It’s impossible to ignore the popularity of probiotic supplements, they have really hit the mainstream media and it’s common to see them in your local stores.
The use of everyday probiotics has grown because of the increase in gut conditions like Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and because of people trying to bio-hack their health.
Probiotics are good gut bacteria that can help to promote a healthy gut. Their main role is to help digest food, produce vitamins, and destroy microorganisms that would otherwise make you sick.
As with all nutrition, it’s generally better to try and get your nutrients from food but in some cases, this is not as easy as it sounds. There are multiple strains of effective bacteria and to them in the right amounts to make a difference can be challenging.
This is where probiotic supplements come in and there is a lot of choices out there. So, which one should you go for?
The use of probiotics really interests me and this article is going to investigate whether this is something I should really be looking to take daily alongside my premium greens supplement.
The Best 4 Probiotic Supplements for Men
I very much believe that all probiotics are not created equally. Whether it’s the choice of bacteria strain, dosage amount or type of capsule (I will discuss the importance of this below), there are a few factors to consider when making your decision.
Before going into these considerations in more detail, here is my list of top probiotic picks.
Here are the most popular probiotics on the market that are tailored for men’s health.
ONNIT Gut Health – Best Complete Probiotic
Total Gut Health is more than just your average probiotic and contains probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, and HCl.
A few months ago I took ONNIT Gut Health for one-month to try it out. ONNIT selects the most naturally acid-resistant strains of gut bacteria to ensure they make it into your small intestine where they are most needed.
Garden of Life Probiotics for men – Best Overall
This popular brand has a wide range of probiotics in their store but I am looking just at the probiotic for men here.
It’s easy to take as you only need one capsule per day and so not as bacteria packed as Total Gut Health from ONNIT. That said, each capsule contains a diverse probiotic blend of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains (50 billion CFU per capsule; 15 raw probiotic strains in total).
The strains chosen are also resistant to stomach acid and so should delivery the bacteria as intended in the small intestine.
Promising a shelf-stable potent probiotic supplement that can support both colon health and your immune system.
Dr Mercola Complete Probiotics – Best Value
Dr Mercola’s Complete Probiotics contains 10 different bacterial strains that provide 70 Billion CFU wrapped in a acid and bile resistant capsule.
This supplement is suitable for both short-term use and long-term maintenance and promotes health in a number of ways. The formula also contains a form of prebiotic to help the probiotic bacteria grow and flourish in your body.
Complete Probiotics are fine for taking along with you on the road as it doesn’t require refrigeration and lasts 18 months at normal room temperatures.
Probonix Probiotics for Adults – Best Probiotic Drops
This probiotic from Probonix uses liquid drops instead of capsules. The formula is designed to be taken daily to tackle many of the common digestive health complaints from bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome IBS.
These probiotic drops from Probonix have 12 live probiotic strains (lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus rhamnosus, bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium infantis, bifidobacterium longum, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus helveticus, lactobacillus reuteri, lactobacillus salivarius, pediococcus acidilactici, and streptococcus thermophilus.).
To ensure their formula is effective Probonix uses a one-of-a-kind acid-coating process that enables the live bacteria culture to pass safely through the destructive and acidic environment of your stomach and into your gut.
Other Probiotics I have reviewed
I have taken a look at some other probiotics on the market but they didn’t quite make it into the top three products above.
You can check out the other brands here:
Many super greens also contain probiotics too but they may not be as effective as a dedicated supplement – check out why in my super greens and probiotics section.
What are probiotics?
Each of us has our own unique colony of gut bacteria and explains why you may handle certain foods or diets better than me, or vice versa. For example, since living in Malaysia for over three years now my gut has gotten used to the local food and rarely do I experience an upset stomach.
The human gut biome consists of about 100 trillion bacteria cells, more than 10 times more than there are human cells in your body. Most of our gut bacteria are labeled as “friendly” and are beneficial to our health and wellbeing.
Probiotics are microorganisms that provide beneficial effects when you consume them in the right amounts.
The idea of supplementing your diet with over the counter probiotics is attractive in this could be an easy way to boost the number of healthy gut bacteria.
You can also get your probiotic requirements from your diet as long as you consume fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, some types of cheese, etc. (check out 11 sources of probiotic foods here ).
How to choose the right probiotic supplement
Each of us contains a wide variety of gut microbiome, or gut flora, which is unique to every person. This from the outset may make the decision of choosing the probiotic for you difficult.
Adding probiotic supplements to your diet can be somewhat overwhelming. Checking over the many brands competing for your attention you have to consider what types of probiotic strains, amounts, and whether to take in capsule, drop, or powder form.
