It's been said that our stomachs act like a second brain, influencing multiple parts of our body. Almost 9 out of 10 people in the UK will suffer from gastrointestinal issues at some point, and IBS, acne, and other skin diseases are becoming ever more common. With so many of us being susceptible to allergies and intolerances, its become even more crucial to keep our gut microflora in tip-top health.
Enter probiotics! Probiotic supplements contain healthy bacteria cultures, which essentially work to balance out the bad. These have been shown to help with all kinds of ailments from eczema to lactose intolerances, but it's important to know what to look for before you buy. In this article, we've rounded up the top 10 best probiotic supplements in the UK on Tesco, Boots and Amazon, complete with an in-depth buying guide. Enjoy!
Jo Travers, author of The Bone Strength Plan is a professional, evidenced-based nutritionist in London. She has carried out over 1500 hours of one-to-one consultations with more than 600 clients, as well as the additional hours of workshops, research, and media work with the BBC, Channel 4, The Islam Channel, and more.
In this section, we'll discuss the essential things to look for when shopping for a probiotic supplement. We go over the main strains of bacteria and what they're used for, the forms they come in, and how to decipher the label. Let's dive in!
Probiotics don't all contain the same thing. There are many different bacteria strains, and not all have been proven effective at treating the same problem. That's why you should choose a supplement that is specifically geared towards the problem you're addressing to increase its chances of being useful. In this section, we go over a few of the main reasons for taking supplements, and which strains might help.
Many people turn to supplements to help maintain their overall health and wellbeing. If this is the case, you'll want to check that your supplement doesn't just contain one specific strain of bacteria, but includes multiple strains. Each strain of bacteria can have a different effect, so the more strains, the broader coverage you should have to target your overall health.
For general health maintenance, it's advisable to look for a supplement with at least six different strains of bacteria. The most popular and most widely researched strains of bacteria are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, so check that your supplement contains at least one of those, among others.
Your gut should contain a complex of bacterial strains as different bacteria do different jobs. Some make neurotransmitters and some help digestion for example. For overall health, we need a little of everything. Bacteria can also swap genetic material with each other so having multiple strains can allow bacteria to evolve and thrive.
Diarrhoea is often caused by gastroenteritis or an imbalance in the large intestine. But in some cases, diarrhoea can be a side effect of taking antibiotics. Some studies have shown that probiotics can help avoid diarrhoea whilst taking antibiotics by up to 42%.
If you're taking a course of antibiotics, consider probiotics that contain Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. However, make sure to check with your doctor first!
Taking antibiotics kills all the bacteria in your body, which is great for getting rid of infections, but it kills all the good bacteria too. With no bacteria taking up space in the intestine, other micro-organisms that aren't killed by antibiotics like yeasts can grow unimpeded.
While yeasts aren't a problem in small amounts, overgrowths mean that useful bacteria can't take hold. So many cases of long-term IBS can be traced back to a course of antibiotics. Continue taking a probiotic for a couple of weeks after the antibiotics finish to prevent this imbalance from happening.
Constipation is when you suffer from stools that are hard to pass, and can sometimes be painful. While some strains of bacteria help with diarrhoea, others have been shown to help with constipation. For sufferers of chronic constipation, you want to look for strains that specifically help ease your bowel movements.
The main strain of bacteria which has been shown to help with constipation is Bifidobacterium Lactis, or B. Lactis, but others to look out for are Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Planetarium, Bifidobacterium Longnum.
Constipation can be really uncomfortable. Alongside probiotics, getting plenty of fluids (2-2.5 litres a day) can help ease the condition. Also, moving around regularly can help stimulate the movement of food through the gut. If you do suffer from constipation, even getting up from your desk and walking around a bit once an hour can help to get things moving again.
IBS covers quite a large area of digestive issues that can include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, stomach cramps, and nausea. Everyone's IBS experience is different, so there isn't one specific strain of bacteria known to help.
First of all, you want to look for a probiotic which has been clinically tested and proven to help specifically with IBS symptoms. Then, consider your particular symptoms and choose a probiotic with strains that have been shown to help with those specific issues.
