Top 5 Probiotic Supplements

top probioticsYou’ve heard the hype that probiotics are good for everything. You may be skeptical – sure, bacteria can impact what happens in the gut, but how could they have any influence on the rest of the body? You’re not alone, there are plenty of non-believers out there.

Sorry, but we’re about to change your mind. The benefits of probiotics are incredible.

[ Jump to the Best Probiotic Supplements Here ]


What are Probiotics, again?

A “probiotic” is any bacteria or yeast that is beneficial for human health. The majority of these microbes concentrate in the digestive system, but they also exist all over the body – on the skin, in the reproductive system, in the nasal cavities, lungs, joints, ears, eyes… They’ve everywhere and they work in a symbiotic relationship with the body to keep it healthy.

Probiotic supplements are capsules full of particular strains of these beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Most are oral supplements which help to repopulate the large intestine (the major site of the gut’s microbiome) with “good” gut bugs. These oral probiotics are usually made with an “enteric coating” – this means that the capsule can survive digestion in the stomach so that it can deliver the bacteria all the way to the large intestine.

Probiotic bacteria and yeasts also exist in many fermented foods and drinks:

  • Greek yoghurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Some pickles
  • Dark chocolate

Probiotic Rich FoodsNOTE ON PROBIOTIC FOOD VERSUS SUPPLEMENT: While eating these foods regularly is generally good for your health, it’s impossible to know exactly what types of bacteria and yeasts are present or in what amounts.

The benefit of taking a supplement is that the levels and types of concentrated probiotics are guaranteed. Supplemental probiotics are manufactured under strict processes and rigorous testing so they can guarantee that certain bacterial and yeast strains are present in therapeutic amounts.

The best quality probiotics have an “overage” – this means that manufacturer over-packs the probiotic capsules so there is guaranteed to be at least a therapeutic level of bacteria or yeast per capsule, even if some of them die off during transit.


Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics for Digestive Health

Everything starts in the gut. To understand how probiotics can help a huge variety of health conditions, it’s important to understand how the gut is connected to everything else.
A healthy gut microbiome has been been shown to:

  • Break down nutrients into smaller pieces so we can absorb them.
  • Ferment carbohydrates, including fibre. This fermentation creates more nutrients like short-chain fatty acids and vitamin K.
  • Prevent “leaky gut” by strengthening the intestinal wall – more on this later.
  • Reduce inflammation in the gut (and throughout the body) by secrete anti-inflammatory chemicals.
  • Talk to the immune system in the gut and tell it which invading bacteria and viruses to attack. They can also stimulate immune cells to grow!
  • Directly attack other types of bad bacteria by secreting chemicals. [1]

It’s not all good news…

These positive effects happen when there are lots of good bugs in the gut, but there are always “bad” bacteria too. “Dysbiosis” refers to an imbalance of beneficial (“good”) versus pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria in the large intestine. The whole body’s ecosystem can be thrown out of the balance if the bad guys overgrow the beneficial probiotics. This kind of imbalance can cause digestive symptoms like gas and bloating, but may also go unnoticed. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – dysbiosis has been linked to immune problems, skin conditions, mental health conditions, and cardiovascular disease!

Don’t worry – it’s easier than ever to correct dysbiosis by taking a probiotic supplement. Taking a probiotic supplements with therapeutic levels of particular strains of bacteria has been shown to:

  • Relieve gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotics like diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Prevent and treat traveller’s diarrhoea and other infectious gut bugs.
  • Help in the management of gastrointestinal conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Reduce colic in breastfed babies.
  • Improve the intestinal absorption of phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Decrease the symptoms of intolerances to foods like lactose and gluten. [1] [2] [3]

The benefits don’t stop there.

In fact, probiotics have been shown to impact the health of the entire body’s microbiome – from head to toe, good gut bugs can support the immune system, mood & cognition, skin health and the cardiovascular system, and even improve sports performance.


Immune system and probiotics

Probiotics for Immune Support

The connection between gut health and the immune system is well documented and research is still finding more links between the two. We know for sure that the types of bacteria in the gut microbiome can directly and indirectly influence the function of the immune system [4]. When there are more bad gut bugs than probiotics in the gut, the immune response slows down, immune cells can get signals confused, and autoimmune diseases can develop [5].

