The digestive tract contains trillions of bacteria that help to break down food and absorb nutrients, and recent evidence is suggesting that a healthy population of bacteria may also help to manage inflammation, improve immunity, and regulate stress. Some research has found probiotics might help with skin health and vaginal health, two reasons that have led many women to wonder if there’s a best supplement for their individual needs. We’ve looked at the research and landed on the following picks.

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions here are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns or before beginning any new supplement regimen.

probiotics featured

Best Overall

Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women

Garden of Life contains a huge 85 billion bacteria from 32 different strains, intended to target everything from gut health to immunity. There are also several digestive enzymes, which might help with nutrient absorption, along with a suite of vitamins and minerals that have actually been made by bacteria instead of synthetic processes. This means they may be more readily absorbed than cheap multivitamins.

Pros

  • This also includes four digestive enzymes, which may help with nutrient absorption
  • Garden of Life has a suite of vitamins and minerals as well.
  • This product has an “Arrive Alive” guarantee, intended to ensure the bacteria is still viable once it reaches your doorstep.
  • Unlike many competitors it’s vegetarian friendly, plus it’s free from gluten, soy, fillers, and binders.

Cons

  • This probiotic supplement is relatively pricey when compared to others on the market.
  • Garden of Life is pretty well known for its vegan products, but note that this does contain dairy.
  • The product is meant to be kept at 71 degrees or less, a feat that can be hard to achieve with shipping — sometimes the cold packs melt.
  • Because it’s so high in probiotics, this product should be taken with food to avoid stomach upset
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics for Women

Garden of Life's probiotic supplement is strongly dosed with 85 billion probiotics, several digestive enzymes, and vitamins and minerals.

Best for Vaginal Health

RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Supplement for Women

RepHresh is intended to balance yeast and bacteria in order to reduce the risk of yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and vaginosis. The emphasis on Lactobacilius rhamnosus may have merit, as a 2013 study in European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences suggested that it’s an especially important strain for preventing bacterial vaginosis.

Pros

  • HealthCare Partners survey found this was the preferred probiotic of gynecologists who recommend such supplements.
  • The product has 2.5 billion cultures of two strains that are meant to replace important flora.
  • RepHresh contains probiotics seen in studies to potentially improve vaginal health.

Cons

  • There are just two strains of probiotics in this product.
  • The pills are made from gelatin, so this isn’t vegetarian friendly.
RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Supplement for Women
RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Supplement for Women
RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Supplement for Women

An unusual probiotic that contains strains of bacteria that some research has seen to help reduce the risk of experiencing bacterial vaginosis.

Best Value

Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic

Physician’s Choice provides a huge 60 billion probiotic bacteria from ten different strains and they’re combined with organic, non-GMO prebiotic fiber from four different strains. The prebiotics may improve the absorption of the probiotics, and above all it’s a very inexpensive supplement.

Pros

  • Physician’s Choice delivers a very potent serving of a wide variety of probiotic bacteria.
  • This product includes organic prebiotic fiber, which appears to nourish the probiotic bacteria in your gut.
  • Physician’s Choice attaches a money back guarantee to this product.

Cons

  • The probiotic and prebiotic blends a proprietary, so it’s unclear how much of each ingredient it contains.
  • The very potent serving size can cause indigestion for some consumers.
Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic
Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic
Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic

A powerful gut health supplement that combines probiotics with prebiotic fiber — and at a very impressive cost.

Best for Seniors

Renew Life Adult Probiotic

Aimed at the 50 and older crowd, Renew Life emphasizes Bifidobacteria, which the body appears to contain less of as it ages. The brand regularly receives high marks from consumer satisfaction surveys and it comes in a vegetarian friendly capsule.

Pros

  • Renew Life delivers 30 billion probiotic bacteria from eleven different strains.
  • The capsules are vegetarian friendly and guaranteed free from gluten and soy.
  • The bacteria come in a delayed release capsule that’s intended to ensure it makes its way to your digestive tract (instead of possibly dying in your stomach acid).

Cons

  • The product doesn’t contain any digestive enzymes, which are sometimes also recommended for gut health among seniors.
  • The dosage is quite high, and some consumers report digestive upset. This is individual, though, and may be ameliorated by taking it with food.
Renew Life Adult Probiotic
Renew Life Adult Probiotic
Renew Life Adult Probiotic

An impressive supplement that's tailored to contain certain bacteria that the body may run low on as it ages.

Best Synbiotic

Onnit Total Health

Onnit has produced a supplement that combines a wide variety of ingredients for improving digestive health: five strains of probiotic bacteria, over a dozen digestive enzymes, and prebiotic fiber. Some research suggests that combining all these ingredients may improve the efficacy of the probiotics themselves.

Pros

  • This is one of the few supplements that combines probiotics with prebiotic fiber, which may boost its utility.
  • This is one of the few probiotic supplements tested by a third party, in this case BSCG, for purity and potency.
  • The pills come in travel packs, making them easy to take with you on the go.

