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Our dietitians rounded up the best probiotic supplements for a variety of needs, including weight loss, allergies, IBS, and general use. Culturelle ranks as our best overall pick, but read on for other options.
Probiotics are among the most popular dietary supplements, and sales of them continue to skyrocket each year (1).
People may take probiotics to help reduce symptoms of certain medical conditions, bolster their immune health, improve depressive symptoms, and even promote weight loss.
Not everyone needs to take a probiotic supplement, but if you and your healthcare team decide that you may benefit from taking one, there are many excellent products on the market to choose from.
This article features our picks of the 11 best probiotic supplements on the market. It also explains what probiotic supplements are, who may benefit from taking one, and how to choose the right product for your needs.
The World Health Organization has defined probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (1).
Probiotics are found naturally in certain foods, such as kimchi and fermented yogurt. They are also found in your gut, where they participate in a variety of important bodily processes, such as vitamin production, mood regulation, digestion, and immune function (2).
Probiotics are also available in supplement form. These supplements contain high doses of either a single probiotic strain or multiple probiotic strains (3).
Probiotic supplements have been linked to some health benefits. But, while research on probiotics has increased significantly over the past 20 years, researchers are still learning about them and their health effects.
What are CFUs?
Probiotics are generally measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). These units represent the number of viable bacteria per dose.
Products labeled “1 x 109 CFU” contain 1 billion viable or live bacteria per dose. Most supplements contain 1–10 billion CFUs per dose, but some contain much larger amounts.
To confer beneficial effects, probiotics must be taken in quite large doses. Researchers suggest that probiotics must contain at least 106 (1 million) viable CFUs per gram to be able to survive digestion and exert positive effects in the body (4, 5).
We selected the best probiotics using the following criteria:
Vetting: All the products have been vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards, adhere to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on allowable health claims and labeling requirements, and are manufactured in facilities that adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) established by the FDA.
Credibility: The products we chose are made by medically credible companies that follow ethical, legal, and industry best standards and that provide objective measures of trust, including having supplements thoroughly tested for purity and potency, ideally by third-party organizations.
Effective dose: With the exception of one product (which doesn’t use CFUs), all the supplements below contain at least 106 (1 million) CFUs per gram.
Ingredients: We looked for products that are made from high quality ingredients and free of artificial additives and fillers.
Personal needs: We included options to suit a variety of needs and preferences, whether you need a specific probiotic strain or you follow a gluten-free diet.
Probiotic supplements have been shown to benefit health in a number of ways.
However, some of the purported benefits of probiotics aren’t supported by research, so it’s important to always consult a healthcare professional before taking a probiotic supplement, especially if you’re hoping to improve symptoms related to a health condition.
May improve symptoms of certain gastrointestinal conditions
Some of the most well-studied uses of probiotic supplements relate to the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS and IBD.
In one review of 11 studies, 7 of the studies reported significant improvements in symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain in people with IBS who took probiotic supplements, compared with a placebo. The remaining four studies didn’t find significant improvements.
The review also found that multistrain probiotics used for at least 8 weeks were the most effective for improving IBS symptoms (20).
Notably, Lactobacillus acidophilus was present in all of the multistrain supplement studies that reported significant improvements (20).
Multistrain probiotics may improve some symptoms in those with IBD, though they appear to be less effective for people with Crohn’s disease. However, evidence is currently limited and well-designed studies are needed (21, 22).
May help with constipation and diarrhea
Studies indicate that probiotics may help improve multiple types of diarrhea, including infectious diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and traveler’s diarrhea (23, 24, 25).
Certain strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii, seem to be particularly effective for treating diarrhea in children and adults (15, 16).
Some probiotics, such as Bifidobacterium lactis, may also help improve constipation. However, study results vary, with some showing no improvements in constipation with probiotic treatment (26).
Some studies show that treatment with the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 may help reduce UTIs in women (28, 29).
However, study results are conflicting.
One review of three randomized controlled trials found that taking probiotics didn’t significantly reduce UTI recurrence in postmenopausal women (30).
Other potential benefits
In addition to the benefits listed above, some research suggests that probiotic supplements may have the following effects:
May promote immune health: Evidence supports the role of probiotic supplements in maintaining immune health. Several studies suggest that probiotics may enhance immune function in certain populations, but more research is needed (31, 32, 33).
