Best Probiotic Brands Shopping Guide
This report aims to help you select the best probiotic brands if you are looking for oral supplementation. The research here was provided by Michael Hopkins, PhD.
As is the case with most supplements, it’s hard to discern which probiotic brand claims are backed by true scientific evidence and which are just marketing hype. Dr. Hopkins and I looked dozens of options–both popular and lesser known–to find the best probiotic brands. Let’s get to it!
Bottom Line: 8 of the Best Probiotic Brands
You’ll learn about many companies making great probiotics–and even more making not so great ones–throughout this report. If you want to jump straight to shopping, here are eight solid choices, representing some of the best probiotic brands on the market. (If you want a chewable probiotic, you might like this one, which I take daily because it tastes like candy but contains no sugar.)
What Are Probiotics?
Every human contains trillions of microbial organisms that compete with one another to maintain a balanced, healthy ecosystem in and on our bodies. This is known as our microbiome.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (typically bacteria), which are thought to confer health benefits to the human body when consumed in sufficient amounts. Probiotics work in a variety of ways, including:
- breaking down materials we are unable to digest;
- producing the essential vitamins we need;
- fighting off pathogens like bad bacteria and fungi.
These microorganisms are naturally found in fermented foods and drinks, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sourkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles, and sourdough bread. They are also available as dietary supplements, which is the focus of this report.
What Can Probiotics Treat?
In recent years, research into probiotic supplements has grown significantly, demonstrating their potential to treat a wide range of conditions, from general immune function to other disorders, including:
- gastrointestinal disease
- skin disorders
- colic in infants
- respiratory conditions
The bottom line is that there is solid science showing the effectiveness of probiotics. As a result, there’s been an explosion of new products on the market touting their capacity to improve digestive health and overall well-being. This guide aims to help sort through the hype from the facts about probiotics, and help you choose the best probiotic brands if you decide to supplement.
Key Takeaways from Our Investigation on the Best Probiotic Brands
If you’re pressed for time, here are the highlights of Dr. Hopkins’ very thorough research:
- The science overwhelmingly supports the benefits of probiotic treatments for a variety of health disorders ranging from infections to chronic diseases, and especially conditions pertaining to gut health. The benefits to respiratory and behavioral/mental health conditions are less conclusive, as is the evidence supporting the capacity of probiotic treatment to confer benefits on already healthy individuals. Still, there is enough evidence to support taking a probiotic supplement.
- Probiotic supplements do not appear to present any significant health risk to healthy individuals. People with severe illnesses should ask their doctors before starting a probiotic regimen.
- There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” probiotic blend because our microbiome’s are as unique as our fingerprints. If you’re looking for an everyday supplement, we recommend trying one for a month and seeing how you feel. We’ve identified some of the best probiotic brands on the market, but what’s best for you may take some trial and error.
- The probiotics we consume do not need to colonize in our gut for us to derive a benefit. This was perhaps the most surprising revelation from Dr. Hopkins’ reading of the studies. Most of the probiotic strains commonly found in both food and supplements will not ever take up residence in our bodies, and that‘s fine because they exert their positive effects transiently as they pass through our bodies.
- We suggest finding a probiotic supplement with at least 20 billion CFUs, which is much higher than the general recommendation. This is especially true if you’re trying to correct an existing imbalance such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, IBS/IBD, bloating, gastroenteritis, etc. We will explain our reasoning on this below.
- You do not need to find a probiotic that requires refrigeration for it to be viable. There are now many formulas that incorporate a variety of different strains that are shelf-stable at room temperature.
Probiotics in Food Vs. Probiotic Supplements
The first question I asked Dr. Hopkins when he embarked on this project was: Is there is a clear advantage to taking probiotic supplements rather than just eating fermented food and drinks?
His answer is, yes, supplementation can be better for two reasons: numbers and control. Let’s explore both of these.
- You can get a much larger dose–as much as 50 times bigger–of probiotics from a supplement than you’d get from a serving of a probiotic-rich food. This makes a real difference when the goal is treatment or intervention (versus simply maintaining a healthy diet). The clinical studies demonstrating positive outcomes often administer much larger doses than what you’d reasonably be able to get from your diet.
