Probiotic is among the most potent products in the market. It has fermented greens (Barley Grass, Oat Grass, Wheat Grass, and Alfalfa) as well as 13 Probiotic strains, giving it the ability to make your digestion process far more effective to fight several issues such as lactose intolerance, IBS, or mild-upset stomach. Each of these stains targets a specific area in the digestive tract for better absorption of proteins, fiber, fats, and carbs.
This supplement is delivered in a glass bottle made in an NSF certified facility in the USA. The capsules are delayed-release which allows them to withstand the stomach’s acidic secretion in order to reach the intestines intact. Besides, the Probiotic strains are freeze-dried to conserve their effects and freshness.
Consuming this formula is safe for both adult men and women, and the capsules are easy to swallow. This supplement doesn’t contain common allergens such as gluten, whey, and soy. Consult your doctor if you’re pregnant, have a medical condition, are under 18, or are currently under certain medication such as antidepressants. Avoid using it if you have an allergy to one of the ingredients, notably Barley Grass, Oat Grass, or Wheat Grass.
- Release-delayed to withstand rough acidic conditions
- The formula contains 50 billion CFU
- Easy to swallow capsules
- This supplement may not work for some people
2. NewRhythm Probiotics
Made in New York USA, in an FDA registered facility, NewRhythm Probiotics is one of the top-quality probiotics on the market. Its 50 billion active cultures means that your body will be adequately populated with good bacteria giving you a healthy gut. NewRhythm Probiotics is formulated with 20 highly potent beneficial bacteria strains designed with targeted release mechanism and enteric coating to ensure the bacteria survive your stomach acid into your intestinal tracts, where they are mostly needed.
We like the that the capsules are easy to swallow, 100% natural, and doesn’t need refrigeration. As an additional plus, NewRhythm Probiotic is NON-GMO gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, yeast-free, and free from other proven allergy inducing ingredients.
The only reason this is not top on our list is because of its 20 strains, which can be too broad for some people causing them adverse side effects. But on the other hand, if this works well with your body, your experience using it will most likely be miraculous.
- Shelf-stable; Doesn’t require refrigeration.
- Easy-to-swallow capsules made in USA
- 20 strains might be too much for some people introducing needless strains.
- Can be useless or with worse side effects for some.
3. Renew Life – Ultimate Flora Probiotic Extra Care
Renew Life is one of the leading companies in the probiotics industry, and customers have nothing but kind words to say about it. The Ultimate Flora Probiotic has 50 billion live cultures, making it the perfect Probiotic supplement for adults as that mixture surely has enough beneficial bacteria for your gut. It is designed with an incredible 12-stain formula that’s bound to enhance your immune system and boost your digestive flora’s capabilities.
What we really dig about the Ultimate Flora Probiotic from Renew life is the fact that the formula can be really beneficial and reduce occasional digestive discomfort if taken regularly.
Consuming-wise, each package contains 30 capsules which are a bit large but swallowing them shouldn’t be a problem for an adult. Each capsule is free of gluten and dairy, making them safe to use for most people.
Make sure to consult your doctor if you have a medical condition or if you’re pregnant.
Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora should be stored in a dry place at 59-86°F (15-30°C) or below for the optimum results, with the best storage condition being refrigeration.
- It has 50 billion live cultures
- It can efficiently restore digestive bacteria, especially after going through antibiotic medication
- This product helps eliminate IBS symptoms and enhance vitamins and minerals absorption
- Fairly large capsules
- Shipping can be a hassle during summer as the package may get warm
4. PRO-15 Advanced Strength Probiotics
Hyperbiotics’s PRO-15 Advanced Strength Probiotics is another formula that promises to deliver the best results thanks to the patented delivery technology that allows the pills to survive in the stomach acids in order to reach the intestinal tract, even the large intestine, where the 15 involved strains are most needed. The strains include Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium infantis among others, which proves how effective this supplement is.
The formula contains 15 Billion natural CFU per BIO-tract pearl along with Kiwifruit powder to deliver targeted support for occasional digestive issues to enjoy a permanent relief. This formula can restore your gastrointestinal flora which can be really beneficial to fight bad organisms, especially after extensive use of antibiotics.
What we like about this supplement is the LiveBac manufacturing process that every capsule goes through before hitting the market, which lengthens the lifespan of the pills and eliminates the need for refrigeration.
Consumption wise, you only need to swallow one capsule daily as the patented delivery technology allow the beneficial effects to happen every hour throughout the day. It’s also 100% vegan, yeast-free, non-GMO, and doesn’t contain any common allergen such as lactose, soy, iron, gluten, wheat, nuts, preservatives, sugar, artificial colors, or flavors.
- This supplement is made of natural ingredients, and it’s vegetarian, non-GMO, and yeast-free.
