How to analyze probiotic brands for the best quality to determine if it contains the appropriate therapeutic strength and variety of strains necessary to help improve gut function.
The number of probiotic supplements on the market is nothing short of staggering!
The fact is that the bacteria living in and on your body outnumber human cells according to the Microbiome Institute.
It is clear that selecting the best probiotic supplement to support and sustain this beneficial microbial activity working synergistically with your biological systems is a critical decision.
Basic Questions to Answer about a Probiotic Brand
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 refrigeration matter?
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)
Analyzing a Probiotic Label
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 brand you are considering does not list bacterial strains on the bottle, then a phone call to the company is necessary to learn more.
If the company doesn’t know or won’t tell you, then it is 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 this physician-developed brand for many years with excellent results.
We also started using Seed Daily Synbiotic a couple of years ago which we alternate with Bio-Kult. It has a pomegranate prebiotic capsule which we have found particularly helpful for building flora strength.
Other vetted brands to consider are listed at the end of this article that might work better for your situation and/or budget.
Below is an example of how to analyze a particular probiotic brand. I’ve used Bio-Kult to outline the process.
Bio-Kult Strain Types
- 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).
Is Refrigeration a Sign of Quality?
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 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 bacterial cells per day
- Toddlers from 1 to 2 years – 2-4 billion bacterial cells per day
- Children from 2 to 4 years – 4-8 billion bacterial cells per day
- Children from 4 to 10 years – 8-12 billion bacterial cells per day
- Adolescents 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.
Probiotics When Traveling
It is a good idea to take a probiotic when traveling as it is protective of pathogen exposure in an unfamiliar environment.
For example, taking 1-2 capsules of BioKult twice daily for 1 week prior to travel is a helpful preventative practice.
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.
Common die-off symptoms can include:
- Feeling ill
- Bloating and digestive distress in general
- Skin eruptions and rashes (eczema flare-up is common)
- 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.
To give you a personal example, when my Mom first started taking a probiotic, 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!
Her ability to learn how to minimize die-off symptoms was extremely important. This enabled her to stay the course to resolve gut imbalance issues over the long haul.
Best Brands (updated)
In conclusion, below are a handful of good brands to consider on your probiotic selection journey.
Several practitioners I personally know who specialize in gut healing protocols recommend one or more of them as well.
I’ve included suggested brands for improved gut health as well as oral probiotics for ear, nose, throat, and tooth/gum wellness.
- Seed (prebiotic pomegranate capsule)
- Just Thrive (also has a separate quality prebiotic)
- Pure Encapsulations
- Terra Flora
I hope you find this information helpful in assisting you to source the best probiotic supplement possible for the health of your family!
(1) How Many Bacterial Cells are in the Body?