- Taking a probiotic supplement allows you to select a particular strain or blend at a known quantity, In fact, in order to meet the criteria as defined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), the specific strain(s) and quantities must be defined. This means that technically speaking, when you eat fermented foods you’re not consuming “probiotics,” per se. This really is a technicality and doesn’t discount the fact that fermented foods typically contain an excellent variety of the same probiotic microorganisms you’d get from supplements. But this technical distinction does have meaningful implications when it comes to making sense of clinical recommendations, since the scientific method requires that we control for the precise strain(s) and quantity of probiotics being administered.
The bottom line here is that everyone should include a variety of fermented foods as part of an overall healthy diet and consider probiotic supplements for treating an imbalance or disregulation on an as-needed basis.
What to Consider When Looking for the Best Probiotic Brands
Dr. Hopkins created a database with information about more than 50 probiotic companies. He considered the following factors in his comparison.
Classes of Probiotics
Probiotic species can be divided into three broad classes. Most people will experience a greater benefit from probiotic supplementation if they choose a blend with a greater variety of strains. Therefore, any probiotic brands that make it into our Best Stuff category contain at least two of the three major classes of probiotics, which are as follows:
- The type of probiotics you’ll most likely find on a supplement label are two genera of “cultured” lactic acid bacteria: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. (These are also the bacteria found most often in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.) There are hundreds of species within these genera, and different strains within species. When you see streptococcus and enterococcus on supplement labels, they’re also part of this first class of lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid strains are the most commonly studied probiotics, and have been shown to treat a wide range of health conditions.
- The second class of probiotics are members of a species of yeast–most often Saccharomyces boulardii. This strain has been shown in several well-controlled studies to improve digestion, boost immunity, protect against harmful bacteria in the gut, and reduce symptoms of IBS. It is commonly associated with preventing antiobiotic-associated diarrhea.
- The final category of probiotics are soil-based or spore-forming bacteria, with the majority of strains coming from the genus Bacillus. These are distinct from the first class of cultured probiotics in that they’re typically found in soil rather than food, they are more expensive to manufacture, and they form hardy spores that do not easily degrade.
CFUs in Probiotics
The number of probiotic microorganisms in each serving of a supplements is typically measured in Colony Forming Units, or CFUs. Each CFU is a single live organism. The general guidelines from ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics & Prebiotics) suggest that there should be at least one billion CFUs in a serving of probiotics. After Dr. Hopkins’ deep dive into the science behind probiotics, we feel the evidence is strongly in favor of a much higher number, ideally around 40 billion CFUs. If you tend to be very sensitive and are worried about side effects, you could start with a 1-5 billion CFU formula and work your way up.
In order to make it into our Best Stuff category, a probiotic supplement needs to have at least 20 billion CFUs per serving. In addition, the brand must name the precise species and strains used as well as the number of CFUs at the time of manufacturing, or at the time of expiration. All of the best probiotic brands we’ve identified below have this level of transparency.
Prebiotics, Postbiotics, & Synbiotics
Probiotics are not the only functional ingredient you’ll find in many brands of probiotics. Let’s break down some of the other “biotics” you might see on a label.
- Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as a food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping to maintain the balance of microbiota. Prebiotics are typically found in high-fiber foods such as whole grains, chicory root, bananas, dandelion greens, onions, garlic, soybeans, and artichokes. Even taken alone, prebiotics appear to have beneficial effects on the immune system, digestive health, and metabolism. Look for inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) on supplement labels.
- Synbiotics are supplement blends that include both pre- and probiotics in their formula.
- Postbiotics comprise all the by-products and compounds produced during probiotic metabolism. And it turns out that these too are able to confer health benefits when administered on their own. The best probiotic brands with the highest CFU counts flood your system not only with live probiotic microbes, but also with all of the associated byproducts produced and released by these microbes. The most effective postbiotic compounds for these appear to be acetate, propionate, and butyrate.
We are in favor of supplement blends that include prebiotics in their formula. We gave bonus points to brands that include other digestive enzymes and/or postbiotics as well.
