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Here Are The Best Probiotics According to Science

Probiotics have been the subject of various research studies in recent years. Experts believe that these beneficial bacteria are key to preventing a myriad of diseases.

Along with its growing popularity is the surge of probiotic supplements in the market. A quick search on the internet will give you hundreds of probiotic supplements in varying colors and forms. It comes in tablets, capsules, lozenges, and even liquid beverages.

But with so many options, how do you choose which probiotic to buy?

To answer that question, let’s turn to the science of probiotics.

How Probiotics Work

Unknown to many of us, our body has billions of bacteria residing within it – both harmful and beneficial. Collectively, they are what science refers to as the “microbiome” or the body’s microbial population.

In recent years, scientists have discovered a connection between our microbiome and our overall health. They found that a healthy person has a more “balanced” microbiome than those who are sick.

A computer generated illustration of probiotic strains.

This is where probiotics enter the picture. They are the beneficial bacteria that keep the harmful ones in check. As such, they help restore and maintain balance in your body’s microbial population.

Think of them as your body’s personal band of soldiers. When there are very few of them, the enemy (bad bacteria) can easily conquer and propagate within your body. There’s nothing stopping them, after all. This, in turn, can weaken your body’s defenses and allows easy entry for disease-causing germs and pathogens.

Taking in probiotics helps replenish the number of beneficial bacteria in your body. With more good bacteria than bad, the latter can easily be subdued. Probiotics stick to your internal cavities and kick out the bad ones, reestablishing balance to your microbiome.

What to Look For in a Probiotic Supplement

Strain

Just like disease-causing bacteria, there are thousands of different probiotic strains. Each of them has a different function. As such, it’s important to look for the probiotic strain that will address your specific health needs.

Some probiotics contain only one strain. While others are formulated with a combination of different strains. These combinations are oftentimes geared for a specific purpose. It can be for oral health, weight loss, and many others. Most of the time, these are indicated in the probiotics’ label.

Drinking a probiotic supplement that’s intended for heart health won’t be effective against diarrhea and vice versa. This is why you cannot expect a probiotic supplement to be a “cure-all” if you have various health concerns.

Number of Colony-Forming Units (CFU)

A colony-forming unit (CFU) refers to the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample. Why is this important?

As mentioned earlier, probiotics fight bad bacteria by colonizing your internal cavities. Most of these colonizing activities happen in your gut. To be able to effectively colonize your gut, the probiotics must reach that part of your body alive.

Unfortunately, only a percentage of the probiotics you take in reaches your gut alive. Your stomach acid wipes out most of them. Thus, the higher the number of live bacteria you take in, the more of them can make it past your stomach and into your gut.

As a rule of thumb, probiotics should contain at least 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs per dosage. But some products may contain as much as 50 billion CFU.

Expiry Date

There is not yet any scientific evidence proving that expired probiotics can make you sick. But studies show that the longer a probiotic supplement stays on the shelf, the less effective it is.

Remember that when taking probiotics, the number of live microorganisms that reach your gut is essential. Probiotics that are nearing their expiry date may not have as much live bacteria as indicated on the label. Various environmental and storage factors can kill these microorganisms.

Unlike most supplements, probiotics usually have short shelf-lives. Some only last for three to six months before they lose their viability. So when looking for probiotics, make sure they’re new and are still months away from expiring.

How to Choose the Best Probiotics Now that you know what to look for in a probiotic supplement, here's how to choose the best one for you.

Look at the Label

The label contains all the essential information necessary to make an informed decision. It should reflect the probiotic strain, the expiry date, and the manufacturer’s name and contact information. Though not officially required by the FDA, some manufacturers also indicate CFUs in their product labels. If the probiotic’s label does not show these data, consider it as a red flag.

Look for Reviews

The best thing about the internet age is we can easily get reviews on almost anything. The same goes true for probiotic supplements. Before you decide which is the best probiotic for you, search for reviews both online and off.

You can usually find these in online forums and on the company’s social media page. Online shops like Amazon are also a gold mine for product reviews.

Research the Brand

Aside from or in the absence of reviews of a specific probiotic product, you also need to dig deeper into the brand. How long have they been into the business of probiotics? What about their business ethics? How high is their trust rating? These kinds of questions will help you choose the best probiotics.

Choosing the Right Probiotic Strain

As we’ve mentioned, there are a lot of probiotic strains each with different benefits. Choosing the right strain will maximize probiotic effectivity. According to science, here are the best probiotics for each specific health concern.

Probiotics for Digestive Health

Most probiotic strains from the Lactobacillus genus are found to be effective with various digestive concerns. Some Bifidobacterium strains are also proving to be up to the task.

If you’re looking to relieve constipation, these strains can be helpful:

Studies also found that L. rhamnosus GG, L. acidophilus, and L. bulgaricus helps prevent diarrhea in both adult and children. It also lowers the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 52%.

Best Probiotic Brands for Digestive Health:

Best probiotics for digestive health.
Best probiotics for weight loss.

