Thanks to all of the processed and sugar-laden foods out there these days, most Americans don’t consume enough probiotics, the healthy bacteria that nourish your gut microbiome. On top of that, frequent use of antibiotics, exposure to environmental toxins, and chronic stress also take a toll on your gut microbiome.
The good news: Regularly taking a probiotic supplement can help get your gut back on track. The even better news? New varieties of probiotic supplements now contain unique strains and herbs to help you meet more individualized health goals.
Pinpointing What You Need from A Probiotic
With the probiotic supplement market booming, you can now personalize your approach to probiotics in order to best meet your specific health needs. So, in addition to supporting your gut health, there are probiotics that can also support healthy skin, brain function, mood, energy, immune function, weight management, and more.
After pinpointing what you want your probiotics to achieve, you can better determine which type of supplement to choose.
What To Look For In A Probiotic Supplement
Ready to hunt for the right probiotic supplement for you? Here’s a breakdown of a few specific factors to consider.
1. Type Of Probiotics
Generally, a supplement that includes a diverse array of probiotics may be most effective. Some of the most commonly used strains include:
- Saccharomyces boulardii: a form of beneficial yeast able to survive stomach acid and reach the intestinal tract
- Bacillus coagulans: soil-based, spore-forming probiotics used to support healthy digestion and promote gut integrity
- Lactobacillus plantarum: a live probiotic strain believed to support digestive function
Whatever your health needs, look for a supplement that contains an array of live probiotics, yeast, and soil-based organisms (SBO). A time-release capsule also helps ensure the probiotics make it to your gut and colonize properly.
2. Serving Size
Probiotic supplements can contain anywhere from 13 to 100 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per serving. (Some may provide the full amount in one capsule, while others require taking two or three.)
If you are looking for general digestive and immune support, choose a probiotic with a lower CFU count; 13 to 50 billion. If you have more serious digestive, immune, or skin woes—or are taking antibiotics—try a supplement with a higher CFU count; 50 to 100 billion.
Related: 5 Steps To A Happier, Healthier Gut
3. Gender Specification
Some supplement brands may offer probiotic formulas specifically designed for men and women. In addition to a diverse assortment of probiotics, these supplements contain other beneficial ingredients for men’s and women’s individual needs.
Certain women’s formulas, for example, may contain chaste tree extract for hormonal support, along with higher amounts of certain probiotics for urinary tract health. Men’s formulas, meanwhile, may contain saw palmetto for prostate support.
4. Supportive Herbs
In addition to the herbs you might find in men’s and women’s probiotics, many supplements include other herbs to address a variety of health goals. Some of the most common herbs used in probiotic supplements include:
- Frankincense: This world-renowned herb has long been used to support overall wellness and can be found in many herbal formulas.
- Ashwagandha: This adaptogenic herb has been shown to support the body’s response to stress, and boost focus and mental clarity. You will likely find it in supplements meant to ease stress and boost brain health.
- Triphala fruit: A superfruit that supports digestion and immune health, you’ll find triphala in many probiotic formulas meant to support brain health and immune function.
- Elecampane: This antioxidant-rich herb has been traditionally used to support skin health.
- Fenugreek: This Ayurvedic herb is known for its cleansing properties and ability to promote heart health. You can find fenugreek in supplements meant to boost men’s and women’s general health.
- Olive leaf: Another powerful antioxidant, olive leaf is used to boost the immune system and support overall health. You’ll find it in probiotic formulas meant to support immunity.
- Turmeric: This well-known spice is used around the world to support a healthy immune response and promote overall well-being. You’ll find it in formulas focused on gut health.
- Ginger: Ginger has warming properties and is often added to supplements to support healthy digestion.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for added support from your supplements, you can now personalize your probiotic choice by focusing on the health concerns most important to you. Choosing a supplement that contains health-promoting herbs can also help you amplify its benefits. As always, make sure to select a supplement from a trusted brand, like Ancient Nutrition or The Vitamin Shoppe brand.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.