Comparing Some of the Best Probiotic Brands
You’ll see a detailed analysis of several dozen probiotic brands near the end of this report. For a cheat sheet, here is a comparison of some brands you ask about most–Cymbiotika, Needed, Seed, Llama Naturals, and Ritual.
Additional Criteria We Considered in Our Investigation
In addition to the considerations above, we also looked into the following factors in our search for the best probiotic brands.
Quality Assurance Testing
As you know, independent testing is really important to the Gimme team. Like other supplements, one of the biggest quality assurance issues the probiotic industry faces is the lack of FDA regulation. The best probiotic brands conduct testing to ensure the potency and the purity of their product. We gave extra points to those brands that provided us with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to prove their label’s claims.
No Added Junk
When evaluating probiotics, we screened for all the usual suspects, from “natural flavors” to preservatives. Sometimes titanium dioxide is included in probiotic capsults to ensure a uniform white color. Magnesium stearate is oftens used as an anticaking agent. The best probiotic brands will contain none of these additives.
Several probiotic brands are delivered slow-release capsule (known as an “enteric coating”) in order to allow the probiotics to make it safely through the harsh acidic stomach environment and into the small intestine. Because of the magic of postbiotics (see above), we don’t view this protective layer as necessary. That said, we don’t penalize companies for the minor “extras” that this adds to the ingredient list as long as the enteric coating is derived from plant cellulose, rather than petroleum or some other synthetic. Most commonly this coating will appear on the label as either hydroxypropyl methylcellulose AKA hypromellose AKA HPMC, gelatin/ gellan gum, pectin, and/or silica.
Ranking Probiotic Brands
So now you know what we factors we considered when evaluating probiotic brands. What follows is our ranking of the probiotic supplements you asked about most.
Best Stuff: Best Probiotic Brands
Based on Dr. Hopkins’ analysis, the best probiotic brands on the market are these eight. They have the highest CFUs as well as number and variety of strains, plus testing from third-party labs. The brands that actually showed us these tests, and therefore what I consider to be the three very best probiotic brands are Cymbiotika, Innovix, and Needed. (I take Needed.)
With 50 billion CFUs representing several Lacto-bifido strains, plus Saccharomyces and Enterococcus, Cymbiotika meets our criteria for Best Stuff. This brand provided us with the COA when we asked, and it checked out as being from a legit third-party, independent lab.
Cymbiotika’s formula contains a prebiotic blend inside an enteric coated capsule. This is non-GMO, vegan, and free of gluten and allergens.
CFUs: 50 billion
Total strains: 19
Cymbiotika cons: Doesn’t contain bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: From $80
I was surprised when Dr. Hopkins told me he liked this brand! Indeed, it packs 100 billion CFUs, representing all three classes of probiotic plus strep.
A phone rep confirmed that these probiotics undergo third-party testing, and the GOL website displays sample COAs. In addition, this formula contains a rice and cellulose-based prebiotic and a digestive enzyme blend. It’s free of gluten and soy.
CFUs: 100 billion
Total strains: 34
Garden of Life cons: The company is owned by Nestle, which has an extensive track record of unethical and unsustainable practices.
Cost per month: $48
The 40 billion CFUs in this blend represents several Lacto-bifido strains plus bacillus. HUM confirmed that their blend undergoes third-party testing, but we did not see the actual COA. The formula contains a Konjac root-based prebiotic blend. This blend is non-GMO, CGMP, and certified vegan.
CFUs: 40 billion
Total Strains: 9
HUM Cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast-based) strains.
Cost per month: $38
Innovix Lab MultiStrain Probiotic
This blend is Dr. Hopkins’ top pick. It meets all of our Best Stuff criteria, including 50 billion CFUs from 31 different strains across all 3 classes of probiotics. Innovix readily shared a real COA from a respected third-party lab.
In addition to a prebiotic blend, Innovix incorporates “phage technology,” which refers to bacteriophages that target and kill specific problematic microbes.
Innovix is also offered at a reasonable price point, and is non-GMO, vegan, and free of gluten and allergens.
