Probiotics are becoming increasingly popular as people look to improve their health through good bacteria that is present in natural food. The human body contains billions of these tiny organisms that inhabit the gut and the digestive system, and science is only now beginning to identify how they work and what they do.
Probiotics are important for the digestive system and can become depleted by diet or medication. Prebiotics provide the nourishment for the probiotics to do their work. Both may have multiple benefits for health, so should we all be taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements? Let’s see.
Your body is inhabited by living bacteria. There are trillions of microorganisms that outnumber the cells in the body by ten to one. Some bacteria are beneficial to the body; these friendly bacteria are known as probiotics.
In the gut there can be as many as 1000 different types of bacteria. Because we are all different, each person’s microbiome is different too. The microbiome is the name for this microscopic world of bacteria in your body and it starts growing the day you are born.
Probiotics play many roles in the body. They help the digestive system function properly, protect the body against disease, and may have an effect upon mood and wellbeing. Taking a probiotic supplement can help increase the natural bacteria that may be low in your body, as it can be depleted by diet and illness.
There are thousands of different types of probiotic strains, but in general, a probiotic supplement will include the Lactobacillus genus – the type of bacteria present in the human digestive and urinary systems, as well as obtainable from dairy products such as yoghurt. Many probiotic supplements contain Bifidobacterium, which is present in the mouth, gastric system, and vagina.
Although these are the two main types of probiotic usually present in supplements, there are thousands of different strains within these two probiotic families. They have many different functions and characteristics, so it is important to see what a probiotic supplement actually contains in order to see if it is suitable for your needs.
Although probiotic supplements may help with specific conditions, unless there is something wrong with your digestive system, most trained advice is that there is no need to take these sort of supplements.
Prebiotics are types of compounds in fibre. They are important for digestive health because they are the food source for the friendly bacteria, the probiotics, in your gut.
Prebiotics are not live organisms like bacteria, but instead are derived from complex carbohydrates like fibre and starch.
Some vegetables are good sources of prebiotics, such as bananas, garlic, onions, chicory root and leeks. Fibre such as bran and wholewheat flour are also sources of prebiotics. They contain resistant starch, which passes through the body undigested. Once prebiotic compounds pass through the intestine to the colon they are fermented by the gut microflora.
Not all fibre is necessarily prebiotic, although all prebiotics are derived from fibre. According to research, there are several categories of prebiotic fibre that come with some evidence of promoting digestive health. These can be obtainable through diet, but are usually the types of ingredients in probiotic supplements.
Prebiotic supplements may help increase the production of healthy bacteria. but you don’t have to take a product in order to stay healthy. There are plenty of natural foods that contain prebiotic fibres including onions, garlic, bananas, and more.
However, if you are currently following a low-carb, low-starch diet it is theoretically possible that a prebiotic supplement may help support digestive health.
Although probiotics and prebiotics are both important, a good way to think of your microbiome is as a garden. The bacteria, including the probiotics, are the many different plant varieties, whereas the prebiotics are the fertilizers that help them grow.
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that inhabit your digestive system and are vital for digestive health. They help break down food in the digestive process and can protect against pathogens – bacteria that is dangerous.
Probiotic supplements contain these strains of friendly bacteria, but you can also obtain probiotics from foods such as yoghurt and other dairy produce. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are also high in probiotics and are often taken for digestive health.
By contrast, prebiotics are not living – they are compounds present in indigestible part of foods and sugars such as fruit, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Prebiotic ingredients are not broken down through digestion, instead providing nourishment for bacteria to flourish.
There are sound reasons for eating food rich in fibre. Consuming a high-fibre diet can help weight loss and is known to stabilise blood sugar levels, making it good for diabetes. However, there is a slight risk in overdoing prebiotic supplements because there is no real evidence that prebiotics only feed good bacteria. Although they are touted to feed only probiotics, they may feed harmful bacteria as well.
There are further risks to consuming probiotics. As probiotics are bacteria, there is a risk that introducing them into a weakened immune system can cause infection. Some high-probiotic foods, like raw cheese, are dangerous for people in a weakened condition for this reason.
Many probiotic supplements include a built-in prebiotic formula, but you can also take a probiotic supplement at the same time as a prebiotic supplement. There is no real reason to take either supplement on a daily basis though. Unless you have an existing digestive issue, there is no need to take a probiotic supplement at all.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are of equal importance to health. Without prebiotics, your friendly probiotic content becomes depleted, leading to a range of digestive problems, such as constipation and leaky gut. Many people who have a diet lacking in prebiotic fibre suffer from these digestive problems.
It is easy enough to include more fresh prebiotic ingredients into your diet to remedy this. There are some concerns about prebiotic supplements, as well; whilst they feed good bacteria, it is not known whether they might increase bad bacteria as well.