Probiotics for Weight Loss

Not a lot of people know this but probiotics can also help you lose weight. Aside from regulating your digestion process, it also helps reduce the amount of fat your gut absorbs.

A review of various studies suggests that the following strains may help reduce adiposity, body weight, and weight gain:

  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • a combination of L. rhamnosus and B. lactis Bb12

One study, in particular, administered obese Japanese adults with fermented milk containing L. gasseri. After 12 weeks, they showed significant reduction in body fat mass. It also lowered their BMI and trimmed their waist and hip circumference.

Best Probiotic Brand Weight Loss:

Probiotics to Boost Immunity

An increasing number of scientific evidence shows a link between your gut health and immunity. Thus maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut strengthens your body’s defenses against allergens.

According to various studies, you can boost your immunity by taking probiotic supplements with these strains:

  • Lactobacillus GG
  • Lactobacillus crispatus
  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum

Study results show that these strains help reduce inflammation. They may also reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses in children as well as urinary tract infections in women.

Best Probiotic Brand for Boosting Immunity:

Best probiotics for immunity.
A man looking in the mirror while flossing.

Probiotics for Oral Health

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the effectiveness of probiotics on oral health issues. The results of various studies also back this up.

So far, scientists haven’t found a probiotic strain that is native to the mouth. But culture-based studies suggest that Bifidobacterium is among the first to dwell in it. While several strains of Lactobacillus are found in most saliva samples. Both of these strains are found in breast milk, making them the first to have contact with our oral cavities.

Among the benefits associated with oral probiotics include:

  • plaque prevention
  • reduced symptoms of gingivitis
  • baby fresh breath
  • oral cancer prevention
  • reduced inflammation and other symptoms of gum disease

One probiotic strain in particular, Streptococcus Salivarius BLIS K12, is deemed to be very effective against multiple oral health problems.

In one study, results showed that taking the strains for three consecutive days significantly reduced the bacteria causing bad breath. While a study in Milan confirmed that it prevents streptococcal pharyngitis in children. The American Society for Microbiology also found that it helps prevent severe candidiasis.

Best Probiotic Brand for Oral Health:

Probiotics for Heart Health

They may be known for gut health but probiotics are good for your heart too. Studies have shown that some probiotic strains help reduce bad cholesterol while increasing the good ones. These strainsĀ  include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

Studies found that probiotics can help block the absorption o cholesterol in the gut. It also changes your body’s fat metabolism. Both of these contribute to lowering your cholesterol levels.

Best Probiotic Brand for Heart Health:

Best probiotics for heart health.
Best probiotics for brain health.

Probiotics for Brain Health

There’s a reason why your gut is called the “second brain”. Aside from producing neurotransmitters, it’s also directly connected to your brain. The two are linked through a biochemical signaling in the enteric nervous system.

As a result, a your gut health also affects your mental health. If your gut is functioning well, it can affect your mood and cognitive function. It can also lead to reduced levels of stress and anxiety.

Among the probiotic strains touted to be beneficial to your brain include:

Best Probiotic Brand for Brain Health:

Other Sources of Probiotics

If you’re not keen on taking supplements, you can still get your daily dose of probiotics from the foods you eat. Specifically, fermented foods.

Fermenting is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. Unknown to many, the most essential ingredient to any fermenting technique is bacteria. Yes, you read it right. Fermented foods contain billions of naturally-grown good bacteria. This is what makes them ideal sources of probiotics.

Some of the most probiotic-rich foods you can try are:

  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • tempeh
  • miso
  • cheese
  • natto
  • buttermilk (the traditional kind)
  • pickles

How to Get the Most Out of Your Probiotic Supplement

Taking a probiotic supplement is not enough. You need to make sure you’re maximizing its benefits. To do this, you need to ensure three things:

1. You are taking the right probiotic strain.

Not all probiotics are the same. As mentioned, if you are taking a probiotic supplement with strains intended for diarrhea, you can’t expect it to relieve your acne. Each health concern needs a specific kind of probiotic supplement. And in case we haven’t stressed this enough, there are no “cure-all” probiotics. If the label claims so, better put it back on the shelf where it belongs.

2. There are enough live bacteria that will reach your gut.

Probiotic supplements are only as effective as the number of bacteria that will reach your gut alive. It’s useless to take in a supplement with more than a billion CFU if only 1% of it will survive your stomach acid. This is why enteric-coated probiotics are more recommended. The specially-designed barrier protects the microorganisms and makes sure they reach your gut safe and sound.

But if you’re talking about oral probiotics, lozenges are your best bet. The slow suckling motion allows the probiotics to better stick to your oral cavities. As a result, they have a much better chance of colonizing your mouth and kicking out the bad bacteria.

3. You are taking it on a regular basis.

They may not be prescription medicines, but probiotics also have to be taken on a regular basis. If not, your efforts would be for naught.

Remember, you need them to reestablish balance to your microbiota. If there are fewer of them, the bad bacteria can easily take over and you still won’t feel any difference.

Judy Ponio author for Bionaze

About The Author

is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.