CFUs: 50 billion
Total Strains: 31
Innovix cons: May contain trace amounts of corn, barley and yeast used in fermentation.
Cost per month: $24
This probiotic brand contains 40 billion CFUs representing several Lacto-bifido strains plus bacillus.
While they confirmed third-party testing, they declined to send the COA due to proprietary concerns. The formula contains a Konjac root-based prebiotic blend and is vegan.
CFUs: 40 billion
Total strains: 9
Live conscious cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast-based strain).
Cost per month: $27
This brand offers several different probiotic formulas including liquid and gummies as well as a 3-in-1 with the prebiotic fiber blend and postbiotic tributyrin. That said, our top pick from their line is their Turmeric+ blend in capsules, offering 60 billion CFUs representing two Lacto-bifido strains as well as a bacillus (soil-based) strain.
The rep we spoke with at Mary Ruth’s was helpful and confirmed they perform third-party testing with ISO-10725 certified labs. Unfortunately, they were unable to share a COA because of proprietary issues. The formula contains prebiotic rice hulls and an is delivered via an enteric coated capsule. This is non-GMO, vegan, and free of allergens and gluten.
CFUs: 60 billion
Total strains: 3
Mary Ruth cons: This blend doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast-based strain). Although the turmeric blend meets our criteria of having two of the three probiotic classes, there are only three total strains, which is fewer than any of our other top picks.
Cost per month: $31
As with all of their supplements, Needed immediately provided us with a COA proving their probiotic’s purity and potency. Although the Needed probiotic was formulated for use during the prenatal period, it is a great option for anyone. Needed is among the very best probiotic brands, thanks to a polyphenol-rich prebiotic blend, the inclusion of a spore-forming probiotic strain, and a high CFU.
CFUs: 30 billion
Total strains: 8
Needed cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast-based strain).
Cost per month: $45. (Use code GIMME20 20% off everything from Needed.)
This blend has 100 billion CFUs representing several Lacto-bifido strains plus strep and saccharomyces.
This brand confirmed that they undergo third-party testing when we called them (the label also makes this claim), but we are still waiting for a COA. This one comes in an enteric-coated capsule and contains a prebiotic blend, a digestive enzyme blend, and a fruit and vegetable blend. This is non-GMO, organic, certified vegan, and free of gluten, soy, nuts, wheat, dairy.
CFUs: 100 billion
Total strains: 34
Wholesome Wellness cons: Doesn’t contain any bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: $21
The probiotic brands in this category meet all of our standards for purity. We don’t call these the best probiotic brands for one of two reasons (or sometimes both): 1) They have fewer than than 20 billion CFUs per serving. OR 2) They contain only cultured probiotic strains, and no yeast- or soil-based strains.
With 30 billion CFUs and an inulin-based prebiotic blend, this is a solid probiotic option. Best Nest confirmed that they undergo third-party testing, but did not provide a COA.
CFUs: 50 billion
Total strains: 13
Best Nest cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: $27
Dr. Formulas sent us the COA from a third-party lab. The formula contains an inulin-based prebiotic blend plus all three classes of probiotics plus strep. It comes in an enteric coated capsule.
CFUs: 17 billion
Total strains: 23
Dr. Formulas cons: With 17 billion CFUs, this probiotic brand comes in just a little bit shy of Best Stuff threshold. The bottle has an allergen warning for shellfish, nuts, dairy, wheat, soy, and eggs.
Cost per month: $15
Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete Daily Probiotic
You guys love Klaire, so I was relieved to discover that they meet Dr. Hopkins’ criteria for Good Stuff. This blend contains 100 billion CFUs representing 13 different Lacto-bifido strains plus strep.
Ther-Biotic contains an organic prebiotic blend as well as a postbiotic polysaccharide complex. The brand confirmed that they undergo third-party testing, but they don’t provide details to consumers, only to physicians.
CFUs: 100 billion
Total strains: 13
Klaire cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains, which is why we’ve put it in Good Stuff instead of Best Stuff. Refrigeration is required for this blend. Note that this formula comes as a powder rather than a capsule.
