Are you having problems picking the best probiotic for you? Here’s the complete guide to get it right!
You’ve probably heard that “probiotics are good for you.” After all, it seems like everyone, from Dr. Axe and Dr. Oz, to yogurt commercials, Cosmo magazine and even your primary care doc is talking about them.
In fact, over the past 10 years alone, the best probiotic trend has witnessed over a 300% growth in sales, and kombucha bottles that one were hidden alongside sweet tea and sparkling water, now take up entire drink case walls at Whole Foods Market.
But, pop question: What exactly are probiotics?
Answer: essential healthy strains of gut bacteria that mimic the healthy gut bacteria that should be in your gut…but often are not.
Why Your Gut is Important
A healthy gut equals a healthier you. And healthier gut bugs (bacteria)—and lots of different types of them—equal a healthier gut.
Think of your digestive tract as the foundation of a house, and your gut bacteria as nails, sturdy wood, windows, doors and everything else that makes your house livable, or “healthy.” Your digestive tract is responsible for absorbing EVERY single nutrient you eat, as well as filtering out every single toxin you come in contact with, throughout your life.
Your gut determines whether or not your body’s cells and organs get fed and nourished to function, as well as keeps all body processes working in tip top shape. Your gut bacteria as what drive your body’s digestive system, helping it do its job—stay free from infection, and digest and absorb your nutrients properly.
Probiotics are healthy gut bacteria, found in supplements and fermented foods that can be taken or eaten to give your gut and body an extra oomph of “gut love” support.
Although the word “bacteria” may sound like a bad or icky thing, gut bacteria are an essential component to all human life and health.
Every human body is comprised of more than 100 trillion gut bacteria—10 times the amount of cells in your body. These gut bacteria influence the health of every body system and function.
In an ideal (healthy) world, most of your gut bacteria are healthy, vibrant and strong. However, if you experience health imbalances, there’s a good chance some of this gut bacteria is unhealthy, infected, decreased or overgrown.
Gut Bacteria’s Role in Weight Gain, Acne, Allergies & More
Countless research shows that unhealthy or imbalanced gut bacteria is directly linked to a variety of health conditions (1), including:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Thyroid Disorders
- Heart Disease
- Unwanted Weight Gain
- Hormone Imbalances (PMS, infertility, PCOS)
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Mood Swings
- Brain Fog
—And just about every other chronic condition or disease you can think of!
How Your Gut Bacteria Gets Unhealthy
A variety of stressors wreak havoc on the balance (yin-yang) of your gut health. Like a wasp nest, if your body undergoes too much stress to handle at once, or stressors linger over time (like eating processed foods for years), then that wasp nest gets unhappy—and the gut bacteria become imbalanced or unhealthy.
Common triggers that stir your gut’s “wasp nest” include:
- Low veggie intake
- Nutrient deficiencies (low protein, low carb and/or low fat diet)
- Inflammatory foods (grains, nuts, dairy, sugar, sweeteners, processed foods)
- Eating lots of bars, shakes and packaged foods
- Lack of sleep
- Not chewing your food well and eating in a hurry/on the go
- Eating out ALOT (industrial seed oils)
- Poor food hygiene (not washing your food or hands before meal prep, eating old food)
- Sedentary lifestyles OR overtraining
- Circadian rhythm dysfunction
- Tap water
- Toxin-laden skin care, beauty, hygiene and cleaning products
- Plastics & BPA ingestion
- Heavy metals exposure (in fish, teeth fillings, metal retainers/braces, etc.).
What to Do About It: 5 Daily Gut Habits
Love your gut by establishing a healthy gut routine for baseline gut maintenance…. the best probiotic included.
Just like you brush your teeth every day to maintain healthy teeth and shower most days to maintain a clean body, daily gut-health habits are essential for maintaining a healthy gut.
My top 5 Daily Gut Habits include:
- Water. Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Add 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to 2-4 oz. of water with meals
- Probiotic & Prebiotic. Take a daily soil-based probiotic and prebiotic fiber, along with eating fermented foods and best prebiotic foods.
- Variety. Eat variety and lots of color (even on a limited diet, don’t eat the same things every day)
- Soothe. Sip a daily cup of herbal tea and/or bone broth. Bonus: Add in a gut-lining and repair support, such as L-Glutamine, colostrum or collagen.
In addition, beyond just managing daily gut health, it is highly beneficial to also complete some basic gut testing to address any other underlying gut issues that won’t just go away with probiotics alone (things like SIBO, IBS, leaky gut, etc.).
Like a regular health check up at your doctor’s office for your vital signs and bloodwork, comprehensive gut health testing can give you a clear picture into what is going on “under the hood” and the health of your gut bacteria in general.
How to Buy the Best Probiotic
Now that you know why the best probiotic is GOOD for you, which probiotic should you choose?!