The immune system reacts quickly and efficiently when there is an abundance of probiotics in the gut. This is partly because the gut wall acts as the first line of defence against pathogens – with a strong army of probiotics, the bad guys don’t stand a chance of getting through the gut’s defences. And since the microbiome in the gut reflects the microbiome in other parts of the body (think nasal passages!), supporting the troops in the gut may also strengthen defences in other parts of the body. There’s also evidence that a healthy microbiome can identify pathogens and educate white blood cells on which ones to attack [5].

You can help to balance your immune system by reinoculating your gut with healthy strains of bacteria from a good quality probiotic. According to research, taking the right probiotic supplement may help with:

  • Colds & flus. By protecting mucous membranes in the gut, probiotics can block viruses and bacteria from entering the body via the gastrointestinal system and possibly via the nasal passages [6]. They can also boost the immune system to fight off the pathogens more quickly. A study in 2009 showed that taking probiotics reduced the severity of the common cold in people who ate well and exercised regularly [7].
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs). Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic strains have been shown to treat and prevent UTIs by crowding out pathogenic bacteria and reducing cross-contamination to the urinary system from the gut [8].
  • Autoimmune conditions. Research shows that taking probiotics could help to reduce symptoms and frequency of flare-ups in autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis [9], lupus [10], Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism [11], multiple sclerosis [12] and type 1 diabetes mellitus [13].
  • Allergies & Asthma. Probiotics may help to stabilise the body’s histamine response and reduce the symptoms of hayfever, allergic rhinitis, eczema, food allergies and asthma [14].

Probiotics for clear skin

Probiotics for Skin Health

The skin has its own microbiome. Not to get too gross, but millions of bacteria live on the skin and assist in keeping the complexion clear and protected against pathogens. Our skin’s probiotics are also essential for our survival – they’re at the front lines of defence, so they can tell our immune cells what types of pathogens are trying to invade and how to defend the body against them [1].

The types of bacteria found on the skin are different to those found in the gut, but colonising the gut with probiotics can impact the microbiome of the skin.

The gut is the largest elimination pathway in the body, and guess what the second major pathway is? The skin. Kind of gross, but toxins and pathogenic bacteria that are absorbed through a leaky gut can end up being excreted through the skin. These bad guys throw off the balance of the skin’s own microbiome by overcrowding or killing off the probiotics there. Without beneficial probiotics present, external pathogens can take hold, the pH of the skin can change, and oil secretions can become trapped.

Zits and inflammation occur when the immune system mounts a normal response against these external pathogens. Sometimes the immune system gets confused and initiates an autoimmune response against healthy cells, causing conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Short story: Colonising the gut with probiotics can help to clear up the skin. By strengthening the intestinal wall, probiotics prevent pathogens and toxins from getting through a leaky gut and ending up being excreted onto the skin. Some strains are more beneficial than others to treat particular skin issues:

  • Acne: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum strains may be beneficial in reducing the number of lesions (a gnarly medical term for “pimples”) in acne vulgaris. They may also help to reduce skin redness and reactivity in acne rosacea. [15]
  • Eczema: Concentrated probiotic supplements with high doses of 10 – 50 billion CFU may help to treat eczema. Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus have been shown to have the greatest impact on inflammation, itchiness, and dryness in multiple types of eczema.
  • Psoriasis: High doses of Bifidobacterium infantis may reduce inflammation and frequency of flare-ups in psoriasis [16].

benefits of probiotics

Probiotics for Mood & Cognition

The connection between the brain and gut begins in utero – they are derived from the same embryonic tissue. The link remains way past our natal stages, and what happens in the gastrointestinal system can have a huge impact on mood and brain function. Studies have shown that taking therapeutic doses of particular probiotic strains can help with:

  • Sad mood and negative thoughts. A triple-blind randomized controlled trial in 2015 showed that taking a multi-species probiotic supplement for 4 weeks reduced frequency of sad moods and negative thoughts, and also shortened the length of time participants would spend ruminating on bad moods and thoughts [17].
  • Depressive symptoms. An 8 week trial showed that taking Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum strains of probiotics improved depressive symptoms and biomarkers of depression [18].
  • Stress & feelings of anxiety. Beneficial gut bugs can keep the “fight or flight” system from over-reacting to stress. Research suggests that taking a probiotic supplement may help reduce anxiety before undergoing surgery [19].
  • Symptoms of diagnosed mental health conditions such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, dementia, and PTSD [20] [21] [22].
  • Learning & memory. Even in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown that a healthy gut microbe can improve cognition, learning and memory, likely due to the anti-inflammatory effects on the whole body [23].

probiotics for cardiovascular health

Probiotics for Cardiovascular Health

Okay, so the heart and arteries don’t have their own microbiome, but the types of probiotics in the gastrointestinal system can have a big impact on cardiovascular health. Good bacteria and yeasts can break down cholesterol and reduce inflammation, which can reduce cardiovascular disease.