Cost per month: $85
Life & Food Ultra Probiotic 50
With 50 billion CFUs representing 10 different Lacto-bifido strains, Life & Food’s probiotic blend nearly made our Best Stuff list. But we think that if you’re committing to a probiotic regimen, you might as well get one with yeast and soil based strains, neither of which this has.
This contains a fructo-oligosaccharide prebiotic blend. They confirmed that they conduct third-party testing but didn’t respond to our request for COA. This blend is kosher.
CFUs: 50 billion
Total strains: 10
Life & Food cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains. Contains hydrolyzed guar gum.
Cost per month: $27
Lifeatlas 300 Billion Probiotic
As it says right on, Lifeatlas’s blend has 300 billion CFUs, representing several Lacto-bifido strains plus Saccharomyces.
The label mentions third-party lab certifications, but we were unable to confirm this with the company. Lifeatlas probiotics are organic, contain no fillers, and includes a prebiotic blend. It is also free of dairy and gluten.
Total Strains: 12
Lifeatlas cons: Doesn’t contain any bacillus (soil-based) strain. But our biggest concern is that that we couldn’t find any website or contact information for this brand. It seems to only exist on Amazon, which makes us somewhat uneasy.
Cost per month: $15
The Gut Restore blend contains all three classes of probiotics. We also like their “Triple Testing” protocol, which includes a third-party lab. Unfortunately, LifeBiome declined to share any COAs. The vegan formula contains a fermented botanical blend and an enteric coated capsule.
CFUs: 13 billion
Total strains: 11
LifeBiome cons: Doesn’t contain prebiotics. 13 billion CFUs is on the lower end of the brands we recommend. Maltodextrose is an unnecessary additive.
Cost per month: $32
Llama Naturals Prebiotic & Probiotics
These probiotic gummies are unique because they don’t have any sugar–they are sweetened with just fruit juice. They contain a prebiotic blend.
CFUs: 5 billion
Total strains: 2
Llama Naturals cons: Llama contains significantly fewer CFUs than we recommend. I am calling this Good Stuff only because I’ve found that a probiotic delivered in a delicious gummy vastly increases the odds that I actually take it! And I eat many more per day than the recommended two:).
Cost per month: $24.95
MegaFood’s blend contains Lacto-bifido strains and strep. They confirmed third-party testing, and their blend is non-GMO, organic, kosher, and free of gluten and dairy.
CFUs: 20 billion
Total strains: 14
MegaFood Cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains. Refrigeration required.
Cost per month: $18
Ora Trust Your Gut High Potency Probiotic & Prebiotic
Ora contains prebiotic inulin blend from artichoke, organic rice, and other starches.
Ora shares the COAs for all their products online and provides transparent information about which third-party labs they work with. This blend is non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan.
CFUs: 16 billion
Total strains: 6
Ora cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: $42
Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic
We like that this has 60 billion CFUs, but they only represent Lacto-bifido strains.
This formula includes an organic prebiotic blend and is delivered in an enteric coated capsule. While a phone rep confirmed third-party testing and the label includes a lab certification claim, they wouldn’t provide a COA because of proprietary concerns. This is non-GMO, vegan, and free of gluten and allergies.
CFUs: 60 billion
Total strains: 10
Physician’s Choice cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains
Cost per month: $20
Renew Life Ultimate Flora Ultimate Care Probiotic
Renew Life makes an extensive product line of probiotics. In our opinion, the best one is the Ultimate Flora Ultimate Care Probiotic, which contains a whopping 200 billion CFUs. Dr. Hopkins came across this brand through third-party test results from Labdoor, but the rep he spoke with wasn’t able to provide any information about COAs. This probiotic is non-GMO, CGMP certified, and free of soy, dairy, and gluten.
CFUs: 200 billion
Total strains: 10
RenewLife cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: $96
Sakara Complete Probiotic
Sakara’s blend contains all three classes of probiotics, including strep. They told us they have a testing protocol that includes a third-party lab, but they declined to share any COAs. The formula contains prebiotic and digestive enzyme blend.
CFUs: 6 billion
Total strains: 11
Sakara cons: 6 billion CFUs is lower than we think is optimal.
