How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Gut Health

Share with a friend

Womangrabbing stomach-probiotic

Are probiotics just another health trend? Probiotics can be found in bottled drinks and are added to granola bars, baby formula, tea bags, and even health and beauty products, making you think they’re just a fad. However, scientifically this is not the case.

Over 30 years of research and more than 3,000 studies demonstrate the benefit of probiotics on overall wellness. Probiotics replenish your body’s good bacteria and help support a healthy gut. The question is, how do you choose the best probiotic for you?

Walking into a pharmacy to purchase a probiotic can make anyone feel overwhelmed by the choices available regarding strengths, strains, and combinations. Understanding the differences between them can help you choose a good probiotic for your gut.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotic foods for gut health

The term probiotic is widely used, but many don’t fully understand how it supports gut health. Probiotic refers to live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, offer a health benefit. They are the good bacteria that inhabit your digestive system.

Examples of probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium; these species are also the most studied of all probiotics. Probiotics are found in food (e.g., yogurt, kefir, tofu, fermented food) and supplements.

The Benefits of Probiotics

Research has shown that probiotics help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, Helicobacter pylori infection, and others. But these friendly bacteria have many other health benefits, including:

  • Supporting a healthy bowel and immune system [1]
  • Helping you maintain a healthy weight [2]
  • Supporting healthy skin [3] and easing bloating [4]
  • Protecting against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other microbes [5]
  • Increasing the production of mucus that forms a protective barrier in the intestine [6]
  • Producing nutritional factors (several B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and short-chain fatty acids) and increasing mineral absorption [7]
  • Promoting a healthy gut and bowel regularity during travel [8]

Probiotics comparison page 2

Download the comparison chart.

Probiotic Strains

When choosing the right probiotic formula for your needs, it’s important to understand which strains are best suited for your age, health, and lifestyle. The two most common strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

Lactobacillus

  • Live predominantly in your small intestine (e.g., Lactobacillus acidophilus)
  • Support digestion and immune function
  • Help improve emotional well-being [9]
  • Improve bloating and bowel movements, along with bifidobacteria, following antibiotic use [10]

Bifidobacteria

  • Live predominantly in your colon or large intestine (e.g., Bifidobacterium longum)
  • Produce short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which supplies energy to your colon cells to keep them functioning optimally
  • Support a healthy bowel [11]

Choosing a Probiotic


Probiotic in stomach

When choosing the right probiotic supplement for your needs, it’s important to consider a few things.

  • Label information: It should include the strain, formulation, and amount of the active microorganism(s) reported in colony forming units (CFUs). It should also include the recommended dosage per day on the label as well as the expiration date and storage requirements (i.e., how to store the product). 
  • Potency: For adults, choose a probiotic supplement that provides at least 5 billion CFUs and up to 80 billion CFUs. A lower CFU count is ideal for general gut microbiota maintenance, while higher CFU counts can support specific conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea or even food sensitivities. 
  • Expiration: CFUs reported on the label are often the number of microorganisms present at the time of manufacture. This does not reflect the quantity available on the date purchased, as there may be a die-off that occurs during the product’s shelf life. An accurate expiration date should be provided, and the amount of CFUs upon expiration should be listed on the label.
  • Webber Naturals’ probiotic labels indicate the guaranteed amount of active cells per capsule at expiry on every product. 
  • Storage requirements: Some probiotics require refrigeration, and some are shelf-stable. If you travel frequently or prefer the convenience of storing your supplements at room temperature, choose a product that does not require refrigeration or is provided in a convenient blister pack.
  • Diversity: Choose products that contain multiple strains to provide better diversity and support for both small and large intestinal health. Your gut is diverse, so your probiotic should be, too.
  • Allergens: Read the “other ingredients” listed on the label. Check if there are any ingredients you may be sensitive or allergic to, like soy or dairy. 


Probiotics comparison page 1

Download the comparison chart.

 

Signs a Probiotic Might Not be Right for You

Generally, probiotic supplements cause no significant side effects. However, always read the label and follow the label cautions.

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Naturopathic Doctor, natural health and lifestyle expert with 18 years of experience in her field.

References :
  1. Wang X, Zhang P, Zhang X. Probiotics regulate gut microbiota: An effective method to improve immunity. Molécules. 2021; 26(19):6076.
  2. Stenman LK, Lehtinen MJ, Meland N, et al. Probiotic with or without fiber controls body fat mass, associated with serum zonulin, in overweight and obese adults-randomized controlled trial. EBioMedicine. 2016; 13:190-200.
  3. Kober, M. M., & Bowe, W. P. (2015). L’effet des probiotiques sur la régulation immunitaire, l’acné et le photovieillissement International journal of women’s dermatology, 1(2), 85-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2015.02.001
  4. Ringel-Kulka T, Palsson OS, Maier D, et al. Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 versus placebo for the symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders: A double-blind study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011; 45(6):518-25.
  5. Amara AA, Shibl A. Role of probiotics in health improvement, infection control and disease treatment and management. Saudi Pharm J. 2015; 23(2):107-14.
  6. Liu D, Jiang XY, Zhou LS, et al. Effects of probiotics on intestinal mucosa barrier in patients with colorectal cancer after operation: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016; 95(15):e3342.
  7. Gu Q, Li P. Biosynthesis of vitamins by probiotic bacteria. In V. Rao, & L. G. Rao (Eds.), Probiotics and Prebiotics in Human Nutrition and Health. IntechOpen; 2016.
  8. Shi LH, Balakrishnan K, Thiagarajah K, et al. Beneficial properties of probiotics. Trop Life Sci Res. 2016; 27(2):73-90.
  9. Bravo JA, Forsythe P, Chew MV, et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A. 2011; 108(38) : 16050-5.
  10. Ringel-Kulka T, Palsson OS, Maier D, et al. Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 versus placebo for the symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders: A double-blind study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011; 45(6):518-25.
  11. O’Callaghan A, van Sinderen D. Bifidobacteria and their role as members of the human gut microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2016; 7:925.
Back to blog
  • The Ultimate Guide to Omegas and Fatty Acids

    The Ultimate Guide to Omegas and Fatty Acids
    5 MINS

    Get to know your omegas, and what to consider when choosing an omega supplement. 

  • Woman with IBS

    The Ultimate Guide to IBS
    5 MINS

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, well known for causing recurring symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.   If you have...

  • Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

    Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods
    5 MINS

    The Benefits of Probiotic Foods Like probiotic supplements, probiotic foods can restore and maintain a good balance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. Probiotic foods can also help...