Here are 6 essentials you should know to buy the best probiotic for you…
Buy the Best Probiotic for You: 6 Essentials to Know
#1: Buyer Beware: 95% of Probiotic Supplements Don’t Contain the Probiotics They Claim
It’s been speculated, that upwards of 95% of probiotics sold on shelves do NOT contain the probiotics they claim.
Temperature plays a role in the stability of the best probiotic. Poor processing and manufacturing practices, hot shipping conditions on 18-wheelers and improper storage of probiotics in supplement form can wreak havoc on the cultures inside the capsules.
Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria Probiotic
This is especially true for lactobacillus and bifidobacteria probiotic strains, that are particularly sensitive to heat, processing and even digestion. For instance, an investigative review of probiotics in mainstream yogurts (claiming to be “good sources of probiotics”) found that none of the yogurts actually contained probiotics at all (2)—due to the manufacturing process, followed by cooling process.
And even if probiotics are found in the supplement or foods, many probiotic supplements do not survive the heat and acids produced during digestion (especially in the absence of prebiotic fiber—essential fiber to help probiotics “stick” in your gut and make it to your large intestine, where the majority of gut bacteria reside).
Effects of High Heat on Supplements
For MOST supplements (particularly lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), high heat can degrade the liveliness of these organisms. Even under ideal storage conditions, the number of probiotics will slowly decline as months go on. For example, a typical number is a drop of 5% per month when stored in a refrigerator after opening. The exception? Soil based organisms—shelf stable supplements containing bacteria that mimic the same bacteria found in nutrient-rich soil and foods that humans consumed and thrived upon for years (before the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions of food processing).
The Bottom Line:
Although a best probiotic label may claim that there are certain amounts or types of bacteria in the supplement, many probiotics are rarely if ever tested after production by manufacturers—meaning what started out as 100 billion strains of lactobacillus bacteria, may only end up as 5 billion strains by the time it hits shelves—and many do not survive high heat.
Q. So Which Probiotic Supplements are Quality?!
To benefit from the best probiotic and promote longevity of your probiotics opt for supplements containing:
- Soil-Based Organisms with strains within the 6-10 billion range (as most of these are well-tolerated by most people). Look for names and strains such as:
- Bacillus clausi
- Bacillus subtilis
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Bacillus coagulans
- Baciullus Bifidus
- E. coli Nissle 1917
- Bacillus Indicus
- Bacillus licheniformis
- Quality refrigerated lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium strains of probiotics (see list below)
#2. You Get What You Pay For
Are probiotics a waste of money?! Nope. But, as mentioned in point #1, investing in quality probiotics is essential. No, you don’t have to pay $100 for “quality,” but in today’s market good probiotic will typically run anywhere between $30-$80. Chances are that $10 generic probiotic from Whole Foods, or fat free yogurt labeled “good source of probiotics” is basically all hype.
See the rest of this article to shop smart for your probiotics, but a good general rule of thumb to:
- Spend the majority of your best probiotic supplement money on Soil Based Organisms in supplement form (the most stable probiotics on shelves)
- Purchase select amounts of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria from reputable manufactures with high-quality standards (see list below)
- Incorporate real food probiotics and prebiotics in the form of fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickled veggies, full fat grass fed yogurt and kefir, limited low-sugar kombucha, and prebiotic fibers) into your daily diet
#3. There are 4 Main Types of Probiotic Bacteria & You Need Them All
Just like there are different types of phones you can buy different types of makeup you can buy (blush, powder, eyeshadow), there are different types of probiotic bacteria that all operate as gut bacteria (just like makeup helps makeup your face), but these bacteria have some distinct characteristics, purposes and differences. The 4 main types of probiotics include:
- Soil Based Organisms
- Lactobacilli (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus GG)
- Some healthy yeasts (like Saccharomyces boulardii)
Each type serves a unique purpose and we need a mix of all of them for a healthy gut microbiome—both in foods and supplements.
#4. Mix it Up: Not All Probiotic Strains Are Equal
Within the 4 main classes of probiotics (lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, soil-based organisms and yeasts), there are also hundreds of different strains of probiotics (just like there are hundreds of different brands of makeup—Clinique blush, MAC blush, Bobbi Brown blush, etc.). In fact, the human body contains 500 different strains of probiotic bacteria (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidobacterium Bidifum, etc.).
Each type of probiotic strain has particular effectiveness and potency, especially depending on your personal gut profile overall.
For example, a specific kind of Lactobacillus, like Lactobacillus acidophilus, may help you prevent an illness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that another kind of Lactobacillus, like Lactobacillus plantarum, would have the same effect, or that any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same thing. Another person may have an overgrowth of Lactobacillus acidophilus, and experiencing symptoms of SIBO (bloating, gas, constipation), whereas another person may have no Lactobacillus acidophilus at all, and suffering from autoimmunity and fatigue.
In short: not all probiotics are created equal and incorporating a variety of types AND strains of probiotics is essential.