These are the bacteria strains to look out for when it comes to treating IBS symptoms: Saccharomyces Boulardii, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Lactobacillus Plantarum.
It can take a bit of time for IBS symptoms to improve with probiotics so it's a good idea to take them for at least four weeks. If your symptoms don't improve after this time, you could try another strain or brand until you find one that works. If you have tried several types without success, it's worth going to see a dietitian who can help you further.
Many people don't realize that some probiotics have even been shown to aid in weight loss, specifically around the abdominal area. Of course, you cannot merely choose probiotics as your only form of weight loss assistance, but it might give you a little boost alongside a healthy diet and exercise program.
For weight loss, choose a probiotic that includes bacteria with fat-burning properties, such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Gasseri, and Bifidobacterium Lactis.
Bacteria need to eat too in order to thrive and multiply in the gut. Bacteria live on the fibre we eat so make sure to have a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains like granary bread and oats. These foods will also keep you fuller for longer so can aid in weight loss as well as supporting a healthy microbiome.
Healthy bacteria help balance your digestive system, and a healthy gut leads to an optimised immune system. Some probiotics have been shown to help build up your body's defence system, to help fight viruses and infection.
Strains of bacteria that have been shown to be beneficial for your immune system include Lactobacillus Crispatus, Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus Gasseri, Bifidobacterium Longum, and Bifidobacterium Bifidum.
One of the key things that bacteria do in the gut is to train the immune system. It does this by helping it recognise friendly versus harmful bacteria. The more friendly types of bacteria it comes into contact with, the better it is at this job.
Inflammation in the body is often caused by an overreaction of the immune system and can lead to conditions like heart disease and diabetes. A healthy microbiome can prevent this over-reaction and reduce inflammation.
Some probiotics have also been shown to help reduce cholesterol, improving your overall heart health. These particular strains essentially work by converting some of the bad LDL cholesterol into good HDL cholesterol.
If having high cholesterol is a problem you face, look for a probiotic supplement that contains strains of bacteria that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Some of the most common are Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Reuteri, and Bifidobacterium Longum.
High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, whereas HDL cholesterol helps to clear fatty deposits in the arteries. The ratio between HDL and LDL is important but increasing good cholesterol is quite difficult so anything that can help is a good thing!
You can also reduce LDL cholesterol by eating less saturated fat and increasing fibre intake. Remember that this fibre will help to support the good bacteria too.
When reading supplement labels, the numbers associated with bacteria can seem a bit overwhelming, often reaching highs of millions and trillions. The thing to remember is that more doesn't necessarily mean better. At a certain point, the benefits level out, so a higher CFU won't necessarily provide you with more benefits.
CFUs are colony-forming units. This number tells you the amount of live bacteria in each dose. Most supplements range from 1 - 10 billion CFUs, but they can go as high as a trillion. As a rule of thumb, anything less than 1 billion probably isn't enough, and anything over 10 billion will likely be a waste.
A billion sounds like a lot, but in bacteria numbers, it isn't! Aiming for around the eight billion mark is likely to help you see improvements more quickly than a probiotic with fewer live cultures.
It's also a good idea to follow the directions on the pack regarding quantity and how often to take them. Some brands suggest twice a day and some say to take with food for optimum results.
Tablets and capsules are convenient, especially if you're travelling. The bacteria used in tablets and capsules has essentially been put into a dormant state. This lengthens its shelf-life significantly, so they generally don't need to be refrigerated.
Of course, some people have difficulty swallowing tablets and capsules, so this might not be the best choice if you struggle. That said, it is possible to find chewable tablets, but these often have reports of not tasting very nice!
The other option for dried probiotics is taking them in powder form. These come in individual sachets, which can be added to hot and cold drinks or sprinkled over food and yoghurts.
If you dislike taking pills and capsules, or don't fancy powders, you could try probiotic drinks and yoghurts. These double up as a tasty treat, coming in a wide range of styles and flavours, so you won't even feel like you're taking a supplement. However, they do require refrigeration, and the shelf life won't be nearly as long as a dry form of probiotic supplement.