Cost per month: $40. Use code XOMAIA for 20% off everything at Sakara.
Seed Daily Symbiotic
Seed’s popular probiotic contains an enteric coating and non-fermenting prebiotic blend. Dr. Hopkins confirmed third-party testing, but Seed declined to provide details due to proprietary concerns. They did, however, offer a detailed email description of rigorous testing protocol. Seed is non-GMO certified by CGMP, vegan, and free of gluten and allergens.
CFUs: 53 billion
Total strains: 24
Seed cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains.
Cost per month: $50
This proprietary “De Simone Formula” is a gold standard of sorts from a clinical standpoint. It has served as a proven treatment for IBS, ulcerative colitis, and ileal pouch. Each daily dose has a whopping 450 billion CFUs made up of 8 Lacto-bifido strains. The blend is Kosher, Halal and contains no fermentable ingredients.
Visibiome and VSL#3 have gone through some drama. On the surface, they appear to be the exact same formula, however Dr. De Simone severed ties with VSL#3 (the original company) several years ago. The story is that VSL#3 changed something about their production process and began selling the proprietary blend without permission. Dr. De Simone’s new company is Visibiome 3 and they make it very clear that VSL#3 is no longer affiliated with the De Simone formula. They settled a lawsuit in 2019 to prevent VSL#3 from making any reference to the formula in their marketing materials. Dr. Hopkins wasn’t able to find any conclusive evidence that the current VSL#3 probiotics are actually different from the original or if this is more about protecting IP and corporate politics. Still, we don’t see any reason not to respect Dr. De Simone’s work and opt for Visibiome 3 if you’re going to choose one of these options.
CFUs: 450 billion
Total strains: 8
Visibiome 3 cons: Requires prescription and refrigeration. Does not contain yeast or soil-based strains.
Cost per month: $120
This probiotic formula contains a prebiotic blend as well as a digestive enzyme complex, all delivered in a delayed-release capsule with no added fillers. The brand confirmed third-party testing but did not respond to our request for COA. They did, however, receive an A+ rating from Labdoor’s testing. Vitalitown is non-GMO, non-dairy, and free of gluten and allergens.
CFUs: 120 billion
Total strains: 36, including strep.
Vitalitown cons: Doesn’t contain saccharomyces (yeast) or bacillus (soil-based) strains. The prebiotic blend is proprietary.
Cost per month: $18
These brands generally meet Good Stuff criteria except they fall short on strain variety, CFU count, or both. Many also contain a few relatively benign fillers, most commonly magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide. Some of them provided very little information about what is even in their capsults, as you will see below.
Douglas Labs Multi-Probiotic
Douglas contains a probiotic, and they shared recent COAs from several different third-party labs. Douglas Labs doesn’t qualify as Good Stuff because is only contains 15 billion CFUs. It also contains microcrystalline cellulose, pectin, and glycerin. This brand is owned by Nestle.
CFUs: 15 billion
Cost per month: $45
Flora Adult’s Probiotic
This brand has no fillers or additives, but does not have make clear the number of strains, so we cannot call them Good Stuff. Flora also contains ascorbic acid, stearic acid, and silicon dioxide.
CFUs: 15 billion
Cost per month: $31
This brand does not specify the CFUs nor the number of strains. A rep told us that the manufacturer tests all batches for purity and CFU count. They did not provide a COA.
Cost per month: $40
Healthy Origins Natural Probiotic
This blend contains 30 billion CFU’s, but did not provide enough information for us to call Good Stuff.
CFUs: 30 billion
Cost per month: $45
This is an interesting brand because it contains only spore-forming probiotics. We cannot call it Good Stuff because of the low CFU count. They claim to do third-party testing but won’t share a COA. The brand is free of GMOs, gluten, grains, corn, dairy and soy.
CFUs: 3 billion
Total Strains: 4
Cost per month: $124
This has 22 billion CFUs, but we were not able to obtain any more information.
Cost per month: $79
This has only 10 billion CFUs, which is why we are only calling it Okay Stuff. Perelel advertises their testing “to confirm purity and potency,” but reps for the brand provided only generic information about third-party testing.
