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Your gut is home to a vibrant community of microorganisms essential to your health. These bacteria play a key role in digestion, regulating the immune system, and treating conditions such as allergies and gum disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And we have good news: you can increase your gut microbiome with the best probiotic supplements.
Whether you have gastrointestinal issues or just finished taking antibiotics, you’ve probably thought about adding probiotics to your diet. And even if you try to satiate yourself by eating yogurt or kimchi, you can still reap the benefits of supplements. Here’s how to choose the right probiotic for you, along with a round-up of the best options available today.
What are probiotics and what are their benefits?
Probiotic bacteria work to keep the community of microorganisms in your gut – and the rest of your body – in a healthy, balanced state. We get them primarily by eating foods high in fiber, which promote the growth of good bacteria, as well as fermented foods like kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut. Supplements can also provide them in a concentrated form. As with other dietary supplements, probiotics do not need to be tested or approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration before they can be marketed.
“The past few years have seen an explosion of research into the importance of the microbiome and the many health benefits associated with a balanced microbiome. Probiotic supplements offer a way to help maintain this balance, ”says Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health. They can be a kind of insurance for your overall health, especially if you don’t eat a lot of fiber or fermented foods.
Probiotic supplements can “restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut” after taking antibiotics, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a New York-based nutrition expert. What’s more, a growing body of evidence suggests they play a role in improving digestion, promoting immune function, optimizing healthy blood sugar levels, and even fighting disorders like depression.
But you have to manage your expectations: More research is needed to appeal to probiotics for weight loss, and the NIH has not found conclusive evidence that they help conditions like asthma, acne, or acne. urinary tract infections. “Research is evolving, so it’s probably premature to turn to probiotics as a ‘cure’ for a disease,” says Dr Rajapaksa. “If you are looking to treat a medical problem, it is best to use probiotics under the direction of your doctor. “
How to choose the best probiotic supplement
Look for the good bacteria. General purpose supplements should contain well documented strains; Lactobacilli, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii have been the most studied, says Dr Rajapaksa. If you’re trying to fix a specific health problem, look for a probiotic that has been studied for that problem. Ask your doctor which strains have been shown to be particularly helpful. Also, make sure you have enough: there is no official recommendation on how many CFUs or colony-forming units you need, but most supplements contain between five and 10. billion per dose.
Look for a few key extras. A good supplement has time-release technology and provides a dose of prebiotics, fibers that are nourished by the probiotic bacteria. “The sustained-release technology ensures that the probiotic reaches your gut and the prebiotic component facilitates absorption,” says Dr Rajapaksa. Another important extra is third party certification; seek a seal of approval from groups such as Consumer Lab, NSF International, or the American Pharmacopoeia Convention (USP), which guarantees that the product has been tested for quality, purity, potency, and ingredients.
Make sure it has been stored correctly. A supplement doesn’t have to be refrigerated to be legitimate. “If the product has been lyophilized, it is heat stable and can be stored at room temperature,” explains Largeman-Roth. But if you buy a probiotic labeled as heat-dried, it should definitely be kept cold. “Make sure it has been properly stored in the store,” she notes. Finally, take a look at the expiration date to confirm that you will be able to use the bottle before it expires.
Now that you are an expert on the best probiotic supplements, here are a few recommended by experts and reviewers.
Align 24/7 probiotic digestive support
This ever popular probiotic supplement is a favorite among gastroenterologists thanks to strains like Bifidobacterium 35624, which promotes healthy digestion and may help relieve cramps, bloating, and occasional gas. It’s a well-studied probiotic for gut health, says Dr. Rajapaksa, and Amazon reviews are big fans. “I don’t swell anymore and my bathroom problems are totally gone,” one of them echoes.
With a unit price of around a quarter per capsule, NewRhythm’s top-rated probiotic is one of the more affordable options out there. But the brand doesn’t compromise on quality; each dose delivers 50 billion CFU of 20 shelf-stable Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli strains. “This product has really changed my life,” says a reviewer who suffered from chronic diarrhea. “I don’t normally believe in a magic ailment pill, but that’s exactly it for me.”
Best for women
Garden of Life Once Daily Probiotics for Women
This once-a-day, non-refrigerated probiotic contains 16 strains of friendly bacteria to support healthy digestion, boost your immune health, and support a healthy environment for vaginal flora – the complete package for women. Best of all, it’s among the most popular (and top rated) probiotic supplements on Amazon. One reviewer even credits her with helping her resolve her persistent bacterial vaginosis.
Best for men
Garden of Life Raw Men’s Probiotics
Men, on the other hand, may benefit from another Garden of Life probiotic supplement; this promotes good digestion, ideal immunity and good stools with 85 billion CFU from 31 probiotic strains. Just be sure to refrigerate them when they arrive. “I’m happy with the results so far,” writes an Amazon reviewer. “I felt super charged with energy and a good mood.”
Ideal for the elderly
Renew Life Ultimate Flora Adult 50+ Probiotic
As we age, the amount of Bifidobacterium species in our gut is decreasing, according to a 2017 study, but this supplement is designed to fight back. Formulated with 30 billion CFU of Bifidobacteria strains (plus a good dose of key Lactobacilli strains, too), it is especially useful for the elderly. “My body is stronger, I am more focused on the things I do during the day and I am in a better mood,” reports a reviewer.
The best extras
Ancient Nutrition SBO Ultimate Probiotics
With 50 billion CFU of Saccharomyces bouldardii and three strains of Bacillus microorganisms, this probiotic’s ingredient list stands out from the competition. Another big bonus is its fermented botanical blend, which includes black pepper, ginger root, and turmeric root to further aid digestion. “My whole digestion works better when taking them,” says an Amazon reviewer who used these supplements to treat bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
Nurish by Nature Made multi-strain probiotics
This subscription supplement offers 12 Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria probiotic strains that support healthy gut flora. The best of all? The daily dose is one capsule. “I like the ones you just need to take once a day,” says Largeman-Roth, who takes these probiotics herself. “It’s too much to expect people to take a supplement multiple times a day. “
Better for gut health
HUM Instinct Intestine
This option has 10 strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium, which have well documented benefits. One is Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a bacteria that research shows may be beneficial for diarrhea, mood support, and even weight loss. And unlike some probiotics, you can take it on an empty stomach. “I [live with] IBS / C and this product is really a godsend, ”reports an Amazon reviewer.
Best for immunity
Florastor Daily Probiotic Supplement
Another Dr. Rajapaksa favorite, this supplement contains a unique probiotic blend that includes Saccharomyces boulardii to balance digestion and support immune health. Bonus: they don’t need to be refrigerated. And while the price tag seems steep, there are 100 supplements in the package, which means it’s actually a steal. “I feel like the old me! An Amazon reviewer raves. “No more bloating, no more gastrointestinal issues, digestion is just like it was before I got sick.”
Better for skin health
Tula Skincare Daily Probiotics & Skin Health Complex
The combination of Lactobacilli strains, Bifidobacterium the strains, vitamin C and ceramides in this probiotic supplement balance your gut and help your skin look its best. “They are clinically proven to help improve skin smoothness, firmness and hydration,” says Dr. Rajapaksa, who formulated the probiotics herself. “Now, as of my fourth month on these supplements, I can definitely recommend them to anyone,” writes an Amazon reviewer.
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