Although a probiotic supplement can improve digestive health, the strain of probiotic used in your supplement must be recognised as safe. We have seen some probiotic supplements using questionable bacteria that may cause adverse effects. In addition, if your immune system is weakened at all, it could theoretically introduce infection.
If you have a balanced diet that includes probiotic and prebiotic foods, such as wholegrains and yoghurt, you probably won’t need a supplement to improve your digestive health.
Prebiotics and probiotics are equally important for health and you can’t have one without the other. Prebiotics are special types of fibre and fruit sugars that are necessary to keep your microbiome healthy. They provide the food for the probiotic bacteria to thrive; without prebiotics your probiotics would quickly deplete.
Prebiotics are specific plant fibres based on sugars like oligosaccharides, inulin, and galactooligosaccharides. They are present in many ordinary foods such as onions, garlic, chicory, and wholegrains.
Probiotic bacteria are present naturally in the body and also obtainable through diet and the environment. The type of probiotic bacteria contained in the body varies from person to person and may be improved by taken probiotic supplements or by eating foods that contain certain strains. Good food sources of probiotics are fermented foods like sauerkraut or yoghurt.
However, to enable the probiotic colonies to flourish, you need prebiotics. Probiotics and prebiotics cannot function without each other. Although prebiotics often get overlooked, these are just as important as the healthy bacteria.
When it comes to taking supplements though, a probiotic is more important. Prebiotics are more easily available in many food stuffs, and there are some concerns about supplements nourishing all bacteria – not just the good probiotics. If you have a healthy diet and no particular digestive issue, neither type of supplement is really necessary.
Prebiotic and probiotic products can be a waste of money. According to medical opinion, there is no need to take prebiotic and probiotic supplements in the same way we take vitamin pills, yet there is a huge supplements industry surrounding probiotic supplements.
They are touted for numerous physical benefits, and although there is ongoing research that suggests probiotics probably hold the key to understanding many medical conditions, this research is in its early stages. The so-called proven benefits of probiotic supplements are unlikely to be reflected in the average OTC probiotic supplement.
As probiotic supplements are classified as food products, they do not have to be proven to have any benefits at all. The FDA does not regulate the manufacture of probiotics, so quality and safety can vary. There is no special category for prebiotics either. This term is not recognised by the FDA or the European Food safety Authority (EFSA), where prebiotic supplements are simply classified as fibre.
Despite all this, there are times when a probiotic supplement may help. Some doctors recommend probiotic supplements for digestive conditions such as diarrhoea or after a course of antibiotics where the drug has killed off the body’s bacteria.
In addition, obtaining probiotics from diet can be problematic. Food manufacturers are not required to show a specific dose of probiotics and, although common food stuffs such as Greek yoghurt, kefir, and pickles may be effective, you will probably get a more consistent dose in a probiotic supplement.
Speak to your doctor before using a prebiotic or probiotic supplement, especially if you already have a medical condition or your immune system is weakened.
According to popular opinion, prebiotics can help you lose weight, but this idea is mainly touted by companies trying to sell prebiotic supplements. So can you really believe it?
There may be something in it. Prebiotics are compounds present in fibre – known in general to be great for weight loss because it is filling and has digestive benefits.
Increasing your fibre intake through diet will help weight loss, especially if you cut out processed carbs in favour of complex carbs. Many people in the West lack fibre in their diet, which is a major cause of digestive issues.
Some of these fibres will contain prebiotics – fibre composed of natural plant sugars like oligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and inulin, which help increase Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium, the two main strains of probiotic in the body.
When it comes to taking a prebiotic supplement for weight loss, the benefits are not so clear. Some supplement manufacturers claim that prebiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria and that taking a prebiotic supplement is enough to cause weight loss.
However, there is little real evidence that this is true. The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) rules that individual ingredients cannot be labelled as prebiotics, only as dietary fibres with no implication of health benefits.
Probiotics may help you lose weight. Some evidence suggests that probiotics can reduce the absorption of food calories and, although most research has been carried out on mice, there have been some clinical trials on humans. Results have not been mind-blowing, but certain probiotic strains could cause modest weight loss.
For example, Lactobacillus gasseri has been studied and may be worthwhile. In a trial carried out on Japanese adults over 12 weeks, participants experienced 8.5% fat loss around the belly. BMI and hip measurement also decreased. The downside was that once the trial was over, all participants put the weight back on within a month.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus looked more promising; this was tested over a 3-month study and seemed to improve dieting results by 50% more than the placebo group.
Other strains of Lactobacillus, including Lactobacillus acidophus, led to weight gain. Other research is equally confusing, with some people losing weight and others putting it on.