May benefit metabolic health and weight management: Alterations in gut bacteria may contribute to obesity and metabolic issues, and some studies have shown that probiotic supplements may promote weight loss. Research in this area is ongoing (34).
May improve cardiovascular risk factors: Probiotic supplements may help reduce blood lipid levels in some people, which may decrease the risk of heart disease. However, evidence is limited at this time (35, 36, 37).
May help treat certain mood and emotional disorders: Studies suggest that certain probiotics may help treat depression, but more high quality studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made (38, 39).
If you’re interested in taking a probiotic supplement, it’s important to first determine whether a probiotic supplement is necessary for your specific health needs.
If you’re instructed to take a probiotic, please consider the following:
Probiotic strains: Probiotics are not one-size-fits-all remedies, and certain probiotic strains are much more effective for certain medical conditions and symptoms than others. Look for supplements with specific strains based on your needs.
Intended use: The effectiveness of probiotic supplements is not only strain-specific but also disease-specific, meaning the correct strain and dose must be appropriate for the condition or symptom you intend to treat (40).
Brand: Manufacturing processes, shelf life, and formulation type can significantly affect a probiotic supplement’s effectiveness. Therefore, it’s essential to buy probiotics from established, physician-trusted brands (40).
Storage requirements: Some probiotics require refrigeration. Check the product label for proper storage instructions. In general, probiotics are sensitive to heat. Thus, if they don’t require refrigeration, you’ll want to store them in a cool, dry area.
CFUs: The product quality matters. It’s important to look for probiotics that contain at least 106 (1 million) CFUs per gram, as research suggests that this is the minimum amount needed to exert positive effects in the body (4, 5).
Also keep in mind that because probiotics are quite vulnerable to factors such as temperature change and storage time, many may no longer be viable by the time you purchase them.
For this reason, the NIH recommends that customers choose products that list the CFUs at the end of a product’s shelf life. This indicates that a product contains a therapeutic number of CFUs after the product is purchased (3).
Contrary to popular belief, probiotic supplements are not necessary or appropriate for most people.
Not only can they be expensive, but they may lead to side effects such as bloating and bacterial overgrowth. Plus, they could lead to excessive immune stimulation and infection among people with weakened immune systems (41, 42).
While some people, including those with IBS and certain types of IBD, may benefit from specific strains of probiotics, in general, most healthy people who follow a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle do not need to take probiotic supplements.
What’s more, some researchers are concerned that the widespread use of probiotics may lead to antibiotic resistance and warn that many studies investigating the safety and effectiveness of probiotics are of poor quality (43).
For these reasons, it’s not a good idea to take probiotics before consulting a healthcare professional. They can help you decide whether a probiotic supplement is appropriate and give brand and dosage recommendations.
If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation; have received a diagnosis of IBD or IBS; or are concerned about your vaginal health, you may benefit from a probiotic.
But it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional first, because your symptoms could be related to a condition that requires a specific treatment or medication.
Additionally, taking a probiotic can do more harm than good in some individuals, so it’s important to discuss options with a trusted expert before trying anything new (41, 42).
Research suggests that probiotics must contain at least 106 (1 million) viable CFUs per gram to have a clinically significant effect. Additionally, the most-studied and most-used strains of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (2, 5).
However, probiotic supplements are strain- and disease-specific, so the most effective strain will depend on the condition or issue that the supplement is meant to improve (40).
What is the most effective probiotic supplement?
Because probiotics are strain-, disease-, and symptom-specific, no single probiotic is more effective overall than others. An effective probiotic supplement is one that contains one or more probiotic strains that have been clinically shown to help with the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Still, some brands are considered to offer higher quality probiotic supplements, including Culturelle, Align, Bio-Kult, and Jarrow Formulas.
Is it OK to take a probiotic every day?
Because research on the safety and effectiveness of probiotics in people without existing health conditions is still inconclusive, it’s best to talk with a healthcare professional before starting a daily probiotic (43).
Probiotic supplements may be helpful for people with certain conditions, such as IBS, constipation, and UTIs.
However, probiotics aren’t necessary for everyone, and the effectiveness of probiotic supplements depends on the strain, dosage, and condition being treated.
Finally, there are many other ways to take care of your gut microbiome and overall health that don’t involve dietary supplements, including following a nutrient-dense diet, managing your stress levels, and maintaining a moderate weight.
Last medically reviewed on May 16, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.