Taking probiotics on a regular basis is an essential part of our overall health. Stress, antibiotics, eating poorly, and excessive sugar intake all take a toll on the good bacteria in our gut. That’s why it’s necessary to supplement with probiotics. Click here to learn more about the 6 Amazing Things our Gut Flora Does.
While you can get probiotics from kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and fermented foods it can sometimes be difficult to eat enough of these foods to make a difference. If you don’t like fermented foods or have a picky child, you know what I’m talking about!
For many people, it may be easier to take a daily probiotic. But what kind should you take? And what brands are good? Read below to learn more about selecting the BEST probiotics to support healthy gut, immune, and brain function.
What to Look for in a Probiotic
The best probiotics contain multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifidus species. In general, 10 to 14 (or more) different strains are ideal.
#2 Spore Form or Enteric Coated
One of the biggest obstacles for people taking probiotics is to remember to take it if it’s kept in the fridge. Once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. That’s why I recommend brands that are stable at room temperature.
Those that are stable at room temperature are either in “spore form” like MegaSporeBiotic or Energetix Florasynergy or “enteric coated” like OrthoBiotic.
ProFlora 4R by Bio Botanical Research is similar to MegaSporeBiotic, but also has quercetin, aloe, and marshmallow root to reduce inflammation and restore healthy gut ecology.
If your probiotic requires refrigeration, check with the seller to see how it was kept cool while it was in transit to ensure maximum potency.
If you live in a hot or humid climate, you may want to store your probiotics in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life.
Just like in food, you want to avoid probiotics that contain artificial colors, flavor, and fillers, like magnesium stearate.
# 4 Potency – Think BILLIONS!
The gut contains trillions of bacterial cells! When taking probiotics, whether for maintenance or health support, select a probiotic that contains billions of Colony Forming Units (CFU). Probiotics with millions of CFU are like adding a drop in the ocean. To have the biggest and most positive impact on the gut, choose a probiotic with billions of CFU.
There is no definitive right dosage of probiotics. In general, kids ages two and older can take the same dosage of probiotics as adults. Prior to age two, baby or infant probiotic formulations are recommended. If you’re not sure, check with your pediatric acupuncturist or holistic practitioner.
According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia:
“A wide range of dosages for Lactobacillus sp. and other probiotics have been studied in clinical trials, ranging from 100 million to 1.8 trillion CFUs per day… Most studies examined dosages in the range of 1 to 20 billion CFUs per day, although exact dosages for specific indications varied within this range. Generally, higher dosages of probiotics (i.e., more than 5 billion CFUs per day in children and more than 10 billion CFUs per day in adults) were associated with a more significant study outcome. There is no evidence that higher dosages are unsafe; however, they may be more expensive and unnecessary.”
Here are the dosages I typically recommend:
- Maintenance Dosages Range from: 3 billion to 15 billion CFU
- Mild Health or Behavioral Issues: 15 to 25 billion CFU
- Moderate to Severe Health Issue, Digestive Issues, or After Antibiotics 100 – 225 billion CFU
NOTE ON SPORE FORM DOSAGE: If you're buying the spore form of probiotics, you don't need as high of a dosage since the spores survive stomach acid. They reach the intestines nearly 100% of the time, compared to 1-3% expected in commonly used probiotic strains. Thus, a dosage of millions or small billions will suffice.
Please check with your own health care provider to choose the right dosage for your particular circumstances.
Recommended Probiotic Brands
Below you’ll find the recommended brands of probiotics. This is a collection of recommendations from my own experience, from the practitioners in the Pediatric Acupuncture Community, and from the book A Definitive Guide to Gut Bacteria & Probiotics by Rick Gold:
- Bio Botanical Research ProFlora 4R - survives stomach acid, contains botanicals that also heal and soothe the gut (see note above on dosage).
- Therbiotic Complete Children’s Chewables or Capsules: 25 billion CFUs
- OrthoMolecular OrthoBiotic Powder or Capsules: Contains 25 billion CFU + S. Boolardii
- Ortho Molecular PRObiotic 225: Comes with a 15-day supply of 225 billion CFU in powder packets that can be mixed with water.
- Garden of Life: They have a wide range of products from infant formulations to larger doses up to 400 billion CFU.
- Seeking Health ProBiota 12: 50+ billion CFUs, 12 species per serving
- Healthy Origins Probiotic: 8 strains and 30 billion CFUs. No refrigeration required.
- Prescript-Assist Soil-Based Probiotic: Probiotic-prebiotic combination.
- Ultimate Flora Critical Care: 50 Billion cultures, high bifidus bacteria count, enteric coated capsules.
- MegaSporeBiotic: Spore form of probiotic that’s stable at room temperature and survives stomach acid.
- Energetix Florasynergy Chewables: This is a great spore probiotic for maintenance. It doesn’t have the variety species or billions of CFU, but it’s very tasty and even the pickiest kids will eat this one.
- VSL# 3 Sachets: VSL is a “medical food” but you don’t need a prescription to get it and it’s highly potent and well studied!
- BioCare: Has infant and adult probiotics and is available in the U.K.
- Bio-Kult: This is the brand recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and comes in children and adult formulations.
IMPORTANT! Remember to Take it!
Probiotic supplements work best when you take them on a regular and consistent basis! Take the probiotics as directed on the bottle. Some recommend you take the probiotics with food and others away from food. How you take it depends on the type and brand you’ve selected.
Nurture Healthy, Happy Kids
The 5-Element Way
Learn how to use the ancient wisdom of the Five Elements to find simple solutions for modern health and behavioral issues many children suffer from.
Fun Questionnaires and quizzes will help you understand your child’s Five Element type — Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal or Water — so you can create a natural healing program that is as unique as your child.