Some probiotic drinks and yogurts can contain a lot of sugar, but there are others that are sugar-free or no added sugar. Check the labels before buying.
Fermented foods like live yogurt contain bacteria naturally, but often not enough to improve IBS symptoms. However, they can be good for general maintenance once you have taken a course of probiotics.
We tend to think of germs as bad for us, but there are actually both good and bad bacteria. Our bodies, specifically our stomachs, require a healthy balance of bacteria to work at an optimum level, and probiotics can help maintain those levels of good bacteria.
Probiotics are filled with microorganisms, which are often referred to as 'healthy' or 'friendly' bacteria. These types of bacteria are thought to react with the nerves that control our digestive system, improving and restoring the gut flora and keeping our systems healthy.
Much research still needs to be done, but studies have shown that probiotics can improve IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhoea, vaginal health, immunity, allergies and skin conditions. As always, consult your doctor before starting any course of supplement, especially if you're pregnant.
Now that you know what to look for when choosing your supplement, let's dive into the recommendations! Here are our top 7 probiotic picks available online in the UK.
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Enterococcus faecium,|
|Focus||General health, digestive system|
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus acidophilis, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidum|
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Rosell, Lactobacillus Acidophilus Rosell, Bifidobacterium Longum Rosell, Lactococcus Lactis Rosell, Bifidobacterium Breve Rosell, Bifidobacterium Bifidum Rosell, Fructooligosaccharides|
|Focus||General health, digestive issues|
|Bacteria Strains||L. Acidophilus, B. Lactis|
|Focus||Digestive and immunity systems|
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, Saccharomyces boulardii|
|Focus||Digestive system, immune system, general health|
|Bacteria Strains||Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus|
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis, Lactobacillus casei, Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus bevis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus Reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius|
Advanced Live Culture Formula
Advanced Multi-Strain Formula
Biotic Balance Ultimate Flora
Probiotics for Every Day
Max Strength Live Friendly Bacteria
Multi Strain Biotic
The Vegan-Friendly Probiotic Supplement
14 Strains of Live Bacteria With Added B12
Probiotics To Improve Your Digestion and Immunity
A Probiotic Designed to Withstand Stomach Acid
Everyday Prebiotic and Probiotic Capsules
A Budget Buy To Improve Digestion
The Powder Probiotic for All-Round Health
|Focus||General health||Digestive system, immune system, general health||Digestive and immunity systems||General health, digestive issues||General health||General health, digestive system||General Health|
|Bacteria Strains||Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis, Lactobacillus casei, Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus bevis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus Reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius||Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus||Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, Saccharomyces boulardii||L. Acidophilus, B. Lactis||Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Rosell, Lactobacillus Acidophilus Rosell, Bifidobacterium Longum Rosell, Lactococcus Lactis Rosell, Bifidobacterium Breve Rosell, Bifidobacterium Bifidum Rosell, Fructooligosaccharides||Lactobacillus acidophilis, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidum||Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Enterococcus faecium,|
|CFU||50 billion||2 billion||50 billion||500 million||5 billion||50 billion||30 billion|
Anyone can take probiotics if they feel they would benefit from them, though those who suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms may benefit more. If you suffer from bouts of gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and potentially IBS, probiotics can help to bring balance back to your gut to ease symptoms. If you’re unsure, discuss options with your doctor.
Probiotics come in varying strengths, commonly they’ll range from 1 to 10 billion CFUs. Most packaging should indicate how many you should take in a day, but you can also monitor your symptoms as an indicator too. Just remember it takes time to see any effects so make sure to give them a chance.
This can depend on the manufacturer. Some will recommend taking them with food, while others will suggest taking them on an empty stomach, so you must always read the instructions. Should they recommend taking them on an empty stomach, we suggest taking them first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed.
We may have chosen to focus on capsule and powdered supplements this time, but if you'd like to try a probiotic drink, we have a few more recommendations. Click the link below to see how kombucha, kefir and other fermented drinks can be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle!
Author: Roxy Pratley
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