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Best Probiotics of 2021, According to Dietitians

Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD 

Last Updated on June 12, 2021

With so many probiotic supplements on the market, how do you choose the best one? Well, it depends on your specific goals and reasons for taking the product.

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Best Probiotics of 2021, According to Dietitians

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are found in dietary supplements and fermented foods. These microbes have a variety of health benefits.

If you have ever visited the probiotic aisle at the store, you have probably experienced how overwhelming it can be. There is an incredible number of choices!

In this article, I will help narrow it down a bit.

Our Top Picks

What to Look for in a Probiotic Supplement

Probiotic supplements generally contain one or several different “strains” or types of bacteria.

There are hundreds of different strains found in the human body. Each of these has a specific function.

Researchers are still trying to determine the purpose of each strain through the Human Microbiome Project. But, since there are so many, this is going to take a very long time.

That being said, there are several things that we do understand about probiotics and how to best use them for their health benefits.

When you look at probiotics, you will see a few different items on the bottle. These are:

  • Type of bacteria included in the supplement
  • Number of organisms by colony-forming units (CFUs)
  • Dose
  • Possible third-party certification
  • Form of probiotic: tablet, capsules, liquids, powders

The important thing before you purchase is to have a general understanding of the type of strains you are looking for based on your specific health goals.

For example, if you are a woman looking for a probiotic to help with vaginal health, a probiotic focused more on digestive health won’t really help you.

Doing a bit of research before you head to the store can help you choose the probiotic that best fits your needs.

How to Choose the Best Probiotic for You

To help you choose the best probiotic for you when you go to the store, here is what you need to look for:

The Right Type of Bacteria

It’s critical to choose strains that will address your specific problem and have been evaluated for your population group.

Probiotics behave in a strain-specific way, so it is important to get the exact strain that has been evaluated for your specific concern.

In the next section, I will provide more details on the strains to choose for each specific health concern.

Colony-Forming Units (CFUs)

This tells you the number of live bacteria in the product. Generally, most supplements contain between 5–20 billion, with some providing more.

For adults, 10–20 billion seems to be adequate for most health concerns.

Prebiotics

Some products contain prebiotics, types of fiber that serve as food for the microbes. This fiber may provide additional benefits to the product.

Shelf-Stable vs. Refrigerated

Probiotics are either shelf-stable or refrigerated. There is no specific benefit to refrigerated probiotics.

The important thing is that they are used by the expiration date to ensure the maximum number of bacteria are still alive.

Third-Party Testing

There are several types of third-party testing for supplements that help ensure purity, potency, and quality.

Some popular ones to look for include Consumer Labs, US Pharmacopeia (USP), and NSF International.

This is a type of “guarantee” of the quality of the product since the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements.

Taking all of these aspects into consideration, I pulled together a list of what to look for when choosing a probiotic for a specific health concern.

I will also provide specific product suggestions that match my criteria for each category.

Best Probiotics for General Health

Some people may want to take a probiotic just for general health. They may not have a specific concern but know the benefits of a healthy gut.

For general health, probiotics may be helpful with reducing inflammation associated with aging and decreasing the risk of various chronic diseases.

The two most common genus in the human body are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

A probiotic for general health should contain a variety of each of these. Also, choose a product with at least 10 billion CFUs.

Optimally, your probiotic should also contain some type of prebiotic.

The most common prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), or trans-galacto-oligosaccharides, but other types of fiber can be used as well.

While probiotics are safe for most people, those that are immunocompromised should avoid taking them.

Some probiotics may also contain lactose, so be sure to check the label if you are lactose intolerant.

Here are a few specific product suggestions that meet my criteria:

Nature Wise Daily Care Probiotics

Best for General Health
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

  • Provides a variety of the most common bacteria.
  • Delayed-release formulation
  • Third-party tested and solid return policy

Cons

  • Unclear how the “delayed release” actually works
  • Contains trace amounts of milk
  • Additional CFUs in the MaxCare product provide no real benefit

Nature Wise has two different probiotic products for general health.

The Daily Care product provides 30 different bacterial types with a variety of both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and 10 billion CFUs.

The MaxCare Probiotics is similar but has 30 Billion CFUs and a higher price point. Both products contain 30 mg of prebiotics.

Both products have an additional benefit of a delayed-release capsule called WiseBiotics.

NatureWise claims that this makes the products 15x more effective because it can protect the probiotics against destruction by stomach acid so that the bacteria can reach the intestine.

