The number of probiotic supplements on the market is nothing short of staggering! Given that the bacteria living in and on your body outnumber your human cells 10 to 1 (American Society for Microbiology), it is clear the great importance of selecting the best probiotic supplement to support and sustain this beneficial microbial activity working synergistically with your biological systems.
How to choose the best probiotic supplement for your particular situation?
Which are the best and most effective?
Are soil-based probiotics important?
Do particular strains matter?
Does it matter if they are refrigerated or unrefrigerated?
While specific strains have been studied for certain therapeutic applications, generally it is best to make sure the probiotic you choose contains a variety of beneficial bacterial species from each of the three main probiotic types:
- Soil-based organisms (SBOs)
Once you have zeroed in on a few brands that contain all of the above, be sure to note that the best probiotic supplement companies list on the bottle the genus (i.e. Lactobacillus) species (i.e. acidophilus) and strain (i.e. DDS-1) of each beneficial microbe included in the probiotic.
If the bacterial strains are not listed on the bottle, then a phone call to the company should at least be able to tell you what strains are in the probiotic. If the company doesn’t know or won’t tell you, best to choose another brand.
As an example, let’s look at the label of the probiotic brand Bio-Kult, considered to be in the “best probiotic supplement” category by many practitioners in the field of digestive wellness. My family has relied on the physician-developed brand Bio-Kult for many years with excellent results.
Bio-Kult Probiotic Blend
- Soil Based Organisms (SBOs): Bacillus subtilis PXN 21
- Bifidobacterium strains: Bifidobacterium bifidum PXN 23, Bifidobacterium breve PXN 25, Bifidobacterium infantis PXN 27, Bifidobacterium longum PXN 30,
- Lactobacillus strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN 35, Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus PXN 39, Lactobacillus casei PXN 37, Lactobacillus plantarum PXN 47, Lactobacillus rhamnosus PXN 54, Lactobacillus helveticus PXN 45, Lactobacillus salivarius PXN 57
- Other strains: Streptococcus thermophilus PXN 66, Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis PXN 63
Based on the label, Bio-Kult contains all the main probiotic types and labels them appropriately. As a result, it is a quality brand to be considered within the category of best probiotic supplements (see more brands listed below).
Do the Best Probiotic Supplements Need Refrigeration?
According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, the best probiotic supplements do not need to be refrigerated and can be stored at room temperature. This means that the bacterial strains are hardy, the product is high quality and can withstand the warmth and enzymatic activity of the digestive process and remain intact to do its job properly in the gut.
How Much Probiotic to Take
When working on a health issue it is important to work up to a therapeutic dose. Based on age, a therapeutic dose would consist of the following:
- Infant up to 12 months – 1-2 billion of bacterial cells per day
- Toddler from 1 to 2 years – 2-4 billion of bacterial cells per day
- Child from 2 to 4 years – 4-8 billion of bacterial cells per day
- Child from 4 to 10 years – 8-12 billion of bacterial cells per day
- Adolescent from 12 to 16 years – 12-15 billion per day
- Adults should have around 15-20 billion bacterial cells per day
To refer back to our previous example, Bio-Kult contains 2 billion microorganisms per capsule. So, using the guidelines above, an adult would need approximately 8 – 10 capsules per day (split into a morning and evening dose) for therapeutic levels to be reached.
A therapeutic dose should be maintained for an average of 6 months to overtake harmful microbes and reestablish beneficial microbes.
Following a clean, whole foods diet is essential during this time. If you continue feeding your pathogens in the gut with sugar and processed carbohydrates then the probiotics will not have much chance of helping you.
After six months it’s beneficial to reduce to a maintenance dose of probiotics and/or consume fermented foods daily. A maintenance dose would be half the therapeutic amount. After completion of a course of antibiotics, the maintenance dose should be continued for at least 2 weeks.
The Best Probiotic Supplements are Helpful While Traveling
It is a good idea to take a probiotic when traveling as it is protective of pathogens in an unfamiliar environment that you may come into contact with. For example, 1-2 capsules of BioKult is recommended twice daily for 1 week prior to travel. During travel, 2 capsules twice a day is recommended and this should be continued for at least 1 week after arriving back home.
This article contains detailed information on using probiotics for traveling to help keep you well.
Help! My Probiotic is Making Me Sick!
Whenever you introduce a healing food or supplement it is possible to experience a die-off reaction. Pathogens are being eliminated and releasing their toxins, which can make you feel miserable if it happens too quickly. Die-off symptoms can include:
- Feeling ill
- Bloating and digestive distress in general
- Skin eruptions and rashes
- Lacking energy
- More difficulty dealing with stress than usual
- Mood swings & difficulty concentrating
- Any other symptoms typical for you
- For children, this can also show up as bedwetting, moodiness, tiredness, restlessness and any other symptoms typical to your child
Know that die-off symptoms mean the probiotic is working, so feel good about that! Introducing the probiotic slowly and increasing incrementally every few days to a week is a good practice.
When my Mom first started taking a probiotic several years ago, she could only handle 1/8 of a capsule per day at first. She worked her way up slowly to the required dosage over a period of about 6 months. Learning to minimize die-off symptoms is extremely important so you can stay the course to resolve gut imbalance issues.
This article on managing die-off symptoms while detoxing contains information on handling the process with minimal discomfort.
The Best Probiotic Supplement Brands
In conclusion, here are a handful of good brands to investigate as you get started on your probiotic selection journey. The following are vetted for quality and appropriate strain strength. They are also recommended by a number of practitioners I know that specialize in gut healing protocols.
I hope you find this information helpful in assisting you to source the best probiotic supplement possible for the health of your family!
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.