Probiotics are defined as “live bacteria that are good for your gut”, and play an important role in energy homeostasis, mood, and cognition (1, 2). They also help stimulate the immune response, prevent pathogenic and opportunistic microbes/bacteria, and produce vitamins such as B and K (3, 4).
Probiotic supplements work by supporting these healthy species of bacteria, either by repopulating them, or providing them with the proper nutrition and environment to thrive. Below, you’ll find the best probiotic supplements on the market, ranked and research by our expert health panel at Healthtrends.
1. 1MD Complete Probiotics
Each capsule is guaranteed 51 Billion CFU’s and 11 strains to ensure diversity. The capsules are reinforced with a time delay release so that the probiotics break down in your intestines, not in your stomach (where they would get destroyed).
1MD’s formula does not contain any unhealthy fillers. It also contains effective dosage of Nutraflora prebiotic fiber that will ensure these cultures get the fuel they need to really make a difference in your gut. This is why it is our #1 pick.
2. Nuzena Probiotic Gut Boost
Nuzena Probiotic 40 Gut Boost can help improve digestive health and nutrient absorption. It contains over 40 billion CFU’s wrapped in a MAKTREK delivery capsule that help the probiotics get where they need to: the gut.
Completely free of allergens and GMO’s, this is one of the best probiotic supplements on the market.
3. Garden of Life RAW Probiotics
Raw probiotics stands out by having a crazy 82 Billion CFU’s and 32 different probiotic strains. They also packed their product with vitamins, minerals, prebiotics as well as dairy digesting enzymes to help break down lactose and casein.
This probiotic is also vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free with no binders, fillers, carriers, or allergens.
4. Seed Daily Synbiotic
With over 58Billion AFU’s and 20 different strains characterized at academic institutions and research, Seed’s daily synbiotic is one of the most potent formulas on the market. It’s also validated by more than 23 clinical studies and is free of all 14 allergen classes under the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
To take it a step further, their 2-in-1 capsule technology protects against stomach acid and safeguards viability through digestion.
5. Physicians Choice 60 Billion
Physician’s cure uses 60 Billion CFU’s and acid-resistant technology to ensure the probiotics get to where they need to go – your gut. It’s also made with 10 probiotic strains & professional grade non-GMO ingredients to ensure purity and quality.
Physician’s cure comes in a patented bottle called Activ-Vial, which ensures product stability & potency.
6. Schwartz Advanced Prebiotic + Probiotic
Schwarz advanced probiotic features the MAKTrek patented stomach acid protection and delivery system. This can allow strains to survive stomach acid and reach deep into the small intestine to support a healthy gut.
Their capsules are formulated with a patented combination of Probiotic strains and 40 billion CFU’s. Every batch is third-party tested to ensure the ingredients are safe, pure, and potent.
7. BioTrust ProX-10
The Pro-X10 advanced probiotic supplement provides 10 billion CFU daily of six super strains of probiotics, including PreforPro, which help rebalance the gut microbiome and enhance digestion
PreforPro is a non-fiber prebiotic that works in small amounts to help crowd out harmful bacteria.
8. Garden Of Life Once Daily
This once-daily probiotic supplement contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria for digestive health and constipation relief. It also contains 50 billion CFU and 16 probiotics for immune system health.
This probiotic is also hypoallergenic – meaning it’s dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and vegetarian.
9. Nutrition Essentials Probiotic
Nutrition essentials contains 15 billion CFU’s and is the best quality Acidophilus probiotic supplement that increases calcium absorption for bone density. It also helps to assist in weight control and increase energy levels.
Other supplements might be a better choice if you want to push the boundaries with a broader variety of beneficial bacteria.
10. Earth’s Pearl
Earth’s pearl is another Synbiotic specifically designed to provide relief from bloating and gas, in a time-released fashion, so that you only need to take 1 in the morning for a full days benefits.
The innovative pearl form has the texture of a Smarties candy, which makes it more appealing to those who hate capsules.
How We Rank
First off, we looked at which probiotic supplements had billions of colonies. Many low-quality companies will convince you that less is more, but in the case of probiotics, more is better. Any product on our list must have at least 5 Billion CFU (ideally much more). For example, the popular Solimo brand contained only 2 Billion CFU, so it did not make the list.
Secondly, we looked at probiotic strain diversity. Your gut is diverse, so your probiotic should be too. We looked for supplements that contained multiple strains, such as 1MD (which had 11), ideally not listed as a proprietary blend. Inferior brands tend only to contain one probiotic strain. Third, we looked out for unnecessary fillers. Some commercial probiotic supplements contain undesirable binders and fillers, including lactose or cornstarch that may cause a reaction, like gas and bloating, if one is sensitive to these ingredients.
