How To Choose The Right Probiotic And Prebiotic Supplement?

Before you blame the lack of results on the bacteria you are taking, I would like to give you some helpful tips to maximize the benefits and help you choose the right type of probiotics for your needs.

bacterial balance in the gastrointestinal tract
Probiotics help to support a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract and eliminate harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, and waste products.

Probiotics help support a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract and eliminate harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, and waste products.

Bacteria are pretty much everywhere in our body: the gut, mouth, and skin. Both the good and the bad bacteria live together in our bodies. Under ideal circumstances, good bacteria make up about 90 percent of our gut flora.

However, several factors such as diet, stress, illness, or medications can disrupt this delicate balance and trigger health problems such as inflammation, gastrointestinal illnesses, weakened immune system, and eczema.

Whenever there is an imbalance in our digestive system, a dose of good bacteria can help restore harmony.

probiotics food and supplements

Many fermented foods such as yogurt, milk kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and kimchi contain some good bacteria. However, they may not always provide the right dose you need to bring back the optimal balance in your digestive tract.

The best way to get the right type of probiotics in the right quantity is through supplements.

 live bacteria capsules

Probiotic supplements have become hugely popular as a means to achieve good digestion and gut health.

In fact, according to a recent report, in 2016, the total annual global sales of probiotic supplements stood at $3.7 billion. It is expected to reach $17.4 billion by 2027.

However, with an overwhelming number of available supplements, finding the right one for your needs can be a challenge.

Here is a complete guide on how to find a particular type of probiotic that could help with your specific problem.

Take a look at this great selection of top-selling probiotics here >>>

Most of the friendly bacteria residing in the gut, accounting for up to 80% of the immune system. However, not everyone knows that these bacteria can also be found in the nose, mouth, stomach, and even armpits!

Benefits Of Taking Probiotics

Probiotics are a type of good bacteria, live microorganisms found in certain foods and supplements. There is quite a lot of scientific evidence to show that good bacteria may help in a wide variety of health conditions, including:

  • Strengthening the immune system.
  • Improving digestion.
  • Decreasing allergies.
  • Treating diarrhea.
  • Soothes inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • Eases Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Helps with dysbiosis.
  • Preventing and treating yeast infections.
  • Helps with skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Lessens lactose intolerance.

Functions Of Probiotics

functions of probiotics

The Guide To Choosing The Best Probiotic

Probiotics capsule

Finding the right probiotic strains is no child’s play. If the names on the label were not enough to scare you, there are a lot of other technicalities to deal with.

Probiotics differ significantly in the number of strains they contain; some contain only one, and others may contain multiple strains. Some may also contain added vitamins and minerals.

Dosages and delivery systems also differ. So, there are many factors that you need to consider if you want to get the best from your supplements. 

Here Is What To Look For When Choosing A Probiotic Supplement:

  • Read the label.
  • Check the CFU, the number of organisms in a single dose.
  • Look for the right species and strain of bacteria for your needs.
  • Choose the method of delivery (capsules, tablets, powders, and syrups.)
  • Check if and how the supplement was tested.
  • Examine the best before date – Very Important.
  • Check if the supplement is sugar and allergen-free.

How To Read The Label?

Acidophilus probiotic label

Not all probiotics are made alike, so start with reading its label. For a layman, the terminology may be hard to understand, so here is a little insight.

  • CFU: The first thing you should check is the CFU or the colony-forming units. In simple terms, it means the number of organisms in a single dose. This number is usually measured in billions. A single dose should deliver at least 20-50 billion units. Also, check how often you should take the dose.
  • Species and strain of bacteria: Look for the right species of bacteria to treat a condition. Multistrain supplements are more effective than single-strain bacteria because your body can absorb the strain it wants. Go for a probiotic of at least six strains and look for a combination of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains. Good ones may contain up to 20 or more strains.
  • Method of delivery: Probiotics are available in many forms: capsules, tablets, powders, and syrups. It is important to ensure that the microorganisms should be able to survive the acidic environment in the stomach and reach the gut. For this, you should go for encapsulated tablets or other delayed rupture technology. Also, I prefer supplements that contain the optimal combination of microorganisms and have prebiotics as well.
  • Independent third-party testing: Probiotics are not regulated, which is reason enough to think twice before choosing one. So, before you make a purchase, check if the supplement has been tested by an independent third party for purity and potency.
  • Viability: The label on your bottle should read “viable through end of shelf life” and not “viable at the time of manufacture.” This will ensure that the bacteria are still alive when you consume your supplement.
  • Low sugar content: If your supplement contains a lot of sugar, it will offset all the benefits it is intended to provide. Sugar can contribute to diabetes, reduce immunity, increase weight, cause yeast infections, and lead to other health problems. Many probiotic juices and yogurts have particularly high sugar content and should be avoided.
  • Allergen-free: Some capsules can contain allergens such as dairy, soy, and wheat. Many yogurts can, apart from the allergens mentioned above, contain natural or artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and high sugar content. So, check the contents before you buy.

