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Best Probiotic Supplements for Women of 2021, According to Dietitians

Written by Emily Hirsch, MS, RD

Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD 

Last Updated on September 14, 2021

Probiotic supplements have many potential benefits for women, but how do you know which one to choose? We help you decide which probiotic is best for you based on your specific health concerns.

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Best Probiotic Supplements for Women of 2021, According to Dietitians

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in your body. They can be found in fermented foods or supplement forms and can provide an array of health benefits.

As a woman, choosing the best probiotics to meet your specific needs can feel overwhelming.

There are probiotics made to enhance your gut health but also ones that address your vaginal health.

This article will break down the best probiotic supplements to meet your individualized needs and health goals.

Summary of Our Picks

Why Are Probiotic Supplements Beneficial for Women?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can enhance the natural beneficial bacteria in your gut.

In fact, your gastrointestinal system contains roughly 39 trillion bacteria, most of which can be found in your large intestine.

Probiotics work to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and help enhance the growth of helpful bacteria.

Helpful bacteria can support food digestion, destroy harmful cells, or produce important vitamins.

Taking probiotics supplements may help balance the bacteria in your intestines, also known as the gut microbiome.

Additionally, your vagina is home to 50 different species of microorganisms, which, when in balance, keep your vagina healthy and infection-free. Probiotics can help to restore a healthier balance of bacteria in the vagina.

An imbalance of vaginal bacteria can lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, trichomoniasis (a common sexually transmitted infection), and urinary tract infections.

Maintaining balance within the body and preventing the growth of dangerous bacteria can have far-reaching health benefits.

Research suggests that having a healthy balance of gut bacteria is linked to a variety of health benefits, including:

  • Improved digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Improved skin health
  • Reduced risk of some diseases

Probiotics are identified by their specific strain. The seven most common probiotic species you’ll find in most supplements include:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Saccharomyces
  • Streptococcus
  • Enterococcus
  • Escherichia
  • Bacillus

When choosing a probiotic, it’s important to look for the specific strain of bacteria that is most helpful for your condition because different strains serve different functions.

For example, research shows that 2 specific species of Lactobacillus including, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, may help prevent and treat bacterial vaginosis.

Women looking for a probiotic should research the strains of bacteria that are best for their specific condition and select a probiotic that contains a high number of those strains.

How to Choose the Best Probiotic for You

When looking over the probiotic supplement label, you will come across a lot of information which may include:

  • The type of bacteria in the supplement
  • The number of organisms by colony-forming units (CFUs)
  • Possible third-party certification
  • The proper dosage
  • Whether the product is in capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid form
  • Whether the product must be refrigerated or not

The Right Type of Bacteria for Your Condition

Each type of bacteria, or strain, will have a different effect on your body. Therefore, it’s important to select a probiotic that has been studied to help your specific health concern.

Selecting a random probiotic without reading about the type of bacteria may not have the intended effect you’re hoping for.

Below is a chart listing the seven common strains of probiotics and their proposed health benefits.

Strains Health Benefits
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus Treatment of bacterial vaginosis
Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium lactis Weight loss
Bifidobacterium infantis Controls symptoms of IBS
Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum Immune system support
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum Supports mental health

The Number of CFUs

The number of colony-forming units (CFUs) will tell you the number of live and active bacteria in the product.

Common CFUs can range from 5 to 20 billion colony units per day for adults.

As a general rule of thumb, your probiotic should provide at least 1 billion CFUs with doses up to 10–20 billion CFUs daily for adults.

The amount of CFUs you take can play a major role in how effective the probiotic is. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure the probiotic you choose has at least 1 billion CFUs per serving.

Third-Party Certification

Since the FDA doesn’t regulate the supplement industry, one way to ensure the quality of your probiotic is to look for third-party testing.

One 2015 study found that out of 16 products tested, only one matched its label claims and that supplements were inconsistent from batch to batch and pill to pill.

Look for products labeled with a third-party testing seal from Consumer Labs, US Pharmacopeia (USP), or NSF International.

Shelf-Stable or Refrigerated

As far as efficacy, you will be reaping the benefits of a probiotic, whether it is shelf-stable or needs to be refrigerated.

