Probiotics To Improve Gut Health (An RD’s Top Picks)

Thinking about taking a probiotic to improve your gut health? This article explains how probiotics could help, highlighting our best probiotics for gut health.

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A lot of medical professionals will say that you should be taking a probiotic! Many people are walking around with unbalanced gut microbiomes that are making them sick and lethargic. It's so easy for our digestive health to get out of balance. Illness, poor diet, stress, antibiotics, and other common factors can all leave us with an overgrowth of bad bacteria. The result? We're bloated, moody, gassy, tired, and sick.

You may not realize that 70% of your immune system is in your gut. What goes on in your gut also affects your brain. That's because the gut produces roughly 95% of the body's supply of serotonin. As a registered dietitian (RD), I wish this information was shared more frequently by doctors.

I've seen the way that tackling gut health has helped people to completely turn around their overall health. All it takes to start restoring a gut microbiome is awareness through research of testing your gut health, plus a tiny supplement. That's exactly why I'm going to cover what you need to know about finding the best probiotics to improve your gut health.

What Are Probiotics?

probiotics

Probiotics are dietary supplements made of “good” live bacteria strains that are already found naturally in your body. The goal with taking probiotic supplements is to balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your body to keep you healthy. Unlike some other supplements, probiotics survive in your intestines after being eaten.

Benefits

Think of your gut microbiome like a wild jungle with many varieties of plants. You actually need variety in order for your gut to function. However, factors that range from illness to lifestyle can allow the bad bacteria to overrun the good bacteria. When this happens, you are at risk for a variety of health problems. Good bacteria can't repopulate without help. You need to feed it into your body. Another benefit of probiotics is that they help to nourish cells that make up the gut lining that keeps your gut-barrier function working properly.

What Foods Have Probiotics in Them?

food and probiotics

As a dietitian, I always stress the idea of getting nutrition from foods even when taking supplements. While I'm a big fan of probiotics, I also recommend incorporating some probiotic foods into your diet. Fermented foods and dairy contain the highest amounts of probiotics. The big winners are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread, and some cheeses. Next, let's cover some probiotics on the market today that will help you to replenish your gut health.

The 7 Best Probiotics for Gut Health

The probiotic market has never been better! The growing awareness of the importance of gut health has inspired huge growth in this niche. As a result, consumers have some pretty great probiotics to choose from that will help them to feel better than they have in years. Take a look at my top seven picks.

#1. Ritual Synbiotic+

ritual synbiotic plus probiotic gut health

I love that Ritual Synbiotic+ packs in quality strains of bacteria with essential prebiotics using just a single daily capsule. Each capsule contains BB-12® (Bifidobacterium anamalis ssp. lactis) and LGG® (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) to help healthy gut microflora flourish. This supplement offers third-party-tested ingredients.

The delayed-release capsule mechanism of this supplement really impresses me. It's designed to help probiotics reach the colon to promote better probiotic growth and survival. This blend also gets bonus points for me because it contains probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics. While you may already know that prebiotics feed probiotics to help them flourish, you might not be familiar with postbiotics. Postbiotics are actually the byproducts of probiotics. Some supplement brands are beginning to use them to give your gut a head start on becoming replenished.

Pros:

  • Contains high-quality, tested ingredients.
  • Uses probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics.
  • This is a gluten-free, GMO-free, and vegan supplement with traceable ingredients.

Cons:

  • Price is on the higher side.

#2. 1st Phorm Probiotic

1st phorm probiotic for gut health

This blend contains 11 bacteria strains to help you get bacteria diversity going in your gut again. The ingredient list is very clean and pure. I love that you can easily find so many positive reviews for this supplement online because it shows that it's making a real difference in the lives of people.

1st Phorm is a supplement brand that uses high quality ingredients that are third-party tested, giving you peace of mind. This particular probiotic has a 4.9/5 star rating and can really improve your digestive health, strengthen your immune system, and could help prevent disease in the gut microbiome.

Pros:

  • Very reasonable price.
  • Tons of positive reviews from real customers.
  • Good bacteria variety for helping to repopulate the gut.

Cons:

  • I wish the company provided a little more information on testing and sourcing.