CFUs: 10 billion
Total Strains: 8
Cost per month: $24.50
Ritual does an exceptional job with transparency about their lab testing, plus has a squeaky clean ingredient list. We love that this synbiotic contains prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. Ritual doesn’t make the Best or Good Stuff category because of the both limited strain and limited CFU counts, but we still really love this brand!
CFUs: 11 billion
Total Strains: 2
Cost per month: $54
Contains titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, magensium stearate, and microcrystalline cellulose, and has far too few CFUs
CFUs: 8 billion
Total Strains: 3
Cost per month: $14.99
We appreciate that Truvani’s website clearly articulates the challenge of transparency with lab testing versus the proprietary interests of their brand. That said, othe brands were willing to share their COAs, and Truvani was night. It has too few CFUS to be considred Good Stuff, although it does contain 15 strains, including strep.
CFUs: 15 billion
Total Strains: 15
Cost per month: $31.50
The brands we’ve identified as Sneaky Stuff are in this section for one (or more!) of four reasons. Some have have quality assurance problems; when we called, they told us they don’t conduct any testing for purity or potency of their products! The second category of Sneaky Stuff brands includes those probiotics where their CFU count was found–via LabDoor testing–to be much lower than what their label claims. Other Sneaky Stuff brands are basically okay, but their capsules contain a bunch of potentially toxic fillers–titanium dioxide, magnesium stearate, and more. Finally, there are brands that hide behind a “proprietary” formula to explain their lack of transparency–these probiotics don’t even list which strains are in their formula. We see this as a major red flag!
Probiotic Brands That Don’t Test Their Products
Probiotic Brands With Inaccurate CFU Claims
Probiotic Brands That Contain Fillers
Note that all of these have under one billion CFUs and none has more than one class of probiotic.
Probiotic Brands with “Proprietary” Strains
Best Probiotic Brands for Kids
While children’s probiotics are beyond the scope of this post, we will cover them in a future investigation! Here is what we do know:
- There is good evidence that probiotic supplementation is an effective treatment for kids with diarrhea (both from infection and related to antibiotics), IBS, and atopic dermatitis.
- The doses used in clinical studies has been sbetween 5 to 10 billion CFUs. We recommend going to the high end of this range for the reasons we explain elsewhere in this post.
- There do not appear to be any adverse affects associated with probiotic supplementation in children.
We like two chewable brands of probiotics for kids:
- My kids take the Llama Naturals pre/probiotic because they prefer the taste of this one. It has only 1 billion CFUs, so I let them take more than two gummies, but you should check with your pediatrician before doing so.
- Hiya is another brand we like. This one contains 10 billion CFUs made up of three strains, as well as a larch tree fiber prebiotic.
Probiotic Strains for Specific Conditions
What follows is not a comprehensive list, but a good starting point if you’re looking for specific probriotic strains to treat specific health conditions. For more details, this website provides a searchable list of commercial probiotics and links clinical studies on various health conditions.
Dr. Hopkins points out that “even strong scientific evidence does not translate to every person experiencing the same positive outcomes. Each of us has our own unique microbiome and in practice, just like any dietary intervention, different probiotic blends will “work” differently for different people.”
And while there’s no harm in choosing a probiotic with the exact strains that have been shown to produce a good outcome for a particular health metric, we think that many brands tend to overemphasize the importance of this strain specificity. After all, they want to convince you that their formula is the only one that will work!
Lactic Acid Bacterial Strains (Cultured)
Featuring some of the most widely-studied strains, these are the probiotics you commonly get from fermented foods. All of the strains listed below are shown to help with general digestive health, so only specific health conditions beyond “gut health” are noted in the descriptions.
Lactobacillus acidophilus. One of the most highly researched strains and probably the most commonly found in commercially available supplements. Can help treat diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, lung infections in children, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Effective in treating diarrhea, particularly in children, as well as reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and preventing allergic symptoms.
Limosilactobacillus reuteri. Can help treat diarrhea, IBD/IBS, and colorectal cancer. Helps boost the immune system.