If your probiotic needs to be refrigerated, the manufacturer will generally indicate that somewhere on the label.

Additionally, if you’re confused as to how to store your probiotic, think of how it was stored when you bought it.

If you found it in a refrigerated section or shipped with an ice pack, it will likely need to stay refrigerated.

If you travel often, it may be difficult to lug around a heat-sensitive bottle with you, and you may want to consider the convenience of a shelf-stable product.

The best way to store shelf-stable probiotics is to ensure they’re tightly sealed and to keep them in a cool, dry place. Heat and humidity can affect their potency.

How We Made Our Selections

In addition to ensuring the products met the criteria above, we evaluated each brand based on several criteria. These included:

  • Quality: Are the products made in a certified Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facility? Are they third-party tested?
  • Involvement of Professionals: Does the brand work with professionals to ensure the quality of its products?
  • Evidence to Support Claims. Does the brand provide evidence to back up the claims of their products?
  • Safety: Does the brand ensure the products are generally safe?

Based on these criteria, we pulled together a list of products for specific concerns that women might have.

Our Picks of the Best Probiotics for Women of 2021

Women might choose to take probiotics for many different reasons. Here are a few of the most popular reasons I see as a dietitian and the best products for each:

Best Probiotic for Weight Loss: MegaFood MegaFlora Probiotic

Best for Weight Loss
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • Contains a variety of helpful strains
  • Third-party tested
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Needs to be refrigerated
  • Packaging doesn’t specify concentration of individual strains
  • Doesn’t contain any prebiotics

While the research surrounding the use of probiotics for supporting digestive health is strong, new research is emerging, showing that probiotics may also play a role in weight loss.

According to one 2019 review, probiotics may support weight loss by decreasing fat storage, reducing inflammation throughout the body, controlling appetite, increasing metabolism, and improving insulin sensitivity.

One 2020 review of the clinical trials found that taking probiotics may potentially reduce body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). This study found that:

  • When treated with probiotics for a longer period of time, weight reduction was increased.
  • A mix of probiotics strains (versus an individual bacterial strain) had a better effect on weight management.
  • Weight reduction was enhanced when using a probiotic with a prebiotic (type of fiber that serves as food for a probiotic), modifying diet, and increasing physical activity.

Moreover, one 2018 review and meta-analysis found that participants that received probiotic supplementation had more significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, body fat, and BMI than the control groups.

When seeking a probiotic to help with weight loss, it’s important to know which strains to look for.

Strains that can help with weight loss include Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium lactis.

I would recommend MegaFood’s MegaFlora Probiotic to help support weight loss.

It contains all three strains of weight-loss-promoting probiotics, including L. gasseri, L. rhamnosus, and B. lactis.

MegaFood Probiotic is reasonably priced (a 1-month supply is just over $20), has 20 billion CFUs, is third-party tested, and is dairy-free and soy-free.

The Bottom Line: MegaFlora Probiotic contains all three strains that have shown to be effective in supporting weight loss. Taking this supplement, in addition to making lifestyle changes, may help you reach your weight goals.

Best Probiotic for Digestive Health: Align Probiotic 24/7 Digestive Support

Best for Digestive Health
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.0

Pros

  • Widely studied to help with various symptoms of IBS
  • Doesn’t require refrigeration
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • Not widely studied in patients without IBS
  • Doesn’t contain a variety of strains
  • Not third-party tested

From constipation to gas, probiotics may help treat various gastrointestinal concerns while supporting a healthy digestive system.

Research indicates a positive link between probiotic use and gut health.

For overall digestive health, I would recommend choosing Align Probiotic 24/7 Digestive Support.

The active ingredient in the Align is Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, which has been studied extensively for use in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and overall gut health.

One study of 362 women with IBS showed a symptom decrease of 20% while patients took 100-million CFUs Bifidobacterium 35624 daily.

Another study of 77 patients with IBS found that people taking the Bifidobacterium strain versus the Lactobacillus salivarius strain had a greater reduction in gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.

This particular strain of bacteria has also been shown to soothe occasional abdominal discomfort, including gas and bloating, making it a great choice for overall digestive health.

