If you are thinking about taking a probiotic supplement, you might agree with this statement:
With all of the probiotic supplement brands on the market, getting one of the best probiotic supplements without breaking the bank can be a challenging task.
As people who have taken probiotic supplements ourselves, we understand how difficult it can be to sort through all of the options out there. What features are important? Do strains matter? How many CFUs do I need?
This article is a summary of our notes on the best probiotic supplements and our desire is that it helps you find the right one for you, especially if you are in the market for some right now.
Best Probiotic Supplements – 2018
Some probiotic supplements offer more strains or a higher CFU count while others feature a sophisticated delayed-release system to get the probiotic strains deep into your digestive system. No matter your preference, these probiotic supplements are all decent and worth considering.
1. Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic – Editor’s Choice
Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplement combines a high concentration and variety of probiotic strains with an engineered delivery mechanism to make sure those strains get deep into your gastrointestinal tract. Clocking in at 50 billion CFUs, Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic provides thirteen different freeze-dried strains in each serving. As a bonus, Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplements also includes other ingredients such as alfalfa, barley, oat and wheat grasses (fermented greens).
One innovative feature of the Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplement is how its capsule delivers the probiotics through your digestive system. Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplement uses something called a delayed-release mechanism – a process that causes the slow release of probiotic strains as the capsule moves through your body. Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplements accomplish this by packaging the probiotic strains in special vegetable-based capsules which help protect the delicate probiotic strains as they move through the acidic environment of the stomach.
Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic capsules are made in an NSF-certified facility. Regular users of Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplements report that it has helped with symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut.
With all the one pill probiotic supplements out there, some might be disappointed that Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplements requires two pills per serving. While the serving size is larger than many other probiotic supplements, the makers of Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic did this in an attempt to minimize the size of the probiotic capsules themselves to make them easier to swallow. One other downside (something that is not infrequent with many probiotics) is that Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic does not contain prebiotics. Nonetheless, given the high potency of Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 Probiotic supplements, it is a preferred choice in comparison to all of the probiotic options out there.
- Some of the highest number of strains available on the market.
- Bonus ingredients include fermented greens.
- Requires two capsules per day.
- No prebiotics.
2. Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics – Best Delayed-Release Capsule
Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics supplements are made by a US-based company and features an innovative probiotic delivery system baked into their probiotic capsules. Containing both quality probiotics and prebiotics, Hyperbiotics PRO-15 is non-GMO and is free of gluten, soy, wheat, artificial coloring, pesticides and preservatives although it may contain a trace amount of casein from milk (used in production).
Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics includes fifteen probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium strains such as bifidum, breve and lactis, Lactobacillus strains including acidophilus, fermentum, plantarum, and Streptococcus thermophilus. Each Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics BIO-tract capsule contains 5 billion CFU.
Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics are contained within a unique and patented delivery capsule called a BIO-tract pearl. The pearl guards the probiotic strains in Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics as it passes through the acidic environment of the stomach. Potentially, this pearl design preserves the probiotic strains more effectively than other types of probiotics as it prevents acidic destruction of the strains and keeps moisture out of the core. As the pearl moves through the digestive system, the living organisms are slowly released over 8-10 hours and, theoretically, can reach the deepest parts of the intestines and GI tract.
With the added protection from the pearl design, Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics supplements do not require refrigeration and have a shelf life of 18 months. They are not indestructible, however, and will break down in the setting of extreme heat. The serving size of this probiotic supplement is one pearl per day. The probiotic pearl is small pearl, round and hard and most people will find that they go down easily.
The probiotics themselves are made in Washington and then the final manufacturing is done in a certified GMP facility in Colorado with extensive testing performed during the manufacturing process. We have also heard that the company behind Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics supplements also provides a guarantee of their product. While we have directly used it, we always like probiotic brands that stand behind their supplements.
Some people have reported constipation while taking Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics. Infrequently, some people reported experiencing no effects at all. One possibility is that the delayed-release mechanism from the pearl varies from person. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if it will work for any particular person is to give it a try.
- Patented probiotic capsule enables delayed-release probiotic delivery.
- 15 different probiotic strains.