Target Your Symptoms With The Right Type Of Probiotic Strains

Different probiotic strains

Probiotics are beneficial for general health and the immune system as well as for certain medical conditions such as digestive problems, low immunity, yeast infections, and others. For overall health and well-being, choose a probiotic with multiple strains. However, for treating specific problems, you should choose specific strains. 

Look for the following strains for your specific symptoms:

Different probiotics for different conditions

The human body is estimated to carry over 1000 unique #probiotic strains. In the small intestine and the urogenital tract, the Lactobacilli rule – however, in the large intestine, Bifidobacterial prevails.

Mixtures are more effective than single strains! I have learned from many studies and my personal experience that probiotics with multiple strains are more effective at symptom relief.

Most people have told me that multi-strain supplements typically work a lot better for them because our bodies can then select, use, and absorb the strains they need. And given how much exercise, medication, sleep, and stress levels, and diet can change from day to day, our body would absorb required probiotics on different days.

I generally recommend that adults, both men and women take a probiotic supplement of at least 7 strains or more.

Below, I will recommend some of the best multi-strain probiotics for various conditions that I have found to work really well for me and many others. These are all made by reputable companies and have great reviews online.

Please note that these are just suggestions. You may want to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They will be better able to recommend a supplement based on your condition.

Probiotics That May Help Relieve Constipation

Constipation affects almost 15% of adults, is a more prevalent problem than diarrhea. However, most over-the-counter remedies, such as stool softeners and laxatives, do not bring the desired relief.

Although the evidence is preliminary, research suggests that quality probiotics may help relieve constipation by:

  • Optimizing gut transit time.
  • Increasing the number of weekly bowel movements.
  • And help soften stools, which makes them much easier to pass.

Speaking of the most effective bacteria for constipation, it appears that those containing Bifidobacterium are the best choice.

Best Probiotics For Constipation

Garden of Life – RAW Probiotics Colon Care – Promotes Regular, Healthy, and Comfortable Movements

Garden of Life RAW Probiotics Colon Care Shelf Stable - 50 Billion CFU Guaranteed Through Expiration - Once Daily - Certified Non-GMO & Gluten Free - No Refrigeration, 30 Vegetarian Capsules

Probiotics That Are Effective Against Diarrhea

Diarrhea often happens due to gut flora imbalances. Right bacteria can help restore that, providing lots of friendly bacteria to repopulate the gut. There are several possible causes of diarrhea that can be treated with different probiotics:

  • For kids’ diarrhea, the bacteria strains most likely to help are Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.
  • If the suspected cause of diarrhea is taking antibiotics, try supplements with Saccharomyces boulardii and some strains of Lactobacillus.
  • “Travellers’ Diarrhea,” caused by consumption of unfamiliar and/or contaminated products, can be helped by taking probiotics with Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
  • In the case of colitis caused by C. difficile bacteria, some evidence suggests that probiotics with Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus strains are the best bet.

Best Probiotics For Looseness Of Stool

Garden of Life – Ultimate Care – With digestive supporting enzymes

Raw Probiotics - 100 Billion CFU, Shelf Stable, 30 Capsules - For Men and Women, Digestive Enzymes, Clinically Studied Strains - by Garden of Life

Probiotics That May Improve IBS Symptoms

IBS symptoms have been linked to specific changes in gut flora, such as:

  • Lower amounts of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the gut.
  • Increased levels of harmful Streptococcus, E. coli, and Clostridium.
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines.
  • Changes in gut flora caused by certain IBS medications.

The best probiotics to assist with these issues are those containing Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces families.

Best Probiotics For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Jarrow Formulas Ideal Bowel Support

Jarrow Formulas Ideal Bowel Support LP299v, Reduces Bloating, Gas, Intestinal Discomfort,* and Supports Regularity, 10 Billion Cells, 30 Veggie Capsules

Friendly Bacteria Complex That Might Help You Lose Weight

Preliminary research suggests that certain probiotics, such as those from the Lactobacillus family, may inhibit dietary fat absorption. Meaning that more fat gets eliminated from the body, and less – stored excessively.