The Bottom Line: Align Probiotic 24/7 is reasonably priced, at just over $30 per month, and comes with a money-back guarantee. Even though it only contains one strain of bacteria, this particular strain shows promise for people with IBS or occasional abdominal discomfort.

Best Probiotic for Vaginal Health: Jarrow Formulas Fem Dophilus

Best for Vaginal Health
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:5.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

5.0

Pros

  • Widely studied in supporting vaginal health
  • Free of major allergens
  • Third-party tested

Cons

  • Requires refrigeration
  • Not readily available in many retailers

Just as your gut contains a variety of helpful bacteria, so does your vagina. In fact, there are over 50 different microorganisms in your vagina that keep it free from infection and healthy.

An imbalance of bacteria in your vagina can lead to a variety of issues including, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, an increase in urinary tract infections, and trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted infection).

There are various strains recognized by the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products to support women’s vaginal health. These strains include:

  • L. rhamnosus GR-1
  • L. reuteri RC-14
  • L. crispatus LbV 88
  • L. gasseri LbV 150N
  • L. jensenii LbV 116
  • L. rhamnosus LbV 96.14

These strains have been helpful in supporting an increase in vaginal lactobacilli (healthy bacteria) and protection against harmful vaginal pathogens.

For vaginal health, I would recommend Jarrow Formulas Fem Dophilus. The product supports vaginal health as it contains evidenced-based probiotic strains, including L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14.

It contains 5 billion CFUs, is free of major allergens, is backed by years of clinical research, and is reasonably priced at roughly $22.00 per month.

The Bottom Line: To enhance your vaginal health, it’s best to look for a product with evidence-based probiotic strains. Jarrow Formulas Fem Dophilus contains a nice variety of probiotic strains and is backed by solid research.

Best Probiotic for Immune Support: EU Natural Flourish Probiotics

Best for Immune Support
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • Contains specific immune-boosting strains
  • Third-party tested
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • Unclear if the product is lactose free
  • Can take 6–8 weeks to notice full effects
  • Contains 18 different strains, some of which may have no real benefit

Recent research suggests that probiotics play a role in boosting the immune system.

Studies indicate that the following strains are beneficial for immune support: Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum.

A product that contains all three of these specific strains is EU Natural Flourish Probiotics.

Flourish Probiotics has 14 billion CFUs, is reasonably priced ($30 for a 1-month supply), has been third-party tested, and comes with a money-back guarantee.

The Bottom Line: Taking a probiotic if you are immunocompromised might be dangerous. It is best to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement to ensure its safety for you. On the other hand, if you are healthy, Flourish Probiotics may give your immune system just the boost it needs to protect you from various viruses and infections.

Best Probiotic for Mental Health: Lifted Naturals Bifidus Mood Boost

Best for Mental Health
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Contains specific mental health enhancing strains
  • No refrigeration required
  • Gluten, dairy, and soy free

Cons

  • No acid-resistant (enteric) coating which could affect absorption
  • Large capsule could make swallowing difficult
  • Not third-party tested

Emerging research shows that the gut and brain are connected, a relationship also known as the gut-brain axis.

The gut has been called a “second brain” because it produces many chemicals as the brain does, all of which play an important role in regulating mood.

For example, the bacteria in the intestines produce serotonin, melatonin, and acetylcholine, all of which can directly impact brain functioning and mental health.

One 2016 study found that probiotic use helped improve symptoms of depression in patients using Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum strains.

In one small 2016 study, researchers found that patients saw improvement in depression symptoms when taking the probiotic strain B. longum.

One recent study suggested that probiotics may improve mental health and can be offered as new medicines for common mental disorders.

Researchers did note more clinical studies are necessary to further examine the connection between gut health and mental health.

To address your mental health needs, I would recommend trying Lifted Naturals Bifidus Mood Boost.

It contains B. infantis, B. breve, B. longum, B. bifidum, all of which have been shown to support mental health.

Lifted Naturals Bifidus Mood Boost contains 30 billion CFUs, is reasonably priced (2-month supply for $25.88), and is gluten, dairy, and soy-free.