- Infrequently causes constipation.
- May have little to no effect in specific people.
3. Align Probiotic Supplement – Best Guarantee
Align Probiotic Supplement is brought to market and has the backing of Proctor & Gamble (P&G), one of the largest consumer products companies in the world. Based on a 2014 survey, Align Probiotic Supplement was reportedly identified as a top probiotic recommended by doctors who specialize in the gastrointestinal tract (gastroentereologists).
Align Probiotic Supplement is gluten-free and is packaged in a convenient blister package which is handy if you need to use this probiotic supplement while on the go or traveling. The recommended serving size for Align Probiotic Supplement is one capsule once per day.
Align Probiotic Supplement historically contained B. infantis 35624, a proprietary probiotic strain called Bifantis, and each capsule contained roughly 1 x 107 CFU of live Bifantis bacteria when used by the expiration date of the probiotic supplement. Because the strains in this particular probiotic have been freeze-dried, Align Probiotic Supplement does not need to be refrigerated and will last up to two years.
One of the best parts of the Align Probiotic Supplement is that it comes with a 60 day, money-back guarantee. And, given that it is made by P&G, there is no concern that the guarantee will be invalidated because the company ran out of money.
Unfortunately, Align Probiotic Supplement does contain other ingredients in addition to its probiotic bacteria such as titanium dioxide which might turn off some people. Some people also reported that Align Probiotic Supplement did not have any effect on them. Fortunately, the guarantee reduces the risk of losing your money if you happen to be one of those people.
- Excellent, 60-day guarantee.
- Produced by one of the largest companies in the world.
- Extra ingredients may turn off people looking for a “pure” probiotic supplement.
4. Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics – Popular with Practitioners
Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics supplements are made by Renew Life, a company and brand that is often recommended by holistic practitioners who help people with abnormal gut flora after antibiotics or people dealing with candida infections. This vegan probiotic supplement contains ten different strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (50 billion CFU).
Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics supplements are free of corn, soy, dairy and gluten. Some will appreciate that they are made in the USA in a GMP facility. Formulated as delayed-release capsules, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics supplement are packaged in a glass rather than plastic bottle and should be taken one time per day. Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics should be refrigerated after opening or, at the very least, stored below 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
While popular and well-regarded by many people, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics the high CFU comes with a slightly higher price tag when compared with some of the other probiotic supplements out there. Also, some might find Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics on the larger size as far as probiotic capsules go. Infrequently, people with sensitive digestive systems have noted that the 50 billion CFU were too strong for their bodies and they had to back down to a probiotic supplement with a lower CFU.
- 50 billion CFU strains.
- Glass bottle reduces BPA concerns.
- Slightly expensive.
- Large pills are more difficult to swallow.
Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic supplement is a pharmaceutical-grade probiotic supplement that considers itself a probiotic based on “ancestral” strains. Strains found in the Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement contains 8 billion CFUs of Saccharomyces boulardii, Pediococcus acidilactici, Bacillus subtilis HU58, Bacillus soagulans and Bacillus clausii. This probiotic supplement undergoes third-party testing, including survivability analysis, to verify that the probiotic strains will survive and get to the intestines.
Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement capsules are vegetarian and free of gluten. They are also dairy-free and do not contain corn, wheat, soy or artificial colors. The serving size for Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement is 2 capsules per day.
Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement says it is the first formulation that contains spores, acid stable Pediococcus, and probiotic yeast. Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement also contains prebiotics to help the probiotic bacteria become activated once released in the GI tract. Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement does not encapsulate their probiotics with time-release or enteric capsule coatings. They do contain a vegetable-based capsule.
Positive effects noted by users of Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement include reduced sugar cravings and improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms – bloating, for example – related to conditions like IBS. Improved digestion and more bowel regularity might be other benefits.
Some people might notice discolorations in their probiotic supplement capsules. The company advises not to be alarmed by brown specks in the probiotic capsules as that type of color variation is a natural consequence of the fermentation process that they use. Also, Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic Supplement contains Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast, which should be avoided by anyone who is sensitive to yeast.
- “Ancestral” strains may be beneficial to certain people.