Moreover, some studies show that obesity is linked to chronic inflammation in the brain. In turn, improving gut health can help treat systemic inflammation, which has protective effects, not just against overweight and obesity, but also against other health conditions.

However, keep in mind that more research is required to understand better the link between gut health, excess weight, and probiotics. In the meantime, a healthy diet and a reasonable amount of exercise remain the first line of treatment for excess body fat.

Best Bacteria For Obesity

MegaFood – MegaFlora – Help for Digestion, Intestinal Balance, Bowel Regularity and Weight Loss

MegaFood MegaFlora Probiotic - Probiotics for Women & Men - Probiotics for Digestive Health & Immune Support - 20 Billion CFU - 14 Strains - Non-GMO - Vegan - Made Without 9 Food Allergens - 90 Caps

Probiotics That Could Help Boost Cognitive Function And Mood

The intestines and the brain may be far apart – however, they are connected both physically and biochemically! Gut bacteria produce various compounds, including:

  • Short-chain fatty acids.
  • Neurotransmitters.
  • Amino acids.
  • And many more compounds that can have effects on the brain and overall hormonal regulation.

For instance, a number of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have been linked to high blood levels of cortisol, the human stress hormone.

In one clinical investigation, consuming a selection of three Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus strains for 8 weeks did reduce depressive symptoms a lot, as well as systemic inflammation. Therefore, taking supplements with these bacterial strains can be good for your brain.

Best Probiotics For Brain Health

Life Extension Stress and Mood

Life Extension FLORASSIST Mood - Probiotic & Saffron Blend – Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegetarian - 30 Capsules

Probiotics To Boost Immunity

The growing body of evidence suggests that probiotics can help boost immunity and prevent seasonal colds and flu. The following strains have been found particularly effective, with some even used as flu vaccine adjuncts: 

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum.
  • Lactobacillus brevis.
  • Lactobacillus GG (for children).
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (for teenagers).
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
  • B. longum.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum.
  • Lactobacillus paracasei.

By populating the gut with beneficial bacteria, it is certainly possible to boost immunity and reduce chronic inflammation, so the body can focus on fighting bad bacteria and viruses.

Best Probiotics For Immune Health

Vitamin Bounty’s Pro 50 Billion organisms – most effective for the immune system

Vitamin Bounty Pro-50 Probiotics Supplement- 13 Probiotic Strains, Gut Health, Digestive Health, Daily Probiotic for Men and Women, Delayed Release Capsule with Prebiotic Greens - 2-Pack

Probiotics For General Health

The best multi-strain supplement for general health that I have found and that has worked well for me is Renew Life Extra Care Probiotic. It has 150 billion active bacteria per capsule and a whopping 40 scientifically studied probiotic strains.

It covers and helps to relieve most of the symptoms I have mentioned above. It is great for promoting intestinal microbiota, digestive, and immune health and is great for helping to re-establish digestive balance.

For overall healthy people, there are several benefits that Renew Life Extra Care provides, such as:

  • Maintaining healthy gut flora.
  • Reducing abdominal discomfort, e.g., bloating, gas, and cramps.
  • For women, increasing the population of beneficial bacteria in and around the vagina may help prevent urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis.
  • Helping reduce the frequency and severity of the common cold by supporting the immune system.

However, it’s much more important for healthy individuals to focus on eating healthy and otherwise nourishing the body. Otherwise, any benefits are likely to be short-lived.

Best Friendly Bacteria For Well-Being

Renew Life Extra Care Probiotic, Ultimate Flora, 150 Billion Organism – best overall probiotic supplement

Renew Life Extra Care Digestive Probiotic Capsules, Daily Supplement Supports Immune, Digestive and Respiratory Health, L. Rhamnosus GG, Dairy, Soy and gluten-free, 30 Billion CFU, 30 Count

Are Probiotic Supplements Vegan?

vegan symbol

Four out of five probiotic supplements may contain animal ingredients or dairy sources so that they wouldn’t be vegan. However, vegans can still consume probiotic supplements. However, they need to be careful about the ingredients of the supplement and the production methods to make sure it doesn’t contain animal products or dairy sources.

How To Choose Vegan-Friendly Supplement

Here are a few things for vegans to look out for when choosing a probiotic supplement. Only buy supplements from reputable brands that have a vegan symbol or a certified vegan accreditation.