Probiotics have been shown to:

  • Decrease total cholesterol levels in the blood by breaking down cholesterol in the gut.
  • Raise blood serum levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
  • Reduce systolic blood pressure.
  • Improve weight loss outcomes [link to probiotics for weight loss article].
  • Reduce inflammation throughout the body, including arteries and heart muscles. [24]

Probiotics for Workout Support

It may seem like a bit of a leap to consider how the microbes in your gut could impact your performance and recovery. Because gut microbiota can influence the release and metabolism of hormones, they have a huge impact on all body functions. And some good gut bugs are even responsible for breaking down lactic acid that causes muscle soreness after exercise. Taking a probiotic may help to:

  • Improve your performance & recovery. In a 2015 study, taking a Bacillus coagulans probiotic showed improved athletic performance, reduced incidences of muscle damage, and improved recovery time. A past pilot study also suggested that B. coagulans may even help to increase peak power [25].
  • Lose weight! Probiotics can help you to lose weight by blocking the absorption of excessive dietary fat, reducing inflammation and stress, and promoting the breakdown of belly fat. Learn more → [link to probiotic for weight loss article]

With such a huge range of therapeutic uses, taking a high quality probiotic supplement will put a smile on your face. And believe it or not, probiotics may even make your smile brighter – Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to decrease gingivitis and plaque by crowding out pathogenic bacteria in the mouth [26]. We weren’t kidding – the benefits of probiotics are incredible!


 

Top 5 Best Probiotic Supplements

#5 Genius Pro-GT 2-in-1 Green Tea Extract & Probiotics (10 billion CFU, 30 capsules)

Genius Probiotic SupplementGenius have put probiotics together with fat-burning green tea phytosome extract. Both ingredients have clinical evidence for their weight loss, immune support, anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting actions.

This is a great supplement if you’re looking to give your metabolic rate a kick-start while supporting your gut flora or if you want to quickly lower your cholesterol. Greenselect, the manufacturers of the green tea phytosome extract in this product, did a study on their extract and found that it can lower LDL cholesterol within 6 weeks.

Use this supplement with caution if you have hyperthyroid or adrenal conditions – this one might be too stimulating. As always, speak to your nutritionist for personalised advice.


#4 Dr Benjamin Rush Supplements Super Probiotic (30 billion CFU, 60 capsules)

Rush Super ProbioticWith fifteen strains of bacteria, Dr Benjamin Rush’s non-GMO blend is a great all-round probiotic. This is a great choice if you’re looking to lose weight but also want to help your gut health, immune system, mood and blood sugar levels. Dr Benjamin Rush supplements are particularly clean non-GMO and free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Best of all, it’s shelf-stable so you don’t need to keep it in the fridge!

The blend in these time release capsules contains therapeutic levels of most of the probiotics that are used for their therapeutic potential: L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, B. longum, B. breve, L casei, B. coagulans, B. lactis, L. plantarum, S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, B. infantis, L. gasseri, L. reuteri, L. fermentum, and S. boulardii.

This one contains dairy, so it’s not suitable for vegans or people with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance.


#3 Hyperbiotics Better Body (5 billion CFU, 60 tablets)

Hyperbiotics probioticThese time release tablets are packed with beneficial bacteria. This formula includes starch-blocking white kidney bean extract along with six key probiotic strains for weight loss – L. plantarum, L. gasseri, L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus, B. breve, and B. lactis. – plus a prebiotic for the probiotics to feed on. This is a great supplement if you’re looking for help with blood sugar and craving control.

The formula is lactose free but the fermentation and manufacturing of the probiotics used milk protein, so this one isn’t appropriate for vegans or anyone with a milk allergy.


#2 Scintillant Nutrients Probiotic (20 billion CFU, 60 capsules)

Nutritional ProbioticThis is a therapeutic grade probiotic. Each capsules will give you 20 billion organisms, so take two for a massive, targeted hit of four synergistic weight-loss probiotic strains. This one contains L. acidophilus, B. lactis, L. plantarum, and L. paracasei, all with evidence to help reduce weight and control appetite.

If you’re looking for a strong supplement to correct your gut flora. It may be too strong for some people with any gastrointestinal issues, so cut back to 1 per day if 2 causes discomfort.