From my research, I have found a few things to be wary of when picking your probiotic supplements. These are the quality, probiotic strains and the CFU count.
Here are the key considerations to take in mind when picking your probiotic of choice.
1. Choose quality
Like any over the counter supplements, probiotics are not all created equally.
The supplement industry can still be a little like the wild west (I talk about this in my supplement companies lying to us article) but armed with a little information you can find the best quality probiotic supplements.
I suggest never taking probiotic manufacturer claims at face value and always digging a little further into any claims made. Any studies mentioned check they exist and support the claims made.
2. Common probiotic strains
There are many bacteria strains that are regarded as healthy probiotics and knowing which ones will be most effective is key to have a supplement that works for you.
The different strains of probiotics tend to be based on one of two bacteria species:
- Bifidobacteria (abbreviated to B.) – The most common type of bacteria species found in food and supplements. These bacteria can support the immune system, limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine, and help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use
- Lactobacillus (abbreviated to L.) – This bacteria produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar. These bacteria also produce lactic acid. Lactic acid helps control the population of bad bacteria. It also serves as muscle fuel and increases the body’s absorption of minerals
The most common strains of probiotics:
- B. animalis – Aids digestion and fighting food-borne bacteria. It’s also thought to boost your immune system
- B. breve – Fights off infection-causing bacteria, or yeast. It helps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugars. It also breaks down plant fiber to make it digestible
- B. lactis – Helps digest the sugars in breast milk in infants, and controlling the immune system and gut health in adults
- B. longum – Helps break down carbohydrates and also can be an antioxidant
- L. acidophilus – It helps digestion and may help fight off vaginal bacteria
- L. reuteri – Decreases the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. It’s also thought to help the digestive system
3. The CFU count
The CFU (Colony Forming Units) is important because this tells you how much bacteria you’re getting in each dose. Different bacteria strains vary in the minimum amount you need to have the desired effect.
The label on the probiotic supplement should clearly indicate the CFU amount and typically ranges from 1 to 10 billion CFUs.
It’s important to understand it’s not always about having more is better, there will be an optimal amount for each strain.
According to VeryWellHealth, as a general rule, a probiotic should provide at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) per day, with dosages ranging from 1 billion to 10 billion for adults.
What are the benefits of Probiotics?
The most obvious benefit, and most likely why you’re searching for them no, is to help promote healthy gut bacteria.
That’s all well and good but you don’t just wake up one day and think, hmm I need probiotics for my health gut – eh?
I started looking into probiotic supplements for the many benefits of taking probiotic supplements, which for me was improvements in weight (heard about my 90-day fat belly challenge?) and benefits for boosting the immune system.
Since suffering from Chronic Fatigue for over 20-years now my immune system hasn’t been great. So the prospect of an easy to take a supplement to give my immune system a helping hand gets my attention.
This was one of my motivating factors for creating my health supplement, a greens powder supplement that I take every day.
Here are the main Probiotic benefits
- Balance The Friendly Bacteria in Your Digestive System – Restore the balance of healthy gut bacteria from recent antibiotic treatments to poor diet or ill health
- Can Help Prevent and Treat Diarrhea – Shown to reduce the severity and incidences of diarrhea, very much depends on the type and dose of the probiotic taken
- Improve Some Mental Health Conditions – Evidence linking gut health to mental health, in terms of reducing mood
- Maintain a Healthy Heart – May help keep your heart healthy by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure.
- May Help Certain Allergies and Eczema – More evidence is needed but a link has been found between certain allergies, such as eczema in infants, and use of probiotics
- Reduce Symptoms of Certain Digestive Disorders – Probiotics are a popular go to supplement for bowel complaints and disorders
- May Help Weight Lose and Belly Fat – Some probiotics may prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestine, which are then excreted
- Boost Immune System – By increasing the production of natural antibodies in the body, probiotics are thought to reduce chances of infections and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria
Are Probiotics Supplements Really Effective?
So, should we believe the hype around probiotics and their ability to restore digestive health?
There are certainly two camps here, one that champions the use of probiotics for gut health, the other dismisses their effectiveness altogether. In fact, they even go so far as suggesting it’s a waste of money and could even be harmful to some people.
Over more than a decade, clinical trials involving thousands of patients have demonstrated that probiotics are beneficial to health (Source).
One issue that is rarely discussed with regards to supplements is the impact of gut acids that can make capsule ingredients ineffective.
