Did you know that a reported 80% of your immune system resides in your gut?
There’s good and bad bacteria in there (fascinating fact: an estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside your digestive tract): When the good outweighs the bad, your immune health soars; when the bad overpowers good, you get sick. You have diarrhea. Your immune system tanks. Your IBS, lactose intolerance, and other gut problems are exacerbated. It throws your entire system out of whack.
What’s more, your bacterial makeup does more than just boost or bully your immune system; the existence of good and bad bacteria affect your mood and energy levels, relieve (or contribute to) a sensitive stomach (including lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome/IBS), affect your mood, and even support (or hinder) a healthy body weight. (Fascinating fact: Scientists can predict weight with 90% accuracy based on your gut’s bacterial makeup, but only with 58% accuracy based on your genes. Bacteria counts!)
Enter probiotics – your fast-track to good gut bacteria, intestinal wellbeing, and a stronger immune system, among other benefits. The premise is simple: Take one (or a few) probiotic pills a day, and you can repair, repopulate, and replenish the good bacteria that live throughout your digestive tract.
In practice, though, it’s a bit more complicated than that: Different products offer different CFUs values, active strains, and all sorts of other technical-sounding terminology, like slow-release capsules and special coatings, prebiotic additions and shelf-stable properties. We break it down, in the buying guide and products, below.
Note: Always speak with your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement, including a probiotic.
10 Best Probiotic Supplements (Chart)
|Best Overall||DNA Shift® Probiotics 50 Billion CFU + Prebiotic||4.2 stars|
|Runner Up||Vitamin Bounty Pro-25 Probiotic||4.7 stars|
|Best Budget Buy||Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 30 Billion||4.3 stars|
*costs are estimated
*ratings are based on Amazon user ratings
*main ingredients are first three listed on package
Myriad factors – antibiotics, diet, stress, and age, among them – affect the balance of diverse microbes present in your gut. While you can replenish your gut bacteria by eating well and incorporating natural probiotics (ex. yogurt and kefir) into a healthy diet, these processes can take weeks or months; taking a regular probiotic is an easy and effective way to ensure your gut (and immune system) stays healthy, always.
When shopping for a probiotic, the first things to look at are CFUs count and probiotic strains. CFUs is the acronym for colony forming units, and is the measure of how many probiotic bacteria are capable of dividing to form colonies. In other words, the higher the CFUs, the higher the number of active, live good bacteria. Generally speaking, the higher the CFUs, the better, although there are exceptions.
Probiotic strains refer to the number of different good bacteria species present in your probiotic. Generally speaking, the more probiotic strains, the better, as each strain affects your gut health differently. Let’s have a look at some of the most common probiotic strains:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: Perhaps the most common probiotic on the market, this strain lives in your small intestine, where it helps produce vitamins and facilitate digestion. This good bacteria may also produce lactase, an enzyme to break down lactose and therefore relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance.
- Lactobacillus brevis: This natural anti-inflammatory supports your digestive health, can help combat stomach and intestinal ulcers (such as those from ulcerative colitis), and can even help treat vaginitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Bifidobacterium lactis: A darling of the scientific community, this strain helps break down lactic acid, supports healthy cholesterol levels, boosts immune health, and aids in the digestion of macronutrients, including sugar and fiber. (See more: The Best Fiber Supplements)
- Lacto-bacillus plantarum: If you’ve ever heard of the beneficial effects of fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.), then you’ve heard of this powerful probiotic, which may help improve the symptoms of IBS, gluten intolerance, soy allergies, and Crohn’s disease. This is also one of the most antibiotic-resistant probiotics, which is especially important if you have taken antibiotics recently.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: Another so-called “super probiotic,” this tiny helper can prevent diarrhea (including rotaviral diarrhea), as well as alleviate symptoms from UTIs, lower lactose intolerance, yeast infections, and IBS.
Other common probiotic strains include (in alphabetical order) Bifidobacterium bifidum (particularly susceptible to antibiotics), Bifidobacterium brevis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus salivarius.
When seeking out the best probiotic for you, consider your overall health, dietary needs, antibiotic use, GI challenges, and similar concerns. Then, review our list of the ten best probiotic supplements, which offer everything from raw probiotics, which must be refrigerated, to shelf-stable, slow-release probiotics that concentrate fewer CFUs in tiny, once-daily capsules.