View Scintillant Nutrients Probiotic on Amazon


#1 The Inner Health Advanced Probiotic (5.75 billion CFU, 60 capsules)

Advanced Probiotic SupplementInner Health have developed this weight loss probiotic with the seven strains that target appetite, metabolism, fat burning processes and inflammation – Bacillus subtilis, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, and B. breve. With 5.75 billion organisms per serve, taking 1 – 2 per day would provide a therapeutic dose to help support your gut flora and boost weight loss.

This is the perfect supplement if you’re looking for a probiotic that is just high quality, clean, weight-loss bacteria in therapeutic doses.

View Advanced Probiotic on Amazon


Further Reading:

  • [1] National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (2016) Probiotics : In Depth. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm
  • [2] de Vrese, M., et al. (2001) Probiotics – compensate for lactase insufficiency. Am J Clin Nutr., 73:2, 421 – 429. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/2/421s.full
  • [3] Sung, V. (2015) Probiotic interventions in infantile colic., Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care., 18:3, 307 – 311. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25769063
  • [4] Ashfran, R. & Shah, N. P. (2014) Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr., 54:7, 938 – 956. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24499072
  • [5] Lerner, A., et al. (2016) Dysbiosis May Trigger Autoimmune Diseases via Inappropriate Post-Translational Modification of Host Proteins. Front Microbiol., 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4742538/
  • [6] Yan, F. & Polk, D. B. (2014) Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol., 27:6, 496 – 501. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/
  • [7] West, N. P., et al. (2009) Probiotics, immunity and exercise: a review. Exerc Immunol Rev., 15, 107 – 126. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19957873
  • [8] Falagas, M. E., et al. (2006) Probiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a review of the evidence from microbiological and clinical studies. Drugs, 66:9, 1253 – 1261. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16827601
  • [9] Vaghef-Mehrabany, A., et al. (2014) Probiotic supplementation improves inflammatory status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition, 30:4, 430 – 435. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24355439
  • [10] Zhang, H., et al. (2014) Dynamics of Gut Microbiota in Autoimmune Lupus. Appl Environ Microbiol., 80:24, 7551 – 7560. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4249226/
  • [11] Patil, A. D. (2014) Link between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Indian J Endocrinol Metab., 18:3, 307 – 309. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056127/
  • [12] Kouchaki, E., et al. (2016) Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic supplementation in patients with multiple sclerosis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nut., S0261 – S5641:16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27669638
  • [13] Knip, M. & Siljander, H. (2016) The role of the intestinal microbiota in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 12, 154 – 167. http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v12/n3/abs/nrendo.2015.218.html?foxtrotcallback=true
  • [14] Özdemir, Ö. (2010) Various effects of different probiotic strains in allergic disorders: an update from laboratory and clinical data. Clin Exp Immunol., 160:3, 295 – 304. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2883099/
  • [15] Kober, M. M. & Bowe, W. P. (2015) The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. Int J Womens Dermatol., 1:2, 85 – 89. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5418745/
  • [16] Groeger, D., et al. (2013) Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes, 4:4, 325 – 339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3744517/
  • [17] Steenbergen, L., et al. (2015) A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain Behav Immun., 48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25862297
  • [18] Akkesheh, G., et al. (2016) Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition, 32:3, 315 – 320. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26706022
  • [19] Yang, H., et al. (2016) Probiotics reduce psychological stress in patients before laryngeal cancer surgery. Asia Pac J Clin Oncol., 12:1, e92 – e96. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24571169
  • [20] Huang, R., Wang, K. & Hu, J. (2016) Effect of Probiotics on Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients, 8:8, 483. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997396/
  • [21] Dickerson, F. B., et al. (2014) Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Schizophrenia Symptoms and Association With Gastrointestinal Functioning: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord., 16:1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4048142/
  • [22] Leclercq, S., et al. (2016) Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Does the Gut Microbiome Hold the Key? Can J Psychiatry., 61:4, 204 – 213. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794957/
  • [23] Akbari, E., et al. (2016) Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial. Front Aging Neurosci.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105117/
  • [24] Thushara, R. M., et al. (2016) Cardiovascular Benefits of Probiotics: A Review of Experimental and Clinical Studies. Food & Function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26786971
  • [25] Jäger, R., et al. (2016) Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery. PeerJ., 4, e2276. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963221/
  • [26] Krassa, P., et al. (2006) Decreased gum bleeding and reduced gingivitis by the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. Swed Dent J., 30:2, 55 – 60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16878680

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