#3. Primal Harvest Gut Restore Probiotics

primal harvest gut restore probiotic

Primal Harvest Gut Restore is another supplement that offers that amazing trifecta of probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics. The main probiotic strain used in these capsules is B. longum BB536®. This strain is a true powerhouse for promoting regularity and digestion. The CoreBiome® postbiotics used here help to fortify the lining of the gut to promote a healthy gut barrier. I think this can be an important supplement to consider if you're suffering from symptoms of leaky gut syndrome because fortifying the gut barrier may help to stop the constant inflammation and irritation you're experiencing.

Pros:

  • This is a gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free product.
  • This brand prioritizes transparency about ingredients and product testing.
  • Big discounts when you set up a delivery subscription.
  • The choice of bacteria strains is focused on digestive health.

Cons:

  • Cost is on the higher side.

#4. Pendulum Akkermansia Probiotic Blend

pendulum akkermansia probiotic blend

Pendulum Akkermansia Probiotic Blend is definitely a premium option. While I know that this supplement isn't in everyone's budget, I want to include it because I think it can be a powerful tool for turning around gut health if you're really suffering. This probiotic supplement is different from others because it uses the Akkermansia muciniphila strain. Emerging research shows that Akkermansia muciniphila is actually at the forefront of gut health. In fact, Akkermansia muciniphila might actually be the most powerful gut-lining builder humans can use. This is the only brand that currently offers this Akkermansia muciniphila.

Every capsule is coated for acid resistance to ensure that it can get through stomach acid to reach the large intestines. I also like that this brand uses natural chicory inulin as its prebiotic source. While the focus is on gut health, I do want to also share that Akkermansia muciniphila has been linked with improved metabolic function in breaking studies. This has big implications for everything from obesity to diabetes.

Pros:

  • The only probiotic supplement on the market to feature Akkermansia muciniphila.
  • Uses natural chicory inulin as a prebiotic.

Cons:

  • Two to three times more expensive than ordinary prebiotic supplements.

#5. Transparent Labs Gut Health Probiotic

transparent labs gut health probiotic

This supplement blends 10 different clinically proven bacteria strains to help promote bacterial diversity in your gut microbiome. Overall, this is a very clean supplement that delivers the essentials without filler. Another perk is that you can find reviews from real customers right on the product page.

Pros:

  • Great assortment of bacteria strains.
  • This is a gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan product.

Cons:

  • No discount for subscribing.
  • Unlike most other probiotic supplements, this one requires two capsules per serving.

#6. HUM Nutrition Gut Instinct

hum gut instinct

I really like this HUM probiotic supplement as a budget option. While this supplement costs less than most others in the same category, it still offers all the quality you deserve. HUM also routinely offers discounts that let you take a bigger chunk off the low price. This formula contains 10 clinically proven bacteria strains for optimal microbiome diversity. As a dietitian, I like that every batch is tested for purity. This is also a highly rated product among real customers.

Pros:

  • A great value.
  • Contains 10 bacteria strains.
  • This is a gluten-free, non-GMO product.
  • Tons of positive customer reviews.

Cons:

  • While this is a great basic probiotic, it lacks any “extras” that fortify gut health.

#7. Ombre Healthy Gut Probiotic

ombre healthy gut probiotic

This supplement contains eight clinically proven bacteria strains. The strains were actually carefully chosen to target H. pylori, C. difficile, Candida, and other common pathogens known to cause health issues. What got this supplement on my radar is the fact that it has so many positive reviews online from real customers. I also like having this recommendation up my sleeve for clients who suffer from food allergies because it's one of the best allergen-free probiotic options out there.

Pros:

  • Generous discounts when you subscribe.
  • This product is free of GMOs, eggs, dairy, nuts, gluten, and soy.

Cons:

  • Requires two capsules per serving instead of one.

Buying Guide on Probiotics for a Healthier Gut

healthier gut with probiotics

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with information on choosing the best probiotic. I know it can be a lot if you're not familiar with the ways different probiotic strains work with the body. Let me backtrack just a little bit to give you some key points to use when finding a great probiotic.

What to Look For

First, you want to see that a brand is using clinically proven bacteria strains. A supplement isn't a probiotic unless it contains live bacteria! While other supplements that don't contain live bacteria can still be great for overall gut health, they are not true probiotics.

Next, look for supplements with very short, clean ingredient lists. Probiotics don't need to have dyes, flavors, or additives in them. I also highly recommend sticking to companies that are transparent about ingredients. Shop from brands that post ingredients and product information with full transparency. You also want to focus on brands that use third-party testing. Finally, it's always a good sign when companies have tons of positive reviews from real customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Lets cover the questions I'm sure you have if you're considering a probiotic supplement. Rest assured that many of my clients have already asked these exact questions.