Next, we looked at expiration and survivability. A big issue with probiotics is serving the stomach acid when ingested. Modern science has made advancements, but those techniques tend to cost more. The best brands make sure that their probiotics survive stomach acid and release in the intestines, so they can do their job properly. Seed, did this very well, providing protection so that the probiotics break down in your intestines, and not your stomach.
Lastly, we looked for the supplements that went the extra mile and included prebiotics in their formula to maximize the effectiveness of their product. There weren’t many, but the ones that did showed us they cared more about having a quality product, then making a quick buck.
1. Probiotics supercharge your immune system. Restoring your digestive balance is important because your digestive system is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Research states that sixty to eighty percent of the body’s immune system is located in the gut (5).
Having probiotics in your gut improves your digestive health and leads to a much healthier life. For example, probiotics turn food waste in your gut into butyric and propionic acid (8).
Butyric acid alone is responsible for lowering the risk of colon cancer and increasing the health of your intestinal lining (9).
2. Probiotics protect and enhance your digestive system. Probiotics have been studied most in regard to digestive health (10).
Some studies also show that probiotics may be beneficial against inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (17).
3. Probiotics counteract the side effects of antibiotics. One of the most common side effects you see with antibiotics is diarrhea (22).
Though antibiotics are sometimes necessary in order to fight off serious infections and help people recover, it’s also the case that taking antibiotics creates the chance that the number of good bacteria in your body becomes significantly lower than the bad bacteria (23).
This is why antibiotics often lead to digestive problems, including bloating, diarrhea, and sometimes fatal complications (24).
Taking probiotics can help support the growth of healthy bacteria while you take antibiotics, helping to maintain your body’s natural balance and improve your gastrointestinal health while letting the antibiotics clear out the dangerous bacterial infection (25).
4. Probiotics can improve mental health. Establishing a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut has far-reaching implications and improves mental health, including depression. The probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with clinical depression (26, 27).
One study in mice shows that supplementing with a probiotic can even change the messages sent from the vagus nerve to the brain, meaning there is an actual bond between your gut bacteria and how you feel or think (28).
Another research team gave 20 subjects depressed subjects probiotics for 4 weeks (29).
Compared to the placebo group, who took a sugar pill, the probiotic takers scored significantly lower on the Ledien Index of Depression Sensitivity scale- meaning they ended up as happier (30)!
5. Probiotics can increase feelings of fullness. Probiotics have been shown to release the fullness feeling hormone GLP-1. GLP-1 can also help burn more calories and body fat as a result (31).
6. Probiotics have been shown to aid in belly fat loss. Obese people have shown to have different gut bacteria than lean people (32).
Some probiotic strains have even been shown to have weight loss benefits (33).
In 2013 a study of 210 individuals with abdominal obesity was undertaken to determine if probiotics could enhance weight loss at all. The group who took the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri caused an 8.5% loss of belly fat mass over a period of 12 weeks (34).
When they stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the belly fat back within 4 weeks. There is also some evidence that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis can help with weight loss and obesity prevention (35).
7. Probiotics have been shown to combat allergies. Certain probiotics have shown to reduce inflammatory symptoms caused by allergies (38). More research is needed to confirm.
8. Probiotics can improve blood pressure. It has been found that taking probiotics for over 8 weeks can improve blood pressure in individuals (39).
These effects are most pronounced in people who already have hypertension and improve when the subject consumes multiple probiotic strains for at least eight weeks or more in supplements containing 100 billion or more colony-forming units (CFUs).
9. Probiotics can affect body weight regulation. Bodyweight has been shown to be affected by a balance of two gut bacteria. Furthermore, human studies have shown that obese people have much different gut bacteria makeup than their non-obese counterparts (40).
In one animal study, it was even shown that when obese but bacteria were transplanted into a lean individual, the lean individual became fat (41).
10. Probiotics can decrease fat storage. This is accomplished by increasing protein ANGPTL4, which in turn has shown to decrease fat storage in the body (42).
11. Probiotics can reduce the severity of eczema in children. One study showed that women who took probiotics during pregnancy lowered the risk of eczema in their children significantly (43).
In another study, it was shown that children who had eczema and were breastfed probiotic-infused breast milk, had their symptoms significantly reduced compared to the control (44).
12. Probiotics balance the gut to protect you from numerous diseases. The complex community of microorganisms in your gut is called the gut flora (45).
Your gut actually contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and viruses, with the majority being bacteria. However, not all organisms in the gut are friendly. Some are good, others are bad. The gut flora is actually highly sensitive to modern insults, and studies show that an unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases (46, 48).
The gut flora manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins (54).
13. Probiotics can help prevent diarrhea. Diarrhea is a common culprit in many people’s lives. There are many reasons for it happening, but a big reason is due to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. It’s been shown that probiotics can reduce the likelihood of diarrhea (61).
It has also been shown that taking probiotics can decrease the amount of time you experience the effects of diarrhea (62).