- Discolorations in capsules may turn people off.
- Should be avoided by people with yeast sensitivity.
NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics are a non-GMO and vegetarian probiotic supplement that is free of wheat, soy, eggs and shellfish. NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics also has 30 billion CFU in each capsule and features thirty probiotic strains. NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics includes a range of probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, casei, fermentum and lactis, Bifidobacterium breve, lactis and longum and Streptococcus thermophilus. Other ingredients include prebiotic fructooligosaccharides, pectin and turmeric.
As the name suggests, NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics are delivered via a time-release mechanism. Technically known as the WiseBiotics delivery system, this time-release mechanism was designed with the understanding that stomach acids are highly destructive of probiotic strains (up to 90% or more at times). The WiseBiotics delivery system has been shown to release probiotic cultures into the intestines over hours as they are protected by the acid shield on the outside of the capsule. Whether it eventually works this way in real life or not, the WiseBiotics delivery system is specifically designed to release specific probiotics strains at different times, depending on which part of the digestive system is best suited for the particular strain.
NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics do not need to be refrigerated. Like most probiotic supplements, NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics may contain trace amounts of milk.
NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics undergoes third-party testing and is certified by NSF. This probiotic supplement is also cGMP certified. The company behind this probiotic supplement has traditionally been a benefactor to women and children in need which makes supporting NatureWise and their Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics easier.
Unfortunately, like some other delayed-release probiotic supplements, the WiseBiotics delivery system in NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics might not work for everyone. Some people have noticed bloating or stomach cramping while taking this probiotic. Other people have notice no effect at all and have seen an undigested probiotic capsule pass through their digestive systems and into the toilet. Enough people have noticed benefits, however, that this particular probiotic supplement is worth considering given the large number of strains and high CFU counts.
- High strain and CFU counts.
- Made by a community-focused company.
- May cause bloating infrequently.
- Some might have trouble digesting the capsule to get the full effects.
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care is a high-quality probiotic supplement made by the reputable supplement company, Garden of Life. A well-regarded probiotic supplement, Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care comes in a once-per-day formulation that is free of gluten, binders, fillers and soy and are suitable for vegetarians. Because it is derived from milk-based ingredients like yogurt, this probiotic supplement is not suitable for vegans.
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care probiotic supplements contain a full cocktail of 34 different probiotic strains at 100 billion CFU. This probiotic supplement is derived from specialized Bulgarian yogurt and Eastern European wild kefir products. Strains featured in Garden of Life Raw Probiotics include Lactobacillus acidophilus, brevis, bulgaricus, casei, fermentum, helveticus and paracasei. This probiotic supplement also contains Bifidobacterium lactis and longum and Leuconostoc lactis and mesenteroides. Rounding out the dense probiotic strain content are fruit and vegetable ingredients such as carrot, cherry, green pea, plum, raspberry, red bell pepper and strawberry.
While everyone’s experience is different, many people report rapid, positive effects after taking Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care probiotic supplements. Reported benefits included improved gastrointestinal health and digestion and fewer symptoms possibly related to a candida infection.
Because of the milk-based ingredients, people with lactose intolerance may have a reaction to Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care probiotic supplements. The lactose content is reportedly very small so it may be a non-issue for most people. Also, Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Ultimate Care probiotic supplements need to be refrigerated which may impact people who are using their probiotic supplements on the road or while away from a refrigerator.
- Quality, high CFU probiotic strain with numerous strains.
- Slightly more expensive given the high-quality probiotic ingredients.
- Not recommended for people with severe lactose intolerance.
8. Ora Organic Probiotic with Prebiotic Capsules – Best Vegan Probiotic
Ora Organic Probiotics with Prebiotics supplement may be a familiar name if you are a fan of the show, Shark Tank, as they were featured on it previously or read the AARP magazine. Ora Organic Probiotics is one of the few vegan probiotics on the market. Packaging a prebiotic with the probiotic in a vegan capsule, Ora Organic Probiotics are non-GMO and free of gluten, dairy and soy ingredients as well as artificial filler agents. It is also kosher and made with certified USDA organic ingredients in a similarly certified facility in the USA.