Who should take probiotics?

Probiotics are generally considered safe and effective for everyone. You don't have to be suffering from digestive distress to be able to benefit from probiotics. We can all benefit from having balanced gut microbiomes. However, probiotic supplements can be important if you are suffering from gas, bloating, excess fat, constipation, a sluggish immune system, digestive issues, mood issues, and more.

Who should not take probiotics?

My advice is to talk with your doctor before deciding if a probiotic supplement is for you! Probiotics are not always recommended for people with severe illness, chronic illness, and compromised immune systems. You might also be advised against taking probiotics if you've recently had surgery.

What are the side effects?

Most people don't have any side effects after taking probiotics. However, it's not uncommon to experience some “rumblings” after starting supplementation. The most common side effects of probiotics include bloating, gas, constipation, and thirst. Most of these symptoms balance out as your gut becomes strengthened. In rare cases, bacterial strains used in probiotic supplements can actually produce histamine reactions inside the digestive tract. Stop taking a probiotic if you begin to experience side effects.

Can probiotics fix your gut?

Probiotics can help to restore gut health if your gut issues are caused by an imbalanced gut microbiome that has been overtaken by bad bacteria. However, probiotics can't fix your gut if you're suffering from symptoms due to another underlying issue. A probiotic supplement isn't meant to be a “cure” for a serious illness, obstruction, or food allergy!

What happens when you take probiotics everyday?

First, it's important to know that it's generally considered safe to take probiotics every day. Many doctors and dietitians actually recommend daily probiotic use. Most people who take probiotics every day can expect smoother digestion, increased energy, cognitive improvements, and regularity with bowel movements. There is a myth that taking probiotics every day will make your digestive system “lazy.” There's absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

What are the signs you need probiotics?

The common signs that something is out of balance in your gut include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas. However, many people suffering from unbalanced gut microbiomes don't necessarily experience “digestive” issues. They instead experience fatigue, brain fog, moodiness, and a habit of “always catching a cold.” You might also be in desperate need of probiotics if you're finding it hard to lose weight even though you're doing everything right with diet and exercise. In studies, participants who received probiotic supplementation had more significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, body fat, and BMI than control groups.

Do probiotics make you poop?

The answer isn't necessarily that simple. If you've been dealing with constipation, taking a probiotic regularly may help you to become regular again! However, probiotics don't act like laxatives. This is actually good news because it means you're creating regularity instead of simply triggering bowel movements using supplements that can leave you dehydrated. You also don't have to worry about the dependency issue that routine laxative use can cause.

What fruits are high in probiotics?

The truth is that fruits don't necessarily contain “probiotics.” They do contain prebiotic fibers that help to feed the existing good bacteria in your gut. Bananas are full of fiber sources that are known to help promote probiotic activity. The same goes for apples, watermelon, and grapefruit.

The Bottom Line: Will Probiotics Help Improve Your Gut Health?

improve gut health with probiotics

It all comes back to balance. Yes, I believe that taking a probiotic can be a powerful “health hack” that can get your digestive health at peak levels. In fact, a daily probiotic is a much more realistic option than trying to gnaw on fermented foods all day long. Many people get dramatic results from probiotic supplements because many of their health problems are tied to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut.

I highly recommend looking into the possibility of an unbalanced gut if you're “not feeling your best” following a round of antibiotics, a stressful life period, or serious illness. Finally, don't expect a probiotic supplement to change everything overnight. It often takes three to six months of consistent use before most people see results.

Tips for Success From the RD

Yes, you should feel empowered to use an antibiotic supplement to reach peak health. I've seen the way that probiotics have helped my own clients push past the misery of digestive issues. However, a high-quality supplement is still no replacement for a proper diet. I stress the importance of eating tons of leafy greens, lean protein sources, healthy dairy sources, and fresh fruits.

I also remind my clients that being stressed, not sleeping properly, and skipping exercise can all help bad bacteria to gain a foothold in your gut. Let a good probiotic supplement be the launching point for getting serious about taking care of gut health for life!

And, as always, be sure to consult with your physician / doctor before taking any supplement.

Photo of author

Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD

Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, earned her masters degree in Nutrition and Foods from the University of Georgia. She's a Registered Dietitian at Morrison Healthcare and has a strong passion in helping people improve their wellness!

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