14. Probiotics can improve heart health. The way it accomplishes this is by lowering bad LDL cholesterol (63).
It also has been shown to increase good cholesterol, thus having a double enhancing effect (64).
15. Probiotics can increase vitamin levels in the body. Daily consumption of L. acidophilus and L. reuteri (isolated from sourdough) significantly improved vitamin B12, B2, and folate levels in children (64, 65).
16. Probiotics can combat stress. Certain probiotics have been shown to lower stress and the hormones associated. L. casei lowered academic-stress-induced increases in cortisol and the incidence of physical symptoms in students (67).
Another study showed that when L. casei was administered to medical students undertaking an authorized nationwide examination to test their response to stress, this bacterium increased serotonin levels, lowered the rate of subjects experiencing common abdominal and cold symptoms and decreased the total number of days students experienced these symptoms (68).
In academically stressed undergraduate students, B. bifidum increased the proportion of healthy days per participant and decreased the percentage of participants reporting cold/flu during the intervention period (69).
Similarly, B. bifidum reduced self-reported stress and stress associated diarrhea/GI discomfort in undergraduate students (70).
17. Probiotics help regulate the circadian rhythm. L. helveticus-fermented milk significantly improved sleep efficiency in healthy elderly people (71).
In volunteers with insomnia, L. brevis showed a mildly beneficial effect on sleep in subjects with insomnia (72).
Daily voluntary wheel-running and sleep rhythmicity became intensified in mice when heat-killed L. brevis was added to the diet (73).
18. Probiotics help reduce inflammation with leaky gut. A 2012 clinical trial showed a significant reduction in tissue inflammation and leaky gut with a probiotic treatment used as an intervention for metabolic syndrome (74).
19. Probiotics can help fight antibiotic resistance. The improper use of antibiotics, overuse of prescription antibiotics, and lack of diversity in these medications lead bacteria become resistant to antibiotic overtime. The WHO says that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to food security, development and global health today. A 2007 study showed that probiotic supplements and foods may increase the effectiveness of antibiotics and help prevent the bacteria in your body from becoming resistant (75).
20. Probiotics can help promote healthy skin. Research suggests that having a balanced gut environment has benefits for both healthy and diseased human skin (76).
It’s still unclear why, but the development of acne is also conected to the integrity of the gut bacteria. The skin benefits of probiotics also seem to be connected to the reduction of inflammation seen in healthy gut bacteria. L. casei, a particular strain of probiotic, can reduce antigen-specific skin inflammation.
21. Probiotics can help with NAFLD. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects over 80 million people in the U.S. and can eventually lead to cirrhosis, ending in liver failure or death for some patients. Research shows that probiotics can improve a number of important factors for patients with the disease. A 2013 meta-analysis of studies on probiotics led authors to state that: “Modulation of the gut microbiota represents a new treatment for NAFLD.” (77).
22. Probiotics can increase the absorption and bioavailability of various minerals and vitamins. The probiotic strain L. fermentum was shown to increase the bioavailability of calcium, phosphorus, and zinc in fermented goat milk, while fermented milk containing L. plantarum showed higher calcium retention (78).
Another probiotic strain, S. cerevisiae, was shown to improve the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus (79).
Preschool children supplemented with L. acidophilus exhibited higher red blood cell status, and a significant reduction in the prevalence of anemia, leading us to believe that it somehow increased the absorption and bioavailability of iron (80).
A 2016 study inkling patients with metabolic syndrome showed that the probiotic L. casei improved insulin sensitivity (87).
Insulin resistance, such as fasting response, hormonal homeostasis, and glycemic control were all improved in rats when they supplemented with an L. paracasei symbiotic (87).
1. Probiotics can cause an upset stomach. It’s scientifically proven that probiotics tend to decrease instances of diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive health problems (88).
Taking probiotics may cause minor side effects, but the benefits of probiotics outweigh these effects for most people.
2. Probiotics can cause weight gain. A few studies have demonstrated that certain strains of probiotics can actually lead to weight gain (89).
3. Certain probiotic-rich foods may trigger headaches. Fermented foods rich in probiotics naturally contain amines. Biogenic amines are substances that form when protein-containing foods age or are fermented by bacteria (90).
4. Probiotics may increase levels of histamine in the body. Some probiotics can produce histamine within the digestive tract. When your imune systme detects a threat, histamine is produced to bring more blood to the affected area by dialiting blood vessels. The vessels also become more permeable so that immune cells can easily get into the relevant tissue to combat any pathogens (93).
This process can trigger allergy symptoms such as watery eyes, itching, trouble breathing or a runny nose. Excess histamine, caused by probiotics, is absorbed through the lining of the intestinal tract and into the bloodstream, causing symptoms similar to an allergic reaction (94)
5. Probiotics may increase the risk of infection in certain individuals. In rare cases, the bacteria or yeasts found in probiotics can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in susceptible individuals (95).