The Bottom Line: Lifted Naturals Bifidus Mood Boost is a nice choice for women looking to support their mental health. The product contains mood-boosting strains and is reasonably priced.

Best Budget Pick: Probiotic Pearls Women’s

Best Budget Pick
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Contains a variety of probiotic strains
  • No refrigeration required
  • Free of gluten, sugar, salt, wheat, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

Cons

  • Only contains 1 billion CFUs
  • Doesn’t specify concentration of individual strains
  • Not third-party tested

Nature’s Way Probiotic Pearls Women’s is a great product if you don’t want to spend a fortune, but you also want a product designed to tackle both your digestive and vaginal health.

The product provides 1 billion CFUs and includes 3 strains of probiotics: L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, and L. plantarum. This specific blend was designed to maintain vaginal health, promote digestive balance, and support your immune system.

Probiotic Pearls Women’s uses a triple-layer soft gel that protects the probiotics from heat, air, moisture, and stomach acid to increase survival and delivery to the intestine.

When purchasing from Amazon, a 1-month supply is only $11.81.

The Bottom Line: If you’re on a budget, Nature’s Way Probiotic Pearls Women’s is a nice choice as it contains a variety of strains to support your digestive and vaginal health. The triple layer soft gel may also increase the survivability of the strains making them more effective.

Best Overall Probiotic for Women: Garden of Life Once Daily Women’s Probiotic

Best Overall for Women
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Contains diverse probiotic strains
  • No refrigeration required
  • Gluten, dairy, and soy free

Cons

  • Contains a variety of strains, some of which may have no real benefit
  • Not third-party tested

If you’re looking for a probiotic that may address various needs, including immune functioning, vaginal health, and digestive support, I recommend trying Garden of Life Once Daily Women’s Probiotic.

The product contains a whooping 50 billion CFUs and includes 16 diverse strains of helpful probiotics, including Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

These specific strains have immune-boosting properties, can help balance your vaginal bacteria, and support your digestive health.

Additionally, the product is reasonably priced at $27.94 for a 1-month supply.

The Bottom Line: Garden of Life Once Daily Women’s Probiotic is chock full of diverse probiotic strains that may help address various health concerns at a reasonable price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Probiotics

  • When is the best time to take a probiotic?

    Many probiotic manufacturers recommend taking them 30 minutes before a meal because many probiotic strains cannot survive the acidic environment in the stomach. It is best to read the label on your probiotic to ensure you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • How do you store a probiotic?

    Storing instructions can be found on the bottle and should always be followed. If your probiotic doesn’t require refrigeration, make sure you store it in a cool, dry place to help maintain ideal stability.

  • Which probiotic strains are the best?

    Each probiotic strain is unique and, therefore, will provide a different outcome. The best strain for you will depend on your health status and health concerns.

  • What are other ways I can support my gut health?

    Eating fermented foods is another way to enhance your gut health. Fermented foods like yogurt, tempeh, kombucha, and sauerkraut are easily absorbed and naturally enrich your healthy gut bacteria.

  • What are other ways I can support my vaginal health?

    Staying hydrated is a great way to prevent urinary tract infections. Additionally, cutting back on highly processed foods with refined sugars can help to prevent yeast and other vaginal infections.

  • Do probiotics have side effects?

    The National Institutes of Health report that there have been very few adverse effects from probiotic supplements. On occasion, side effects of probiotics may result in mild gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating and gas.

  • Are probiotics safe to take?

    Probiotics are generally safe to take. According to the National Institutes of Health, probiotics may cause harm in people with severe illness or those with a compromised immune system.

  • How long will it take for a probiotic to work?

    It can take anywhere between 2–6 weeks to start seeing the benefits of taking probiotics, so it’s best to remain patient.

The Bottom Line

Many probiotics can be helpful for both men and women, but several strains have been shown to be particularly beneficial in supporting women’s health.

While the science surrounding the use of probiotics is encouraging, there is still a lot to learn about how they can best support women’s health.

Research shows that specific probiotics strains can address different health concerns making a one-size-fits-all approach challenging.

Before selecting a product, it’s best to understand your specific health concerns and research the best strains to address them.

Before taking any supplement, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to examine its benefits and ensure its safety for you.

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