- 15 Billion natural CFU per BIO-tract pearl and 15 strains for the best results
- Easy to swallow capsules
- This probiotic may temporarily cause mild gas, bloating or loose stools, so consult your physician before consuming it
5. Dr. Tobias Probiotics for Women and Men
With 30 Billion CFU with every capsule, Dr. Tobias’s formula is bound to help reduce the adverse after-effects of antibiotic consumption. It can create balanced digestion throughout the day with its Delay Release and patented technology that allows the pills to reach the digestive tract safely after passing through the stomach’s acidic secretions.
The formula consists of 10 resilient strains, including two spore-forming ones, to support the body’s natural microspore. These strains have a Long Shelf Life and don’t require refrigeration to be conserved.
Unlike most probiotics on the market, Dr. Tobias’s formula includes DE111 spore-forming strain tested and proven to have many beneficial effects. These strains can help regenerate the body’s bacteria to enhance the digestion process.
As for the consumption, you only need to swallow one pillow per day, and it’s suitable for both men and women. If you’re a pregnant woman, an underage child or someone with a medical condition, make sure to consult your physician before using this supplement. You should also note that this product is manufactured in the US in a facility that also processes milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and crustacean shellfish, so beware if you have an allergy to any of these products.
- Contains DE111 spore-forming strain, which has a lot of health benefits
- 30 Billion CFU in every easy-to-swallow capsule
- Patented technology for acid resistance
- It is manufactured in a facility that may process milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and crustacean shellfish
- This product may prove ineffective for some people
6. Island’s Miracle’s Ultra-50 Probiotics
If you like significant numbers, Ultra-50 Probiotics from Island’s Miracle is for you. With an impressive formula containing 50 Billion CFU & 18 beneficial bacterial strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus bifidus, this supplement is an excellent solution for those suffering from digestive discomfort or the aftermath of a heavy antibiotics usage.
Once you start consuming this formula at the recommended dose of two capsules per day, you’ll start noticing a daily energetic boost and overall health improvement as the included bacteria will make the absorption of nutrients such as proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals easier. If used correctly, this probiotic supplement can even help you lose weight as proven by many modern American studies.
This supplement is suitable for men, women, and kids. Swallowing the pills is comfortable with water, and you can consume your daily serving at any time of the day as the high-potency and the delayed-release technology allows the effects to happen with or without food. As always, do not hesitate to give your physician a visit if you have a medical condition or are pregnant.
- 50 Billion CFU & 18 beneficial bacterial strains
- High-potency and delayed-release technology for better resistance to acids
- Contains insulin, which isn’t IBS-friendly
- May not work for some people
7. P3-OM™ Probiotic
Besides facilitation absorption and boosting the immune system, probiotics can also help you to lose weight and build muscles with the right formula, which is what the BiOptimizers’ P3-OM™ Probiotic promises to deliver.
The P3-OM was created after a study conducted by Laval University in Quebec showed that people consuming probiotics lose twice as much weight as those who rely on diet alone.
While many products use unstudied strains in their formulas, every ingredient in this supplement is thoroughly tested before it hits shelves. They’re resilient and can withstand the stomach’s acidic secretion with ease to reach the targeted areas of the digestive tract.
This product doesn’t require refrigeration, and it’s free-dried to keep the bacteria dormant until it reaches its target. Once it’s there, it promotes more natural absorption of proteins, fiber, and carbs, besides mental clarity and focus. The formula also relieves bloating, gases, and it triggers weight loss. It also helps lean muscle gain if paired with a proper diet.
What makes the P3-OM™ stand from other products is the fact that it’s a transient probiotic, which means that it eliminates bad bacteria quite fast before helping the natural flora regenerate.
Consuming this probiotic is safe for adults, and it’s totally vegetarian-friendly. The recommended dose is 1-2 capsules swallowed with water before meals.
- Effective for weight loss and muscle gain
- Proteolytic and Anti-retroviral activity
- High-potent patented super strains
- No downsides have been reported for this product
For best Probiotics for women; for vaginal health and other feminine probiotic support, read our review here. Most of the Probiotics on our list above are not well suited for kids. For best probiotics for kids, go here to see our recommendations.
Digestive upsets are among the worst discomforts that one may experience, and they can even be unbearable sometimes. Thankfully, these issues can be resolved with probiotic supplements. They work on boosting the immune health and balancing the natural flora of the digestive tract.
Probiotics are beneficial for men, women, and kids. Our guide contains everything you need to know about these supplements, and to make things even more comfortable for you; we’ve picked the above suggestions of the best probiotics on the market.
If you need supplementation for digestive health, read our comprehensive guide here.
Remember to consult your healthcare practitioner if you have a particular condition; as even the best medications can prove harmful if misused.