Ora Organic Probiotics with Prebiotics supplement features six different probiotic strains – Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Bifodobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum. At a nice 16 billion CFU per serving, probiotic strains in Ora Organic Probiotics supplement are freeze-dried so that they do not need refrigeration but should stay away from direct sunlight. The prebiotics (sourced from organic artichokes) integrate into this probiotic strain help assimilate the strains into the digestive system and provide a boost of fiber to your diet.
Ora Organic Probiotics do require two capsules a day (taken with a meal) which is more that many other types of probiotics that simply require one per day. People with highly sensitive guts have also reported having issues with bloating and gas while taking this probiotic supplement. For someone interested in a vegan probiotic supplement, however, this one is worth considering given all of the positives.
- One of the few vegan, dairy-free options on the market.
- Requires two capsules per day.
Probiotic Supplements – The Nuts and Bolts
With all the rage around probiotic supplements, it is a good idea to have an understanding of what they are, how they work and why people are so excited by them.
Although they might not look like it when part of a capsule or pill, probiotics consist of microscopic life forms such as bacteria and other organisms.
Why on Earth would we eat bacteria? Aren’t bacteria bad for us? The answer is yes and no. For decades, people thought that all microorganisms like bacteria were bad for our bodies, causing infections and illness. In recent decades, more research has identified that some forms of microorganisms actually coexist peacefully in our bodies and, in a lot of cases, even help our bodies function more effectively.
The theory behind why probiotic supplements may be beneficial for our digestive systems (“guts”) and our bodies as a whole is based on the idea that our intestinal linings contain a high concentration – sometimes more than any other part of the body – of cells from the immune system. This leads to a close relationship between healthy microorganisms in our guts and our immune systems and demonstrates the importance of keeping the ecology of our digestive systems healthy.
However, every day, humans do things that assault this delicate ecology. Through taking strong medications such as antibiotics and pain relievers, we can inadvertently destroy healthy bacteria and allow bad microorganisms to grow. Other environmental stimuli such as toxins or high levels of stress can accelerate the destruction of a healthy environment in the digestive system.
Probiotic supplements are designed to refresh the digestive environment and replenish the good microorganisms that may have been wiped out previously from environmental toxins. Most commonly, probiotics feature bacteria from the strains Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus although certain types of yeasts might be present. It is thought that different probiotic strains might have different effects in the body and that specific strains might be more helpful for certain types of conditions. Because of these potentially beneficial uses, probiotic strains have been used in many ways – from improving gastrointestinal motility in pregnant women taking prenatal vitamin supplements to helping people with irritable bowel syndrome.
To date, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States has not specifically approved probiotics for treatment of any condition. And while most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements that do not require approval, probiotic supplements with specific ingredients could be classified as a drug or food if they contain certain ingredients.
Probiotic Supplements – A Brief History
The idea for probiotic supplements came from observations of people living in Bulgaria. Advanced lifespans in specific populations in Bulgaria led a zoologist named Elie Metchnikoff (who eventually won the Nobel Prize for his research in immunology) to hypothesize that direct manipulation of our gastrointestinal system and its microbiome using bacteria could lead to longer life and mental acuity. While his ideas were dismissed for a long period of time, they were rejuvenated after 1980 and are credited to the modern probiotic movement. Other ideas that he pushed forward – some of which have unknown potential – include fecal transplantation and how inflammation may result in blood vessel disease.
Scientifically, Metchnikoff helped undo the idea that the colon is just a garbage can that sterilizes and pushes out toxins in the body. Instead, he believed that it is a delicate ecosystem filled with important microorganisms and immune cells known as phagocytes that protects the body and keeps cells healthy. During his life in the late 1800s, he recommended probiotic replacement and refinement of the gastrointestinal microbiome by eating sour milk or yogurt prepared by specific types of Bulgarian bacteria. Interest in probiotic supplementation continues today, with major organizations such as the FAO, WHO and NIH all active in this field.
Probiotic Supplement Strains
There are a number of different microorganism strains that find their way into probiotic supplements. Here is an overview of some of the important ones.