The Bottom Line: NatureWise Daily Care Probiotic is a solid choice for general health. It contains a variety of strains at a reasonable price point. There is no need to spend the extra money on their Max Care product.

Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic

Best for General Health
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

  • Provides a variety of common strains
  • Delayed-release formulation
  • Third-party tested
  • Good price point for high CFUs

Cons

  • No specific information about how the “delayed release” is achieved
  • Unclear what type of third-party testing the product has undergone

Physician’s Choice probiotic contains a variety of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium expected in a product for general health.

It has 60 Billion CFUs and 10 different strains. This product utilizes Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root powder as sources of inulin, a prebiotic fiber.

The company claims that the product is also delayed-release and acid resistant, allowing time for the probiotics to reach the intestines. There is no clear information about how this is achieved.

The Bottom Line: Physician’s Choice is a reputable brand with a solid line of probiotic products for a good price and a variety of strains and high CFUs beneficial for general health.

Best Probiotics for Digestive Health

Digestive concerns can have many underlying causes, such as stress, food sensitivities, or bacterial imbalance.

Probiotics can help address some of these issues. When choosing a probiotic for digestive health, it is important first to evaluate your symptoms.

Whether you have constipation, diarrhea, or IBS, it is important to choose the product with the right strains for your specific digestive symptoms.

Garden of Life Colon Care Probiotics

Best for Constipation
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

  • Wide variety of strains with specific benefits for constipation
  • Good price point for a 30-day supply
  • Vegan, non-GMO, organic

Cons

  • Contains additional ingredients that may not be necessary
  • Contains milk, may not be appropriate for those with lactose sensitivities

For constipation, the best strains are B. lactis, B. longum, S. cerevisiae, and a variety of Lactobacillus.

Garden of Life Colon Care Probiotics has 50 billion CFUs and 33 probiotic strains, including those best for constipation.

It also contains a variety of digestive enzymes and a fruit and vegetable blend for additional fiber and nutrients.

The Bottom Line: The Garden of Life Colon Care Probiotics is a good option for those that struggle with constipation, but it may not be ideal for those that also have lactose intolerance.

Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete

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

Overall Rating:

4.5

Pros

  • Wide variety of strains with specific benefits for diarrhea
  • No allergens, no dairy

Cons

  • Higher price point compared to other probiotics
  • Needs to be refrigerated

For diarrhea, probiotics have been found to be extremely effective, especially against acute bouts of diarrhea due to infection or antibiotic use.

Effective strains include Lactobacillus rhamonosus GG, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete contains the three strains, as well as others, and has 25 billion CFU.

I like that it is completely hypoallergenic. It does not contain dairy or other common allergens that may make diarrhea worse.

This probiotic does have a “shield” that helps protect the bacteria from stomach acid. It is unclear what this is exactly.

The product is third-party tested. The price is slightly higher than other probiotics, but the lack of allergens and food irritants may make this worth it.

The Bottom Line: Klaire Labs probiotic is a good choice for those with allergies or food sensitivities that may make diarrhea worse.

VSL#3 Probiotic Medical Food

Best for IBS
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:3.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Extensively studied for IBS
  • Contains a variety of strains to help improve different symptoms

Cons

  • Higher price point compared to other probiotics
  • Needs to be refrigerated
  • Best if used under doctor’s supervision

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of digestive symptoms such as gas, nausea, abdominal pain, and other digestive disturbances.

While most people with IBS either have predominately constipation OR diarrhea, some people can alternate between the two.

Probiotics may be helpful in improving IBS symptoms, but which strains are best is unclear.

VSL#3  is one particular product that has been evaluated in-depth for various symptoms of IBS and may be worth a shot to see if it helps.

VSL#3 contains a blend of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus. It contains 112.3 billion CFUs. It also has a much higher price point.

Additionally, it is recommended that you use it only under medical supervision, although it can be purchased without a prescription.

Several studies have found it is effective against various symptoms of IBS, as it helps regulate melatonin, which may play a role in symptoms.

Best Probiotics for Weight Loss

The bacteria in your gut may impact your body weight.

Several studies have found the bacteria in your digestive system can influence how many calories you absorb, how much belly fat you have, and help regulate inflammation, all of which play a role in maintaining healthy body weight.

While weight management is more complex than just taking a probiotic, certain strains may be able to help as part of a well-rounded weight loss plan.

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

For a probiotic for weight loss, I would suggest MegaFood MegaFlora Probiotic.

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 high number of CFUs and a variety of strains.
  • Third-party tested
  • No dairy

Cons

  • Needs to be refrigerated

MegaFlora Probiotic contains all three strains mentioned above and has 20 billion CFUs.