Watch Out For These Non-Vegan Ingredients: 

  • Fillers like caprylic, which is typically sourced from milk, and glycerin which can be derived from animal fat. 
  • Bacteria strains that (sometimes) grow on dairy products, such as Lactobacillus.
  • Avoid capsules that have animal origins like gelatine. Go for products that use vegetable cellulose as a shell.
  • Lactose is the sugar of milk.
  • Digestive enzymes are generally paired with probiotics to boost the digestive process. Still, some of them may be sourced from animal products.

Vegan Probiotics With Added Prebiotics 

Best Vegan-Friendly Supplement With Targeted Delayed-Release Capsules For Men And Women. Non-Dairy – 4.4 Billion CFU.

Llama Naturals Real Fruit Prebiotic & Probiotic Kids Gummies, No Added Sugar Cane, Vegan Organic Synbiotics, Children Digestion, Toddler Tummy Aches, Gut Health, 2B CFU, 60 ct (30 Days) Peach Mango

Vegans can also get a good dose of friendly bacteria from foods like Sauerkraut juice, Kimchi, Pickled Vegetables, Kombucha, Water kefir, Tempeh, Sourdough bread, Miso, and many more. 

What Is The Best Way To Take Probiotics?

A woman taking a probiotic supplement

Along with following the packet instructions, here are a few helpful tips for taking probiotics:

  • Avoid taking your supplements with chlorinated or hot water, as it may kill the bacteria.
  • Try consuming your probiotic supplement on an empty stomach, as this lowers the stomach acid levels and assists absorption.
  • “Feed” your good bacteria by consuming enough prebiotic fiber, either from food or from dedicated prebiotic supplements if your diet is compromised.
  • Unless you have a specific concern, a general rule of thumb is picking a probiotic with the widest possible variety of beneficial strains, with at least 10 billion live organisms per dosage.

Probiotics Side Effects

probiotics side effects

Generally, probiotics are well-tolerated, and any side effects experienced are likely to be mild and transient. With that in mind, it’s important to be aware of possible negative effects, which include:

  • Unpleasant digestive symptoms, such as an increase in gas and bloating.
  • For sensitive individuals, headaches are triggered by amines in probiotics.
  • Increased histamine levels, which may cause allergic reactions (usually mild) – e.g., redness, swelling, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, and difficulty breathing.
  • Allergic reactions to filler ingredients in probiotic supplements.
  • In rare cases, increased infection risk – typically in individuals with compromised immune systems.

In The Nutshell

A daily dose of these friendly microorganisms can make a huge difference to your gut microbiota and well-being. Whether you want to strengthen your immunity or enhance digestion, probiotics are your best bet.

However, to get the best from your supplement, it is important that you choose the right one for your needs. So, spend a little time researching before you make a purchase. 

Take a look at this great selection of top-selling Probiotics here on Amazon >>>

Difference Between Prebiotics And Probiotics

 High dietary fiber foods

Prebiotics are the non-digestible dietary fiber that stimulates the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut.

Now, once you have bought your probiotics supplement, you should not overlook prebiotics. While sound similar, these supplements have a very different role to play in our gut and digestive system.

Prebiotics do not actually contain bacteria, but they are important nourishment and fuel for probiotics to help good bacteria live and grow.

However, many people don’t understand the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, much less how they can benefit their health.

As you learned above, probiotics are called “good bacteria” and for a good reason. They are in foods or supplements that have live microorganisms in them that help the healthy microflora found in our gut flourish.

Meanwhile, prebiotics are usually high-fiber foods that act as food for those good bacteria. So essentially, eating prebiotic high-fiber foods and supplements is good for your gut.

Prebiotics feed those beneficial bacteria strains to help us stay healthy. Nourishing them has a bounty of benefits like improved insulin levels that reveal beautiful skin and better digestion. 

Additionally, prebiotics can help you sleep better, relieve stress, and help you stay leaner by processing your food properly and keeping things running smoothly.

The Role of Prebiotics

In addition to aiding vitamin production, prebiotics stimulate beneficial #bacteria growth without stimulating bad microorganisms. Examples of beneficial strains include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Why Prebiotics Are Just As Important As Probiotics For Your Health.

How To Get More Prebiotics In Diet?

Fruits like bananas, apples, tomatoes, and kiwi are a good start. You should also eat plenty of spinach, onions, asparagus, leeks, and artichokes. Even a few cloves of garlic are a good choice. Whole, unrefined grains are good for your gut bacteria too.

Try eating more millet, quinoa, oatmeal, and brown rice. Nuts and seeds, as well as fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso, are another way to get prebiotics along with probiotics into your system through foods.

Fibre-rich plant-based foods like Banza pasta are one of my favorite choices and are right up there with porridge and brown rice.

