12 Probiotics Brands Nutritionists Trust the Most
We asked registered dietitians to tell us how they choose probiotics, including which probiotic brands they trust the most.
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So many choices
Walking down the supplement aisle at your local health food store and seeing the numerous brands available for probiotics can be overwhelming. How do you choose? “Certain probiotic strains or strain combinations may promote gut health and digestive function, relieve gut symptoms, support function of the immune system, or support women’s vaginal and urinary tract health,” says Anthony Thomas, PhD, director of scientific affairs at Jarrow Formulas in Los Angeles. “There is no one size fits all when it comes to probiotics.” Plus, not everyone responds the same to every product, he says.
Also, keep in mind that many probiotics, much like supplements and vitamins, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs. That means there’s not as much oversight of the industry as a whole compared with, say, prescription drugs. (Although the FDA may regulate some probiotics as drugs if they are being marketed as a way to treat a disease or disorder, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.)
The takeaway? Read up on the facts about probiotics, look for a formulation specific to your condition or ailment, and don’t shy away from chatting with a health professional about which options may benefit you the most. When shopping for a quality probiotic, here are some of the things to look for:
Signs of a good probiotic brand
Transparency in labeling is important. “Probiotic brands should be labeled to include the genus, species, and strain—and the quantities should be declared in colony-forming units (CFUs),” says Sylvia Laman, managing toxicologist of dietary supplements at NSF International, a public health and safety organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For instance, if you look at the label of Bio-K Plus, one of the main probiotics listed is Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285. Lactobacillus is the genus, acidophilus is the species, and CL1285 is the strain.
“In addition, consumers should consider purchasing probiotic-containing supplements from manufacturers committed to verifying the identity and safety of probiotic ingredients,” advises Laman. “Consumers can make informed decisions when choosing supplement brands by conducting their own research, contacting supplement manufacturers directly, or seeking products that are tested and verified by a third party.”
For immune health: Bio-K Plus
“There are hundreds of strains of edible bacteria known as probiotics found in food, as well as available in supplement form,” says Kristin Gustashaw, MS, RDN, an advanced clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “L. acidophilus is known to support a healthy digestive system and sustain and boost your immune system.” She says it can also protect against the damage bad bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli can have on your digestive system. “If you are looking to supplement your diet with L. acidophilus, Bio-K Plus is a reputable brand.” Check out some of the other health benefits of probiotics.
For digestive health: Align 24/7 Digestive Support
“Working as a gastrointestinal dietitian for almost 20 years, I have seen more and more probiotic brands appearing daily,” says Emily Rubin, RD, a clinical dietitian at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She points out that probiotics can claim to treat all kinds of gastrointestinal symptoms, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “Patients can add probiotics to their medication regimen, but they should not take probiotics in lieu of their medications,” she stresses. “Align is known to alleviate symptoms associated with IBS such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation,” explains Rubin, but always discuss probiotic use with your physician before starting.
For digestive health: MegaFood Digestive Health Probiotic
“I recommend this supplement, which delivers a potent dose of microflora to support your digestive tract needs,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet and a spokesperson for MegaFood. “Unlike many other probiotics, this one is shelf stable, allowing you to take it on the go and not worry about refrigeration. It contains 13 acid-resistant probiotic strains and five billion colony-forming units of live bacteria that support digestion and help build a foundation for good health.” (Learn 37 secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.)
For digestive health: Genestra Brands HMF Capsules
“I really like this probiotics brand,” says Bethany Frazier, MS, RD, a dietitian in Overland Park, Kansas. “It is third-party tested and clinically researched. In my experience, it’s really well tolerated for individuals just getting started on a probiotic.” Here are 16 more vitamins (and supplements) that doctors take every day.
For gastrointestinal issues: VSL#3
“This is a very powerful probiotic and medical food that is really good for anyone suffering from ulcerative colitis or other serious gastrointestinal disorder,” says Kendra Worrell, RDN, director of nutrition and food services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California. “VSL#3 has also been shown to reduce urinary oxalate—and high oxalates can lead to calcium-oxalate kidney stones. VSL#3 is one of the most expensive probiotics on the market and is likely worth it if you’re trying to improve a gastrointestinal disorder. However, it’s not necessary for the average person trying to maintain gut health.”
For gastrointestinal issues: Visbiome High Potency Probiotic
“If the patient is suffering from IBS and has diarrhea, I recommend Visbiome,” says Liz McMahon, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Philadelphia. “This probiotic is from the people who created VSL#3 and is very well studied in the IBS patient.” Find out 9 clear signs of IBS.