There is evidence to outline the importance of effective probiotic delivery in order to sufficiently experience any benefit (source).
These healthy creatures that live in our guts have to eat what we eat, and they like fiber from plant foods. They don’t like the typical Western diet Heller
One issue that is often overlooked when considering supplements is the impact of gut acids that can make capsule ingredients ineffective.
There is evidence to outline the importance of effective probiotic delivery in order to sufficiently experience any benefit – source.
The upshot of this research is that some people may benefit from probiotics and some not. Not incredibly helpful if you’re wondering which group you fall into eh?
Are Probiotics Safe?
For the most part, over the counter probiotics are fairly safe. Any side effects experienced from taking probiotic supplements are mild and typically only last a short time.
Mild side effects could include feeling bloated, excess gas, diarrhea, or conversely constipation. If they last longer than a few days then certainly stop any supplements and consult with your physician.
Some people may not suit probiotics and cause mild side effects or worse. So, if you’re suffering from serious medical conditions or have a weak immune system then it really is best to seek medical advice before taking any probiotic supplements.
Do men need different probiotics than women?
You would most likely agree that there are although on the outside men and woman are quite different, our physiology is shared and internally for the most part are similar.
That said some supplements are marketed towards men and others to women.
So is this another example of marketing BS or are there any differences in male and female gut health?
Some conditions affect men and women more due to the different gastric ecosystem. For example, Men tend to develop duodenal ulcers (lesions in the upper part of the small intestine) twice more than women.
Women also tend to experience certain digestive issues more than men too. Conditions like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease are all more common in women than in men.
One of the main issues why women may be concerned with taking probiotics is during pregnancy. Although it’s generally said to be fine it would still be prudent to check with your physician.
Best time to take probiotics
There is a little uncertainly over when is the best time to take probiotics. Some people recommend the best time to take probiotics is on empty stomach others with your meal.
The advice can seem contradictory as there has been very little research comparing the benefits of taking probiotics with or without meals or at different times of the day.
To add further confusion the best time to take probiotics can also depend on how you’re taking probiotics and the type of probiotic used. Taking probiotics at the wrong times can lead to a decrease in their potency, which could end up being a waste of your money!
If you’re taking probiotics in capsule form then you need to time taking probiotics when the stomach environment is at its least acidic. This ensures the probiotics can make their way to your gut a little easier, this way you can get the most from the healthy bacteria.
With this in mind if you’re consuming probiotic capsules taking them just before your main meal is best.
That said if you’re taking enteric-coated capsules or delayed-release capsules then the timing may not be as important as they can survive the stomach acid better. (Source)
Another useful and sometimes more effective way to take probiotics is to split up the dose into smaller servings and take these alongside your mealtimes. This increases the chances of better gut delivery of probiotics.
So, when taking such a supplement it pays both financially and health-wise to take note of the time of the day when taking probiotics!
Who Should Take Probiotics
The general advice is if you’re healthy then you probably don’t need to take probiotics.
Reading articles from biohackers or supplement companies suggests this is not necessarily the case. Many biohackers take probiotics supplements as part of their everyday routine.
Biohacking Gut Health – Synbiotics
There is a recent trend towards a new type of probiotic supplement called synbiotics. These combine both probiotics and prebiotics and help deliver probiotics to your gut intact by giving those gut-nourishing bacteria the fuel they need to flourish.
So, are synbiotics the next buzzy nutrition trend? I will be looking into Synbiotics supplements very soon.
Check out great article on Synbiotics here.
What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
You have most likely seen prebiotics in your search for the best probiotics supplement. The difference between prebiotics and probiotics is that prebiotics is a type of fiber that probiotics use for food.
For probiotics to flourish you need a good supply of prebiotics. This is why some probiotics contain prebiotics too, but you don’t necessarily need to supplement your diet with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are readily available in many foods that contain fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods like yogurt.
Only if your need is particularly lacking in fiber should be really consider added prebiotics as a supplement.
Final Word on Probiotics
I must admit, I am still a little skeptical about probiotics.
Firstly that some brands are marketed directly at men and secondly that all probiotic supplements are effective. Consideration of the type of bacterial strains used, the amounts used, and can be delivered into the small intestine where needed.
Remember the “not all supplements are created equally” mantra?
Well I truly believe that it’s not enough to take a supplement label at face value and that you need to deep dive beyond the marketing too. This is the only way to understand what a particular supplement can do, and this goes for probiotics too.
You can survive without probiotic supplements as long as you consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods. If you have a poor diet then using a good quality over the counter probiotic could be just what you need to balance your gut bacteria.