Lactobacillus plantarum. Can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and liver disorders. Shown effective as an add-on treatment for Parkinson’s.
Lactobacillus gasseri. Has been shown to aid in weight loss and improve metabolism, as well as in reducing stress-associated anxiety and sleep disturbance.
Bifidobacterium bifidum. Can help treat diarrhea, IBS, and eczema. Boosts the immune system.
Bifidobacterium lactis. Can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, depression, anxiety, and Type 2 diabetes. Boosts the immune system.
Bifidobacterium infantis. Can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, reduce inflammatory markers, treat leaky gut, and lower the risk of atopic dermatitis in infants.
Bifidobacterium breve. Can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, boost the immune system, and reduce insulin resistance and body fat in people with obesity.
Bifidobacterium longum. Can help reduce colitis and chronic inflammation, lower the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, and boost the immune system. This strain is also able to ferment several carbohydrates including lactose and the sugars found in cruciferous vegetables that humans can’t digest. Notable for its ability to colonize the gut following supplementation.
Streptococcus thermophilus. While there is some promising evidence from animal models, we really don’t have solid clinical data yet to support its use as a supplement beyond playing a supporting role in general digestive health.
Enterococcus faecium. May help reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, boost the immune system, and lower cholesterol. Unfortunately, due to the potential for antibiotic resistance, E. faecium is less commonly used as a probiotic supplement and currently has neither Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status by the FDA, nor has it been included in the Qualified Presumption of Safety (QPS) list in Europe.
There’s really only one probiotic in this category, but it’s a good one! Being a fungus rather than bacteria, this strain has some properties that may be helpful for your particular microbiome.
Saccharomyces-boulardii. Known to be an effective treatment for diarrhea, particularly in people taking antibiotics. Can be used to treat Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS.
Soil-Based or Spore-Forming Bacteria
Like the name suggests, these are typically found in soil rather than food. This type of bacteria forms spores, which tend to be very hardy and resilient.
Bacillus clausii. Can aid in the treatment of diarrhea from various causes, particularly in children. Has been shown effective in treating bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Bacillus coagulans. The most studied and well-established spore-forming probiotic. Can help treat abdominal pain, IBS, IBD, diarrhea, as well as pouchitis, gingivitis, Clostrum difficile-induced colitis, and Helicobacter pylori infection.
Bacillus subtilis. Can aid in treating diarrhea and has been shown to have antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Commonly used in livestock feed to promote animal growth and promising studies from animal models suggest that it may treat upper respiratory tract infections, but we did not find human clinical data to support this yet. It is being explored for use as an antibiotic treatment.
Bacillus lichenformis. Appears to help to improve gut health and reduce the risk of certain infections. There are few clinical studies examining its efficacy and up until now these studies have included itin conjunction with other probiotic strains and treatments, so more data is needed.
The Best Probiotic Strains for Specific Conditions
All of the best probiotic brands help with general gut health as well as diarrhea. People looking for relief from the following specific health problems should consider supplements with the strains outlined in this table. (The brands listed in the third column are just a small sampling–the probiotic supplements we have identified above in our Best Stuff and Good Stuff sections will all contain a combination of these well-researched strains.)
|If you suffer from…||Look for…||Brands with one or more of these strains…|
(Not an exhaustive list)
|IBS or IBD||Bacillus coagulans, Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Limosilactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum||Needed, Cymbiotika, Llama Naturals, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
|Eczema||Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum||Needed, Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest|
|Anxiety or depression||Bifidobacterium lactis||Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
|Obesity||Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium breve||Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
|Respiratory tract infections||Bacillus lichenformis, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bacillus subtilis||Needed, Cymbiotika, Llama Naturals, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed, Ritual|
|Yeast infections||Lactobacillus acidophilus||Needed, Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest|
|Diabetes||Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium lactis||Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
|If you want general immune support||Limosilactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidum||Needed, Cymbiotika, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
|If you are taking antibiotics||Saccharomyces boulardii||Needed, Cymbiotika, Llama Naturals, Innovix, Best Nest, Seed|
I hope you found this investigation helpful in your search for the best probiotic brands. I look forward to your comments (please post below!).
Maia, Founder & CEO
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