People with venous catheters, compromised immune systems, acute pancreatitis or recent surgery should avoid taking probiotics. However, the risk of developing an infection is very low, and no serious infections have been reported in clinical studies of the general population.
There are two big categories I recommend when searching out the perfect probiotic to ensure that the bacteria will help you and be delivered where it needs to go in the gut
The first one is the CFU count. Your gut is designed to break food down, so you have to make sure are taking a hefty dose of bacteria, measured in Colony-forming Units (CFU). Typically you want to see a count of 5-10 billion to ensure a proper amount reaches their new home.
The second category is strain diversity. Having a blend of probiotics allows each species to work together, giving you more health benefits than they can individually.
You can take it as a supplement or get them naturally from probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and others.
Are probiotics safe to use? Probiotics are considered safe overall for healthy people
Can probiotics cause you to gain weight? Some studies have found that certain probiotic strains might lead to weight gain, not loss. This includes the Lactobacillus acidophilus strain.
Do probiotics help you poop? Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and other cultured foods, have long been touted for their ability to ease digestive woes.
Do you take probiotics with food or on an empty stomach? Probiotic bacterial survival is best when taken within 30 minutes before or simultaneously with a meal or beverage that contained some fat content.
Can you take probiotics and digestive enzymes at the same time? Enzymes and probiotics are two different supplements that can be taken together to support digestion and address different digestive issues
Are probiotics and digestive enzymes the same thing? No digestive enzymes break down food while probiotics support healthy gut flora.
Can you take probiotics with a hot drink? So you may not want to literally put your probiotics (the usual kind) in a hot drink, but taking it with one is usually fine.
Can you take probiotics every day? Yes, it is safe to take probiotics daily. In fact, it is often recommended.
Should I take probiotics in the morning or at night? If you’re taking a live strain probiotic supplement, ideally you want to take them 20 minutes after you eat, first thing in the morning or right before bedtime.
How long should you take probiotics for? It’s recommended to take the proper probiotic dose for at least four weeks while monitoring the effect.
Are probiotics bad for your heart? No, in fact, it is the opposite. Probiotics may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Reducing these common heart disease risk factors can also decrease your risk of severe heart problems. No study has proven taking a probiotic is bad for your heart.
Are probiotics good for IBS? There is some evidence that certain probiotics may help improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. The probiotic that, to date, has been studied in high-quality studies and has been shown to improve the symptoms in IBS is Bifidobacterium infantis.
Do probiotics help flatten your stomach? Consuming foods that contain probiotics (aka live good bacteria) can help reduce belly bloat caused by an overabundance of bad flora in your gut.
Can probiotics help you lose weight? Some probiotics may help people lose weight and boost overall health. Researchers think that some of these bacteria may play a role in weight loss and gain. In the gut, beneficial bacteria help break down and digest food. They also help create nutrients and vitamins for the body to use.
Is apple cider vinegar a probiotic? Technically apple cider vinegar is a probiotic. However, it’s not recommend using it as your main or only source of probiotics. Instead, she suggests having a variety of probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kombucha tea.
Can you put probiotics in your vagina? Yes, probiotics come both in pill form and as vaginal suppositories.
Is cottage cheese a probiotic? As with other fermented foods, cottage cheese often delivers probiotics (check the package labels for live and active cultures), and it’s high in calcium, which is important for strong bones.
Are probiotics dangerous? In healthy people, probiotics usually have only minor side effects, if any. However, in people with underlying health problems (for example, weakened immune systems), serious complications such as infections have occasionally been reported.
Why do people take probiotics? Probiotics work by balancing the levels of microorganisms in the intestines. They drive down the numbers of harmful bacteria. They also seem to boost the body’s immune system among other things.
Is Ginger a probiotic? No, ginger is not a probiotic.
Is pickle juice a probiotic? Pickle juice is thought to boost digestion and immune function, while also reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Such health benefits are often linked to the antioxidants and probiotics thought to be found in pickle juice.
When do probiotics start to populate the gut? At birth, the sterile human gut is immediately colonized with several types of microorganisms from both the mother and the environment. By the time they reach one year of age, each individual develops a unique bacterial profile. It is estimated that only 10% of the cells in the human body actually belong to the body itself. The overwhelming majority of the cells consist of the diverse microbiota of nonpathogenic bacteria, 1-2 kg of them living in the gut alone.
Probiotics may reduce depression and anxiety, improve heart health, and enhance immune function, to name a few. The importance of having a healthy gut doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but research indicates it is just as vital as food choices, good sleep, and exercise.
Maintaining a healthy gut goes way beyond just taking a probiotic supplement, but adding it to your daily lifestyle is a great start.
For Healthtrends #1 recommended probiotic, click here.