Reviews of the Top-Rated Probiotic Supplements
Garden of Life RAW Probiotics are some of the most popular out there – and for good reason. Let’s start with the basics: You’ll get 85 billion CFUs and 31 to 33 probiotic strains out of your daily, whole-food, gluten-free, soy-free probiotic, which helps support the immune system, a healthy thyroid, nutrient absorption, digestive function, and a healthy microbial balance.
We love that RAW offers proprietary blends for various needs, including specialty formulas for women and men. Both support the standard systems (immune, digestive, etc.), and the women’s probiotic tacks on extras, including L. reuteri and L. rhamnosus, to support vaginal health. The men’s blend adds L .fermentum, to boost immunity during exercise and other physical exertion.
What’s more, RAW Probiotics are exactly what they purport to be – raw! They’re uncooked, untreated and unadulterated, and have no fillers or binders. You also won’t find any displeasing carriers, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. And since RAW Probiotics are kept in temperature-controlled cold storage through delivery and until they make it into your fridge, you can be sure your probiotics “arrive alive.”
Ayush Herbs’ Probiotic 100B is a potent probiotic designed to support healthy immune function, thanks to its hefty dose of 100 billion CFUs and 7 different human-origin probiotic strains (if you’re counting, L. acidophilus 50%; L. casei 10%; L. plantarum 10%; L. rhamnosus 10%; B. lactis 10%; B. longum 5%; and S. thermophilus 5%).
All probiotic strains are manufactured through fermentation, and are then freeze-dried before blending with fructooligosaccharides (FOS). The result is a shelf-stable (two years at room temperature), nitrogen-filled probiotic of human origin: a probiotic that easily adapts to your body, and is both acid- and bile-resistant to survive the acidic environment of the human stomach. In other words, a probiotic that fulfills its promises.
Additionally, 100B is fortified with prebiotics, to form a symbiotic relationship between the various bacterial strains. These offerings come together in a vegetarian capsule, free from common allergens – a much-needed probiotic designed for even those with dietary restrictions and sensitivities.
Renew Life Ultimate Flora offers 30 billion CFUs with 10 scientifically studied strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, which according to current scientific research, are the two most prevalent good bacteria found in a healthy gut. In other words, you might choose these if you’re seeking a careful balance designed to re-establish proper immune health and digestive equilibrium.
Ultimate Flora is a dairy-free, gluten-free, and GMO-free offering that promises to make you feel more energized, lighter, and overall healthier. It’s whole-body wellbeing, thanks to just one daily, delayed-release capsule that delivers positive probiotic effects throughout the day.
You’ll love that Ultimate Flora comes in a convenient “Go Pack:” a travel-ready blister pack that makes it easy to carry your probiotics on the road, in the air, and wherever else you travel. No refrigeration is required. Quality, potency, and purity are guaranteed through the expiration date.
NewRhythm Probiotics offers 50 billion CFUs and 20 essential probiotic strains, in a specially formulated capsule designed to support a healthy digestive system and encourage a robust immune system. This supplement is 100% natural and vegetarian, it contains no GMOs or gluten.
Created especially for the adult gut, NewRhythm Probiotics was developed to support your body’s natural digestive tract, via daily delivery of the organisms and bacteria necessary for a healthy balance in your stomach, colon, and intestines. The capsules are formulated to deliver the highest possible potency via greater capsule stability.
NewRhythm Probiotics contain live bacteria and are made in the USA to conform to GMP standards. All probiotics are produced in an FDA-registered facility, and are suitable for vegetarians.
Dr. Tobias Deep Immune Support Probiotics offer 4.4 billion CFUs and 4 potent probiotic strains, boosted by the brand’s patented Probiotic Booster PreForPro®, which delivers a highly effective prebiotic that feeds only the good bacteria present in your gut.
Deep Immune Support Probiotics started with a simple premise: Most probiotic strains present on the market today cannot survive the acidic environment of the human digestive system. Additionally, most of the most powerful probiotics require refrigeration, meaning they won’t survive standard delivery services or even room temperatures during your commute or travel.
Dr. Tobias responded with Deep Immune Support, a shelf-stable capsule that does not require refrigeration and employs four acid-resistant probiotic strains. One such strain: DE111, a highly effective spore-forming probiotic, which complements and balances the non-spore strains most commonly found today, and also supports the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. The patented, delayed-release capsules are made in the USA and are both kosher and vegetarian.