Found in a wide range of fermented and dairy products, Lactobacillus consists of over forty different types of species. The most commonly known form of Lactobacillus is Lactobacillus acidophilus. Lactobacillus is thought to help with genitourinary infections like yeast and urinary tract infections, skin problems and diarrhea.
Bifidobacteria is found throughout the intestines of the body from a very young age. Used as a gauge for the health of the colon, Bifidobacteria consists of more than twenty five different species, the most common of which is Bifidobacteria bifidum. Because of its prominence in the intestines, species of Bifidobacteria should be considered for anyone using a probiotic supplement to help improve intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea and bloating.
Probiotics and CFUs
CFUs, or colony forming units, are touted by probiotic supplement makers as an important part of their particular probiotic. But what is a CFU, and why is it important?
A CFU is used to represent the amount of living strains in a probiotic supplement. The “living” part is important as these are the probiotic strains that will actually be helping out when delivered to your system. CFUs are typically represented by a concentration of the number of CFUs in one milliliter of solution.
In an effort to test whether a particular probiotic supplement contains live cultures, some people think a home “milk test” can help verify whether live probiotic cultures are present or not. The milk test for probiotic strains involves taking the ingredients from a probiotic supplement and pouring them into a glass of milk and leaving it alone for several days to see if the milk forms clumps because it becomes acidic. Usually, the milk test is done at room temperature although this may vary.
Unfortunately, the milk test has limited research supporting it and should be considered unreliable in most cases. There are several reasons for this. Some probiotic strains thrive at room temperature while others like higher or lower temperatures, making the clumping process dependent on what strain you are testing. Another problem is that some probiotic strains like higher levels of oxygen in their environments while others like lower levels. Unless you have the ability to optimize and maintain conditions that are specific to the probiotic strain being tested, it really is quite difficult to perform a scientific milk test that will give you information that will verify the quality of the probiotic supplement that you are testing.
Probiotic Supplements vs. Natural Foods
Why does one need to take a probiotic supplement instead of just eating foods that contain probiotic bacteria such as yogurt or kefir?
In the US, most forms of yogurt are not required to have live cultures. Because of this, some products have wide ranges of live bacteria, making the actual dosing of probiotic strains unknown. However, some foods, like kefir, might naturally contain enough bacteria and yeast to counteract concerns about dosing. In general, fermented foods will have some amount of probiotic strains. Examples of fermented foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and miso.
Also, probiotic bacteria in foods may not last as long when compared to probiotic supplements. After all, food goes through intensive digestion, starting with the highly acidic environment of the stomach. In the process of breaking down food, the stomach can also destroy beneficial probiotic strains in the food, leading to a low concentration of probiotics when the strains eventually reach the intestines.
Probiotics Supplements – Are They Safe?
Are probiotics safe? Assuming one is eating a high-quality probiotic supplement, the answer is yes for many people. As talked about earlier, probiotic supplements are made of beneficial bacteria that work synergistically with our digestive systems and bodies. While some side effects, like bloating and gas, may occur, healthy people generally should not have any problems. Unfortunately, the disclaimer is that probiotics – even the best probiotic supplements – have not undergone extensive research analyzing their safety profiles (with the exception of studies on Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Because probiotic supplements fall under the categorization of dietary supplement, they are regulated slightly differently by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the governing body that oversees a wide range of medical products like pharmaceutical drugs. In most cases, a probiotic supplement bottle will say something like “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Another “side effect” that is commonly seen with probiotic supplements is lack of effectiveness. Probiotic supplements are dependent on the concentration and viability of the strains that they contain. If the strains are destroyed or damage during packaging or shipping, the probiotic will have no effect. This lack of effectiveness can also occur if the probiotic supplement capsule is not rigorous enough to survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach before getting to the intestines. In many people, lack of therapeutic benefit is more likely to occur than severe side effects related to changes in the digestive system.
Best Probiotic Supplements – Summary
There is a lot to think about when choosing a probiotic supplement. Ultimately, most probiotic supplements will offer some benefit and finding the best probiotic supplement for you will require testing out different brands, strain types and CFUs. We hope that you found this probiotic supplement review guide useful and wish you the best of health.