Sweeten your tea with unrefined honey, mix water with apple cider vinegar, and drink it each morning, or even eat dark chocolate!

Raw chicory root is one of the best natural sources of #fibre, providing as much as 65% of this important nutrient by weight, as well as lots of #prebiotics.

Prebiotic Food Ideas For Optimal Digestion

Prebiotic Foods

You can get creative in the kitchen to get more of these fantastic prebiotic foods into your body. Here are some delicious suggestions:

  • Make overnight oats by soaking them in your refrigerator overnight. Add blueberries or slices of bananas (or both!) to it along with chia seeds for breakfast you’ll want to eat every day.
  • Eat more spinach salad! It’s a great way to get all the nutrients your body needs, plus you’ll get prebiotic power from it too. Add in other things like tomatoes and artichokes for a bonus. You can also use apple cider vinegar to make your dressing. Talk about a power lunch!
  • Simply sautéing your foods with garlic and onions adds more prebiotics to your diet. Try it with everything from veggies to meats to tofu.
  • Cook up brown rice and wrap it in nori (the seaweed used to wrap sushi) with kimchi for a spicy and tasty treat.
  • Enjoy a snack of sliced fruits like apples and kiwi with a handful of nuts, particularly pistachios.

While you can certainly get probiotics from fermented foods, you should boost your intake of good bacteria to make sure that you’re getting enough for optimal digestion and healthy gut flora. By combining the power of prebiotics with good bacteria, you’ll find you feel better overall and have more energy to take on anything!

Research shows that the more #prebiotics we digest, the better it is for the immune system, gastrointestinal tract, bone health, weight control, and even mental health – the benefits are endless!

10 thoughts on “How To Choose The Right Probiotic And Prebiotic Supplement?”

  1. Thank you for all this information. I struggle myself with deciding which is best for me. Is there any you would recommend for someone with acid reflux? I seem to have some pretty bad stomach problems when I take probiotics. The few I have tried made be very nauseous. I do want to take them for the benefits though!

  2. Hmmm, we’ve never tried a pill for our probiotics, but it might be time to start. I’ve been trying to introduce fermented foods into our diet, but we’ve just got some picky mouths around here. I’ve had the most success with yogurt and kefir (strawberry kefir is our go-to!) but I often feel like I’m not getting enough in.

    I also love the symptoms table? I had absolutely never thought of needing the right ones for specific symptoms. Definitely bookmarked and will be coming back to that/researching how we can integrate that into our diet.

  3. Mmmm, spinach! We eat so much spinach in this house, haha. It’s also good to know that my usual way of cooking dinner (add garlic+onions to a pan and by the time it’s done sauteeing I’ll figure out what we’re having for dinner, haha!) is getting some prebiotics in.

    I’m always on the lookout for meal prep staples, too, and we’ve never tried overnight oats, so I may have to add that to the rotation. Sounds super convenient! Useful details, indeed. Cheers!

    • Hey Dan, my eyes just got O.O huge when I saw artichokes on there, haha! It looks like I can officially have an excuse for eating spinach artichoke dip! Spinach + artichokes being good for gut flora never tasted so good, oh my goodness!

      This really just goes to show that the more plants we put in our diet, the better! It can be rough around here – we can’t have a lot of sugar so the fruits are hard to work in, but I love that common kitchen staples like garlic are included!

  4. Excellent article, all of your ideas for obtaining all the needed probiotics every day are so helpful! I got used to taking them, especially after antibiotic treatment, but not only that, it is so very important for helping to develop a healthy intestinal flora.

  5. Are probiotics vegan? I am vegan and after reading your post you did convince me to try some as I do suffer from some of the symptoms you mentioned. But since I am vegan I just want to make sure if probiotics are actually vegan before I start taking them. Thank You.

  6. I always had a problem when I was choosing them. There are literally hundreds of them on Amazon and they are quite expensive so I want to make sure if I buy some I will buy the right ones. This helped me a lot. Thank you for this post.

  7. I am drinking the Actimel probiotic drink, I drink about 3-5 a day, do you think that Actimel is beneficial at all or am I better off taking extra supplements?

  8. I can’t agree with you more Jen, daily intake of Prebiotics is extremely important for the right function of your metabolism and digestion. I personally try to add probiotics to my daily diet in food as much as possible and I also take the Prebiotic supplement to make sure I get enough.


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About Jen Evansy

Nutritionist, researcher, avid home cook, and writer interested in everything nutrition and food-related. Striving to inform, encourage, and inspire all the readers to make healthy and informed choices when it comes to cooking, food, diet, and nutrition.