The price of this product is very reasonable compared to other similar products. It is third-party tested and is dairy and soy-free.

The Bottom Line: MegaFlora Probiotic contains the strains that might help with weight loss and may be solid additions to your weight loss regimen.

Best Probiotics for Immune Health

The right balance of gut bacteria can help support a healthy immune system. They can also help reduce inflammation associated with aging, helping lower the risk of chronic diseases.

Strains that have been found to be beneficial for immune support include Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum.

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

EU Natural Flourish Probiotics Gut & Digestive Health

Best for Immune Health
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 all strains needed for immune support
  • Third-party tested

Cons

  • Does not indicate if it contains lactose

Flourish Probiotics contains a variety of immune-boosting strains, including the three mentioned above.

It has 14 billion CFUs, has been third-party tested, and has a 90-day return policy.

This product is also a reasonable price compared to other products with immune-boosting strains that can cost over $50.

The Bottom Line: If you are immunocompromised, it is best not to take any probiotic supplement. But if you are overall healthy and want to support good immune function, Flourish Probiotics is a solid choice.

Best Probiotics for Women’s Health

Probiotics can help support vaginal health, particularly for women who struggle with chronic yeast or bacterial infections. They can help rebalance bacteria in the vagina.

Strains that have been found to be effective for vaginal health include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus fermentum, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

For vaginal health, my suggested product would be Swanson’s FemFlora Probiotic for Women.

Swanson’s FemFlora Probiotic for Women

Best for Women’s Health
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

  • Excellent price point
  • ConsumerLab-approved

Cons

  • Slightly lower CFUs compared to other products

Not only is this product inexpensive, but Swanson’s FemFlora also contains a variety of Lactobacillus strains to support vaginal health. It provides 9.8 billion CFUs.

Swanson is a well-respected supplement brand focused on creating quality products that are third-party tested.

The Bottom Line: For women’s health, a product with a variety of Lactobacillus is optimal. Swanson’s women’s probiotic meets all my criteria at an excellent price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Probiotics

What are some of the benefits of probiotics?

While we are still learning about the potential benefits of probiotics, it is understood that they have a wide variety of health benefits. These include digestive health, brain health, immunity, weight loss, heart health, and oral health, to name a few.

What is the optimal dosage for probiotics?

Currently, the optimal dosage for probiotics is unknown. Anywhere from 10–20 billion CFUs is adequate.

Which probiotic strains are best?

The best strain depends on your health concern. Each one plays a different and very specific role. A product with several different strains may be optimal.

Do probiotics need to be refrigerated?

Always follow the instructions on the bottle. There is no difference in health benefits between refrigerated vs. non-refrigerated probiotics.

When is the best time to take a probiotic?

Most probiotics are taken once a day on an empty stomach for best absorption.

I don’t want to take a supplement all the time; how else can I support my gut microbiome?

Fermented foods, like kombucha or yogurt, may be even more beneficial than probiotic supplements. These foods contain a wide variety of beneficial bacteria that cannot be found in one dietary supplement.

Who should avoid probiotics?

While probiotics are generally safe for most people, those that are immunocompromised should avoid taking probiotics. They may sometimes make certain digestive conditions, like gas or bloating worse. 

Are probiotics good for children?

It is always best to speak to your child’s doctor before giving them dietary supplements. Children can enjoy fermented foods that contain beneficial bacteria, like yogurt, as part of a healthy diet.

I have been taking probiotics, but my digestion is still not great. What should I do?

Digestive concerns may require more than simply taking a probiotic. Food intolerances, stress, and underlying illnesses can all contribute to poor digestion.

It is best to speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian to evaluate all of the potential underlying causes.

Other tips for taking probiotics?

After a round of antibiotics, it might be a good idea to take probiotics for 30-days or so to help regrow some of the beneficial bacteria killed off by the medication.

It is also best to vary the product and strains from time to time. This way, your gut can benefit from a variety of different bacterial strains.

The Bottom Line

Probiotics are generally safe dietary supplements with many potential health benefits.

Although there is still a lot to learn about the microbiome and the benefits of specific probiotic strains, there are still many potential benefits of taking these products.

Before choosing a product, always know your specific goal ahead of time and research the best strains for your health concern. Taking the right product will improve your results.

As with any dietary supplement, it is always best to speak with your doctor before to make sure it is right for you.

Good health starts with a healthy, well-balanced gut. The right probiotic can help lay the foundation for optimal wellness.

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