For gastrointestinal issues: Microbiome Labs MegaSporeBiotic
“This is one of my favorite probiotics for helping to treat intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut,” says Ryan Whitcomb, MS, RD, CLT, a dietitian in Jersey City, New Jersey. “It’s a spore-based probiotic that doesn’t require refrigeration, so it’s convenient to take along while traveling.” He likes it because it lowers the levels of certain toxins in the gut that cause inflammation. “When the level is decreased, more beneficial bacteria can attach. As you can imagine, this is helpful when trying to heal the gut,” he says. Learn the 14 food rules of an anti-inflammatory diet.
When you’re taking antibiotics: Jarrow Formulas Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS
“I not only recommend Jarrow Formulas to my clients, but we use the probiotics brand in my family, as well,” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, a dieitian, owner and founder of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy in St. Louis. “Jarrow Formulas products are manufactured in a way that ensures the products are evaluated for purity, strength, and composition. The brand also tests its supplements to verify that active probiotics stay active in the body, and it engages in studies to back its probiotics to obtain the most effective dose. During travel or with disruption of the microflora—for instance, with antibiotic treatment—I recommend the Saccharomyces Boulardii +MOS supplement. S. boulardii is a yeast that survives passage through stomach acid and into the intestinal tract, helping to restore the intestinal microflora. The MOS stands for mannan-oligosaccharides—these assist in binding up unhealthy bacteria.”
For women’s health: Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Urinary Tract+ Probiotics
“This contains L. acidophilus, which is associated with preventing yeast infections, improving iron absorption, and providing anti-aging capabilities,” says Sheila Varshney, EdD, MPH, RD, a fertility and perinatal dietitian in Oakland, California. “It also contains L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri, which are linked to better vaginal health as well as improved digestion and immunity. And it provides L. gasseri, which may play a role in menstrual pain.” See which nutrients even nutritionists don’t get enough of.
For babies: Gerber Soothe Baby Probiotic Colic Drops
“Especially if a baby is born via C-section, it is important to ensure that a baby’s gut is being colonized adequately,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Charleston, South Carolina. “If a woman is breastfeeding, I like to recommend these drops [for her baby]. They provide adequate vitamin D, along with the live probiotic L. reuteri. This probiotic has good data supporting its use and has been shown to help alleviate symptoms associated with colic. There is also data to support this probiotic’s use for treatment of infantile reflux [heartburn], with and without the use of [medications like] a proton pump inhibitor. Its use has also been shown to reduce the duration of diarrheal episodes in infants.”
For children: Culturelle Kids
“Culturelle contains L. rhamnosus GG (LGG), and I recommend it to boost immunity for kids who are often sick in the winter and for kids with frequent tummy troubles,” says Jodi Greebel, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in Westchester, New York. “LGG is thought to improve symptoms of IBS, help children with allergies and eczema, and have other beneficial effects on the immune system. It’s believed to survive the acidity in the stomach and to act as a barrier against bad bacteria in the intestine. Good bacteria in the gut are believed to be a regulator of the immune system.” To make this probiotic more tolerable to children, mix the packet with juice, chocolate pudding, or a smoothie. Find out why Japanese children are the healthiest in the world.
For children: FlorastorKids
“I recommend this when a child is on antibiotics, particularly a prolonged antibiotic use, such as in a child with Lyme disease,” says Greebel. “It contains S. Boulardii, which research has shown can help prevent diarrhea in children on antibiotics when taken proactively.” Dissolve the supplement into juice, applesauce, or yogurt. Find out which vitamins pediatricians give their own kids.
- Anthony Thomas, PhD, director of scientific affairs at Jarrow Formulas, Los Angeles
- Sylvia Laman, managing toxicologist of dietary supplements at NSF International, a public health and safety organization Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Kristin Gustashaw, MS, RDN, advanced clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
- Emily Rubin, RD, clinical dietitian at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
- Keri Gans, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, author of The Small Change Diet, and spokesperson for MegaFood
- Bethany Frazier, MS, RD, dietitian, Overland Park, Kansas
- Kendra Worrell, RDN, director of nutrition and food services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, California
- Liz McMahon, MPH, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist, Philadelphia
- Ryan Whitcomb, MS, RD, CLT, dietitian in Jersey City, New Jersey
- Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, dietitian, owner and founder of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy, St. Louis
- Sheila Varshney, EdD, MPH, RD, fertility and perinatal dietitian, Oakland, California
- Lauren Manaker,MS, RDN, dietitian, Charleston, South Carolina
- Jodi Greebel, MS, RDN, registered dietitian, Westchester, New York.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Probiotics: What You Need to Know.