#5. You Need Pre-biotics & Postbiotics to Make Your Probiotics Stick
For a long time, we’ve thought that taking the best probiotic is like putting gas into your car tank—you fill it up and there’s more gas. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, probiotics only serve as “maintainers” or gatekeepers of the “good” gut bacteria that you have ALREADY in your body—but they don’t produce more. And once you take them, they can be GONE in a matter of hours, UNLESS your have pre-biotics and post-biotics support!
Pre-biotics are starches and fibers (found in supplements and some foods like green-tipped bananas, plantains, cooked and cooled sweet potatoes and squashes, onions, and leeks)—that serve as food for your probiotics. In fact, pre-biotics are arguably MORE important and necessary than probiotics because they HELP your probiotics STICK AROUND and increase probiotic counts in your gut. (i.e. Pre-biotics feed your probiotics).
In addition, post-biotics (also known as “short chain fatty acids”) are the extra 1-2 punch to help you get the biggest bang for your probiotic buck! Short chain fatty acids, like butyrate, are the “gifts that keep on giving” to your gut, long after your probiotic and prebiotic foods and supplements have been digested. Healthy gut bacteria produce “short chain fatty acids” that help maintain overall gut balance in your gut as a whole (not too many of any one strain of bacteria).
Unfortunately, since many folks have unhealthy or imbalanced gut bacteria to begin with (approximately 3 in 4 people have “gut issues”), short chain fatty acids also are reduced. The result? Without short-chain fatty acids, you may continue to experience imbalances in your gut bacteria.
The Bottom Line:
Pre-biotics and post-biotics (short-chain fatty acids) help multiply your probiotics so you CAN increase YOU beneficial bacteria over time. (See recommendations below).
#6. If You Feel Sick, You May Have Other Gut Problems…
Probiotics make you break out or feel nauseas? If these symptoms continue longer than 7-14 days after starting a new probiotic, it may indicate you have other gut issues going on (such as bacterial overgrowth, parasites, leaky gut, etc.), OR you ALREADY have enough of the strains of probiotics you are taking.
“Healing reactions” are normal for many folks when first starting a probiotic (such as skin breakouts, loose stools, rashes, etc.) and can be a sign that your gut bacteria are getting “stirred up” (especially if you’ve had imbalances for some time).
However, if these reactions linger longer than a week or two, it’s vital to consider what else is going on under the hood.
The Bottom Line:
If your probiotics are making you sick, consider getting a gut test completed or working with a practitioner to help you problem solve root issues going on.
Best Probiotic Recommendations
1. Soil Based Organisms
- Megaspore Probiotic
- Seed Daily Synbiotic
- Primal Probiotic
- Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra (not good for SIBO or bloating)
2. Lactic Acid Bacteria
- Klaire Labs Therabiotic (best general overall probiotic)
- Ideal Bowel Support (best for constipation)
- VSL #3 (best for loose stools)
- Elixa Probiotic
4. Short Chain Fatty Acids
- Enterovite by Apex Energetics**
- Sodium-Potassium Butyrate by Body Bio
5. Fermented Foods
- Fermented Veggies (carrots, beets, cucumber relish, dill pickles, etc.)
- Pickled Veggies (no added sugar or additives)
- Fermented Salsa
- Fermented Horseradish
- Goat’s Milk Yogurt & Kefir
- Coconut Kefir
- Water Kefir
- Coconut Yogurt (no additives)
- Low-Sugar Kombucha (5-6 grams per serving)
- Beet Kvass
6. Prebiotic Foods
- Asparagus (al-dente)
- Coconut Flour
- Cooked & cooled potatoes/sweet potatoes and squashes
- Cooked and cooled Jasmine white rice & lentils
- Green tipped plantains/bananas
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Mushrooms (reishi, shiitake and maitake)
- Nutritional Yeast
- Potato Starch or Plantain Starch
- Seaweed/Algae (Beta-glucan, or 𝛽-glucan—a soluble fiber)
**Contact us to place an order for practitioner grade supplements, not found on the web.
For basic daily gut maintenance, a healthy daily protocol includes:
1 Soil Based Organism Probiotic
Short Chain Fatty Acids
Short Chain Fatty Acids
1 Soil Based Organism Probiotic
Bonus: Eat 1-2 fermented foods and 1-2 prebiotic foods daily
*Health Disclaimer: By reading and/or using this information you acknowledge you are responsible for your own health and decisions. Consult your healthcare practitioner for your specific health needs.
- Markowiak, Paulina; Śliżewska, Katarzyna.(2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients, 9(9), 1021. doi:10.3390/nu9091021;
- Scourboutakos, M., Franco-Arellano, B., Murphy, S., Norsen, S., Comelli, E., & L’Abbé, M. (2017). Mismatch between Probiotic Benefits in Trials versus Food Products. Nutrients, 9(4), 400. MDPI AG. Retrieved from