You’ve probably heard that probiotics are a great way to boost your gut health. And indeed, they are!
But how do you find the right probiotic for you? Where do you look? Which products are good and which are not?
Here’s an outline of what you need to look for when choosing the best probiotic supplement.
5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Probiotic
First of all, you should check off these 5 questions.
1. Will the Bacteria in the Probiotic Reach Your Gut?
A good probiotic should be designed in a way that allows the bacteria to survive the harsh acidic environment of your stomach. This means the bacteria have a better chance of arriving at your intestines ready to establish themselves and do their work.
That’s why you should look for a probiotic supplement that uses some form of time-release technology (such as BIO-tract or delayed-release capsules) that protects the probiotic bacteria and prevents them from being broken down in your stomach.
2. How Many Billion CFUS of Bacteria Do I Need?
CFU stands for colony forming unit. This is the amount of live and active bacteria contained in each dose.
Generally speaking, the higher the CFU count, the more effective the probiotic. However, not all products will state how many CFUs they contain, which can be a sign that the actual count is very low.
A good probiotic supplement should contain at least 10 billion CFUs for it to be effective, or at least 5 billion CFUs for children.
3. Which Strains of Bacteria Does It Contain?
There are hundreds of different strains of bacteria, and all of them have unique properties. Some probiotics have been shown to help with specific health conditions. Most of the probiotics in commercial formulations are naturally found in a healthy gut.
Some of the best bacterial strains to look for in a probiotic are L. plantarum (for protecting the membrane that surrounds your gut), L. paracasei (for its antibacterial properties that can ward off pathogens like E. coli and Candida albicans) and L. acidophilus (to regulate acidity in your gut and boost your immune system).
4. How Many Different Strains of Bacteria Are Included?
There are more than 1,000 different species of bacteria in a healthy gut – so it’s best to choose a probiotic supplement that contains a variety of strains.
All these strains work together, each supporting one another with their different properties. The more strains, the more work that gets done!
5. Are There Any Other Ingredients That Might Damage Your Gut Health?
Many supplement manufacturers include fillers and unnecessary ingredients to lengthen shelf life, sweeten their product, or make the contents easier to pour into capsules. Be sure to read the ingredients label carefully as some of these ‘extras’ can be harmful to gut health.
Look out for common allergens such as gluten, nuts, dairy products or animal products, especially if you’re intolerant or allergic to them.
Also, be aware that some gums (like those found in ‘gummy’ kids’ probiotics) can increase inflammation in your gut.
7 Best Probiotic Supplements Reviewed
1. Balance ONE Probiotic
This is one probiotic supplement that ticks all the right boxes. It contains 12 strains of probiotics, with 15 billion CFUs per tablet. These include the most-researched strains such as Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and more.
The Balance ONE Probiotic is also free from unnecessary fillers and allergens such as nuts, dairy, gluten. It’s non-GMO and vegan. And it doesn’t require refrigeration, so it’s perfect for travel or keeping on your desk at work.
It contains only strains that are already present in the human gut, without any Soil Based Organisms (SBOs) or active yeasts.
The most important feature of the Balance ONE probiotic is its patented delivery system, known as BIO-tract. This special patented process involves compressing the probiotic bacteria into tablets.
This means that Balance ONE probiotics are able to survive passage through the acidic conditions of the stomach without being destroyed. Studies have shown that this delivery method gets 15 times as many bacteria past stomach acid, compared to regular vegetable capsules.
If you’re looking for a quality probiotic with high efficacy, Balance One is my number one choice.
2. Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic
This is a good probiotic that contains a wide variety of strains and a powerful dose. There are a guaranteed 30 billion live probiotic cultures including 12 probiotic strains, which makes it a good choice for anyone seeking a starter probiotic.
It uses delayed-release vegetable capsules which, while not as effective as the BIO-tract system, are still an effective way to deliver bacteria to the gut.
The rest of the specs check out too: multiple strains for effective support, and free from gluten, dairy, and soy.
3. Vitamin Bounty – Pro 25 Probiotic & Prebiotic
With 25 Billion organisms per dose, Vitamin Bounty is a good choice for a maintenance probiotic. It also has an impressive 13 probiotic strains to help support overall digestive health.
It’s also made with a delayed release capsule to protect the live bacteria contained within each capsule from the harsh environment of the stomach. This helps in the delivery of the bacteria to the intestines and improves efficacy.
There are a huge range of strains plus a nice bonus of Fermented Greens, which help as a prebiotic.
4. Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Advanced Strength
Again, this formula is made with the BIO-tract patented delivery method. The probiotic contents are released over an 8 to 10 hour period, which means they’re more likely to bypass the acidic environment of the stomach and move into the intestinal tract alive.
It has the added benefit of New Zealand Kiwifruit powder, which functions as a prebiotic to help the healthy bacteria colonize, as well as supporting digestion and regularity.
Like Balance One, Hyberbiotics Pro-15 has a guaranteed shelf life that doesn’t require refrigeration. It contains only strains that are already present in the human gut, without any Soil Based Organisms (SBOs) or active yeasts.
5. Smart Belly Women’s Daily Probiotic
This formula is designed specifically for women. It contains the top six probiotic strains proven to benefit a woman’s reproductive and urinary tract system, combined with Cranberry and D-Mannose.
The CFU is 6 billion, which is less than ideal, but it does use the patented Bio-tract delivery system so that the majority of those probiotic bacteria will survive stomach acid. It’s allergy-free and requires no refrigeration.
6. Garden of Life Colon Daily Care 40 Billion CFU
This well-known brand of probiotic boasts 40 Billion CFU per capsule with 16 strains of probiotic bacteria. This includes B. lactis HN019, a strain proven to help promote bowel regularity and help relieve bloating.
It also has the nice feature of a desiccant-lined bottle technology to support the shelf life of the probiotics. And it’s allergen-free.
The only concern with this probiotic is that it does not use an effective method to deliver its bacteria past stomach acid, so it’s hard to say whether those 40 billion probiotic bacteria are guaranteed to reach the intestines.
7. Align Probiotics Digestive Probiotic
Last but not least, Align is designed to support digestive health. Its main feature is its inclusion of Bifidobacterium longum 35624, which the manufacturers claim will deliver 24/7 support to the gut.
This particular strain isn’t often seen in other products. If you’re suffering from IBS, this could be a good choice.
The Bottom Line
There are so many probiotic supplements on the market that it can be difficult to make an informed choice.
The health supplement industry is largely unregulated and many of the cheaper products tend to be poor quality.
You can use the questions at the top of this article to determine if your probiotic is worth the money. If you need some further guidance, the probiotics listed in this article are all good choices.
Featured photo credit: Paweł Czerwiński via unsplash.com