How To Choose The Right Probiotic & Prebiotic Supplement

How To Choose The Right Probiotic & Prebiotic Supplement

By Jen Evansy / September 14, 2018

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

Bacteria are pretty much everywhere in our body: the gut, mouth, and skin. Both the good and the bad bacteria live together in our body. 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.

Good bacteria vs bad bacteria stomach

A healthy balance of bacteria in our gut helps to eliminate and filter harmful bacteria, waste products, and many toxins.

Whenever there is an imbalance, a dose of probiotics can help restore harmony. Several fermented foods such as yogurt, milk kefir and kimchi contain some good bacteria, but they may not provide the right dose you need to bring back the balance. So, the best way to get the right probiotic in the right quantity is through supplements.

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, and it is expected to reach $17.4 billion by 2027. However, with an overwhelming number of probiotics available in the market, finding the right one for your needs can be a challenge. So, here is some insight into choosing the right kind of probiotics.

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 nose, mouth, stomach and even armpits!

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Benefits Of Taking Probiotics

Probiotics are a type of good bacteria, live microorganisms found in certain foods and supplements. There is  scientific evidence to show that probiotics 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 also differ. So, there are many factors that you need to consider if you want to get the best from your supplements. Here are some things that you must keep in mind when purchasing a probiotic supplement.

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 probiotics 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, prefer the probiotics that contain the optimal combination of microorganisms and has prebiotic 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 supplemented 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 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 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 any health problems, you should choose specific strains. Look for the following strains for your symptoms:

Which Strains Are Good For What?

List Of Probiotic strains

Symptoms                

Strain

Traveler’s Diarrhoea

Saccharomyces boulardii

Lactose intolerance

Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus

Irritable bowel syndrome

Bifidobacterium bifidum MIMBb75, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, Lactobacillus Plantarum 299V

Eczema

Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 PCC, Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001

Vaginal infection

Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, Lactobacillus acidophilus

Common cold

Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM, Bifidobacterium animalis lactis Bi-07

Oral Health (Periodontitis, Gingivitis, etc)

Lactobacillus reuteri LR-1 or LR-2, Weissella cibaria

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 prevail.

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

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

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

Below I am going to recommend some of the best multi-strain probiotics for various conditions that I have found to work really well for me and for many others and that are 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, being 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 probiotics 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

Probiotics That Are Effective Against Diarrhea

Diarrhea often happens due to gut flora imbalances, and probiotics 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 probiotics 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 - RAW Probiotics 5-Day Max Care - With digestive supporting enzymes

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

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 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 overweight and obesity, but also against other health conditions.

Keep in mind, however, that more research is required to better understand 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

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 probiotics with these bacterial strains can be good for your brain.

Best Probiotics For Brain Health

Renew Life Stress and Mood

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 that 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 immune system

Probiotics For General Health

The best multi-strain probiotic 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 whopping 40 scientifically studied probiotic strains. It covers and helps to relieve most of the symptoms I have mentioned above and 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 Probiotic provides, such as:

  • Maintaining healthy gut flora
  • Reducing abdominal discomfort, e.g. bloating and cramps
  • For women – increasing the population of beneficial bacteria in and around the vagina, which 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, for healthy individuals, it’s much more important 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

How 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 probiotics 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 a 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
  • In sensitive individuals, headaches 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 probiotics can make a huge difference to your well being. Whether you want to strengthen your immunity or enhance digestion, probiotics are your best bet. However, to get the best from your probiotics, it is important that you choose the right one for your needs. So, spend a little time researching before you make a purchase. 

Gut bacteria are sensitive to outside stressors such as poor #diet and certain medications (e.g. #antibiotics) – however, the reduction in good bacteria numbers can be counteracted by using #probiotic supplements.

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


Difference Between Prebiotics And Probiotics

 High dietary fiber foods

Prebiotics a 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 good reason. They are in foods or supplements that have live microorganisms in them that help the normal microflora found in our gut to flourish.

Meanwhile, prebiotics are usually high-fiber foods that act as food for that 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

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

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

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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, artichokes. Even a few cloves of garlic is 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 is one of my favorite choices and is 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.

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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 a 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 eat, you should boost your intake of good bacteria to make sure that you’re getting enough for good digestion and gut flora. By combining the power of prebiotics with a probiotic supplement, 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!

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About the author

Jen Evansy

Nutritionists, researchers, and writers, interested in everything healthy-living related. Helping you identify the best diets, learn about food and nutrition, to help you live happier, longer and stronger.

  • Diana Tan says:

    I do agree, probiotics are healthy and really good for the gut. I take them regularly.

  • Linda P says:

    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!

  • Healthy Mummy says:

    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.

  • Dan Lund says:

    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!

    • Jessica Shirley says:

      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!

  • Antonia says:

    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.

  • Alin Boicu says:

    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.

  • Alejandro says:

    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.

  • Cenk Mert says:

    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?

  • Madlen says:

    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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