Vitamin Bounty Pro-25 delivers 25 billion CFUs and 13 strains per dose, including several strains not found in other antibiotics, as well as fermented greens, to deliver an effective probiotic designed for maximum results. Freeze-dried to maintain both freshness and efficacy, these capsules deliver benefits directly to your digestive tract.
Billed as the most effective probiotic currently available on the market, Pro-25 combines 13 of the most powerful probiotic strains to deliver the most robust and well-rounded overall digestive health. Delayed-release capsules also protect live organisms from your stomach acid, delivering the right strains to the right location in your digestive system, ensuring maximum efficacy and benefits.
Vitamin Bounty uses no fillers to bulk up their capsules, meaning your daily dose comes down to just a few small capsules – no hard-to-swallow horse pills, thank you! Benefits also include relief from lactose intolerance, “traveler’s tummy,” and IBS. Pro-25 is produced in an NSF-certified facility.
Pure Therapeutics Power Probiotic 100B offers 100 billion CFUs of 4 powerful probiotic strains, including science darling, the HN019 strain of Bifidobacterium lactis. Since environmental factors, including moisture, oxygen and heat, can degrade the stability of your probiotics, Pure Therapeutics 100B is delivered in nitrogen-purged aluminum blister pacts, which ensure viability until the probiotic hits your system. No refrigeration is required.
This dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian probiotic delivers live microorganisms, protected in stomach acid-resistant capsules to ensure effective delivery throughout your digestive system, from the stomach through your small intestines. The result is the repair and sustained maintenance of your intestinal micro-ecology, which in turn helps support healthy immune response and bowel regularity.
Pure Therapeutics 100B also supports lactose intolerance, the immune system, and antibiotic recovery.
DNA Shift is a once-daily, powerful probiotic delivering 50 billion CFUs and 11 probiotic strains. It’s perfect for both men and women who want to improve their gut and brain health. With long-term use, you may even see improved mood and energy levels. This probiotic can help relieve the following: symptoms of gas and bloating, constipation indigestion, irregularity, leaky gut, and diarrhea induced by antibiotics.
The high quality supplement comes in veggie capsule form, and no refrigeration is necessary. This probiotic is made in an FDA registered facility (in the US), and it meets GMP standards. It’s an all natural supplement, that’s free of lactose, soy and gluten. It also contains no artificial coloring. DNA Shift probiotic also offers prebiotic fiber for an extra healthy brain and gut.
LEAN Nutraceuticals 50-Billion Probiotic offers 50 billion CFUs and 15 highly potent probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The result is a powerful and effective probiotic that easily repairs and replenishes the good bacteria in your gut, and helps you maintain a healthy digestive system through good intestinal flora.
Like other top probiotics available today, LEAN’s 50-Billion Probiotic is packaged in a handy, delayed-release capsule, designed to protect non-acid-resistant bacteria until they reach deep into your GI tract, where they’re most needed. The result is maximum effectiveness – better gut health, an immune boost, and relief of common digestive problems.
LEAN’s 50-Billion Probiotic is made in the USA, in an FDA inspected and cGMP certified facility. No fillers and no refrigeration necessary. Thanks to the potency and diversity of organisms like MD1550, it’s perfect for women, men and children.
Offering 5 billion CFUs (reportedly equivalent to 75 billion CFUs, see below) and 15 targeted probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus, Hyperbiotics Pro-15 packs a powerful punch into one tiny, daily pearl.
We’ll start with the headliner: the BIO-tract peral, which packs the equivalent of 75 billion CFUs into one tiny, filler-free, 5-billion CFUs pearl. The trick is in protecting those 5 billion CFUs over an 8 to 10-hour period, so they bypass your acidic stomach and reach your intestinal tract, alive and well, allowing you to experience the full and multitudinous benefits of plentiful and beneficial gut bacteria.
Add in a naturally derived prebiotic, which feeds probiotics to boost both potency and effectiveness, and you have a slow-release capsule that delivers beneficial bacteria exactly where it’s needed. What’s more, Hyperbiotics Pro-15 has a long shelf life (18 months from the date of manufacture) and requires no refrigeration, which makes it as portable as it is tiny. This product is made in the USA, an NSF- and GMP-certified facility.