Cons

  • This is one of the most expensive gut health supplements on the market.
  • Some people find the seven-pill serving size a little unwieldy.
Onnit Total Health
Onnit Total Health
Onnit Total Health

Combining probiotics and prebiotic fiber (as Onnit has done) makes a "synbiotic," and some research suggests that the fiber helps keep the probiotic bacteria alive for longer — making Total Gut Health a very effective supplement.

Benefits of Probiotics

This is a relatively new area of research, so the benefits of supplementing with probiotic bacteria aren’t quite as ironclad as, say, the benefits of Vitamin C for avoiding scurvy. Nonetheless, there’s some interesting research suggesting a healthy population of gut bacteria could contribute to the following areas.

Digestion

Supplementing with probiotics may help to improve nutrient absorption and reduce digestive issues like gas and bloating.(1)

Inflammation

Inflammation, the body’s response to stress, can be chronic and lead to a huge variety of disorders that include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s — the WHO ranks chronic inflammatory diseases as the most significant cause of death in the world. Probiotics have been seen in some trials to reduce clinical symptoms and blood markers of inflammation.(2)(3)

sauerkraut on table

Mental Health

Stress can cause indigestion, and it’s possible that the link goes the other way as well — there’s some evidence that an unhealthy population of gut bacteria increases the risk of experiencing stress and anxiety.(4)(5)(6)

Exercise Performance

A few studies have suggested that healthy gut can contribute to enhanced recovery from fatigue, better recovery from workouts, and lower levels of exercise-induced stress.(7)(8)(9)

Improved Vaginal pH

Of particular interest to some female consumers is the evidence that certain strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, have potential for treating bacterial vaginosis and lowering the risk of urinary tract infections.(10)(11)

Skin Health

Some studies have found that supplementing certain Lactobacilius and Bifidobacterium strains may treat acne better than placebos.(12)(13) A Russian study even found that 54 percent of people experiencing acne had gut flora disruption.(14)

legumes

BarBend Tips

  • Particularly with the more potent supplements, some consumers report indigestion and bloating. Ensuring you take your supplement with your biggest meal of the day may help to ameliorate this potential issue.
  • Some evidence suggests that combining probiotic fiber with prebiotic fiber can enhance the effects, so consider taking either a supplement that includes both or taking your probiotics with a high fiber meal, particularly if it contains sources of prebiotic fiber like garlic, onions, asparagus, and artichokes.
  • Probiotics may be useful for digestive health, but consider a holistic approach: adequate sleep, fiber, exercise, and stress management all play a role in keeping your digestion smooth.

The Takeaway

A healthy gut can go a long way to improving various areas of your health: nutrient absorption, inflammation, immunity, and more. Pairing probiotics with prebiotic fiber and possibly digestive enzymes is a smart route to take, but remember that keeping your gut healthy also includes lifestyle strategies like consuming enough fiber, getting regular exercise, minimizing stress, and getting plenty of sleep. If you have concerns about any of these areas of your health, make sure you speak to a physician.

References

  1. Kechagia M, et al. Health benefits of probiotics: a review. ISRN Nutr. 2013 Jan 2;2013:481651.
  2. Carvalho, B.M. et al. Influence of gut microbiota on subclinical inflammation and insulin resistance. Mediators Inflamm. 2013;2013:986734.
  3. Plaza-Diaz, J. et al. Evidence of the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Probiotics and Synbiotics in Intestinal Chronic Diseases. Nutrients. 2017 Jun; 9(6): 555.
  4. Messaoudi, M. et al. Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar;105(5):755-64.
  5. Schmidt, K. et al. Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(10):1793-801.
  6. Desbonnet, L. et al. Effects of the probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis in the maternal separation model of depression. Neuroscience. 2010 Nov 10;170(4):1179-88.
  7. Mach N, et al. Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review. J Sport Health Sci. 2017 Jun;6(2):179-197.
  8. Jäger, R. et al. Probiotic Streptococcus thermophilus FP4 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 Supplementation Attenuates Performance and Range-of-Motion Decrements Following Muscle Damaging Exercise. utrients. 2016 Oct 14;8(10).
  9. Jäger, R. et al. Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery. PeerJ. 2016 Jul 21;4:e2276.
  10. Parma M, et al. The role of vaginal Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (Normogin®) in preventing Bacterial Vaginosis in women with history of recurrences, undergoing surgical menopause: a prospective pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 May;17(10):1399-403.
  11. Cribby S, et al. Vaginal microbiota and the use of probiotics. Interdiscip Perspect Infect Dis. 2008;2008:256490.
  12. Marchetti F, et al. [Efficacy of regulators of the intestinal bacterial flora in the therapy of acne vulgaris]. Clin Ter. 1987 Sep 15;122(5):339-43.
  13. Roudsari MR, et al. Health effects of probiotics on the skin. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(9):1219-40.
  14. Panigrahi P, et al. A randomized synbiotic trial to prevent sepsis among infants in rural India. Nature. 2017 Aug 24;548(7668):407-412.
  15. Patel R, et al. New approaches for bacteriotherapy: prebiotics, new-generation probiotics, and synbiotics. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 May 15;60 Suppl 2:S108-21.