The problem with taking probiotics for weight loss is that results will vary depending on the strain of probiotic used and the individual’s own physical makeup. We are all different, and when it comes to our microbiome there are literally millions of variations.
In our opinion, probiotics may help some people lose weight but there are far better methods of weight loss available.
There is no real evidence that prebiotic supplements do anything. Although it sounds as if a prebiotic supplement should provide the nourishment that your probiotic system needs, health authorities have been reluctant to approve any prebiotic supplement for any specific purpose.
They are only classified as fibre supplements and there is no quality control to identify products that may work from ones that are ineffective. The advertising is always very convincing, and prebiotics have undergone research, but this is no guarantee that a supplement will work in the way it is touted.
That said, prebiotics are popular, and in most cases seem safe and well-tolerated. If you are following keto or another low-carb diet, your body is going to be missing out on prebiotic fibre, so there could be some benefit to taking a prebiotic here.
Evidence suggests that prebiotics will help increase bacteria in the microbiome, but it does not differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria. So there is a slight risk that less welcome bacteria such as germs and pathogens may also be increased. It all depends upon your existing microbiome and the type of prebiotic material used in the supplement.
Scientists are investigating prebiotics. Like probiotics, they may have numerous health benefits, but so far nothing is strictly proven.
Probiotics do work for certain health conditions, but there is no proof that taking probiotics as a general health supplement is neccessary. It is not quite as easy as the advertisers would have you believe either.
If you are healthy, probiotics have no known benefits. So why fix something that is not broken?
The main positive point for probiotics is that they can improve and ease digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Some doctors are beginning to recommend a probiotic following a course of antibiotics, for example.
The major problem with OTC probiotics is that because each person’s microbiome is different, there should not be a “one size fits all” approach to these supplements.
Research carried out in Israel on a probiotic formula found that it did help some people, while others simply expelled the probiotics. In some cases it caused the digestive system to be slower to return to normal.
The research into probiotics could hold the key to numerous illnesses and conditions, but the scientific community has a long way to go before anything is strictly proven. It could be that in the future, probiotic supplements will be tailor made on an individual basis and will provide a cure for numerous diseases.
For now, with the variety of probiotic supplements on the market combined with your own unique microbiome, results may be unpredictable.
You probably do not need either. Despite all the hype around prebiotic and probiotic supplements, most expert opinion is that there is no reason to take them at all. These types of supplements are a big thing at the moment, but there is very little evidence to prove they work in the way as described.
One issue that all health experts agree on is that most people will benefit from a healthy change of diet. Adding more fibre and plant-based material into your daily diet will improve your health. This may be partly due to the prebiotic material naturally present in some fibres, as well as the importance of antioxidants and other nutrients that are missing from a processed diet.
In addition, there is evidence that foods high in probiotics (fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi) may be good for digestive health. Dairy products such as Greek strained yoghurt are high in natural probiotics and may have a generally beneficial effect too.
The problem with probiotics and prebiotics is that this field of research has not come up with any firm conclusions. Our microbiomes are so diverse, with up to 1000 different bacteria strains in the gut alone, and there are so many different probiotic strains, that finding the right fit in an OTC supplement is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. It is possible, but unlikely.
As with all supplements, there can be risks. One of the major concerns about prebiotics is that this type of supplement may actually nourish bad bacteria. With probiotics you run the risk of introducing infection into your body, especially if your immune system is already weakened.
Now you know the pros and cons of probiotic and prebiotic supplements, let’s take a look at some typical examples of products that are available to buy.
GutMeister Ultimate Prebiotic is designed to boost the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut. It contains a formula based on bacteriophages, a type of virus that kills off “bad” bacteria, helping the good bacteria to flourish.
GutMeister is a German brand from the Dr Tobias company. Dr Tobias is a real doctor, but as he holds a doctorate in economics and marketing, he is not the medical expert he appears.
The sole ingredient of Ultimate Prebiotic is a patented mixture called PreferPro. This contains strains of bacteriophages, which are types of virus. Bacteriophages do not ferment in the gut and may help expel harmful bacteria, leaving nutrients that can be used by probiotics as food. This research is in its early stages and is not yet fully understood.
You can buy GutMeister Ultimate Prebiotic online from stores including Amazon and eBay. It costs $20.37 for 30 capsules (one month’s supply).
The supplement has generated over a thousand positive reviews on Amazon. Many people say it has improved digestive issues, but a high percentage have also mentioned that this formula only works when combined with a probiotic supplement. It may also cause diarrhoea as a side effect. GutMeister Ultimate Prebiotic does not come with a money-back guarantee.
PrebioThrive is an expensive prebiotic formula that aims to give customers improved digestion and health. It comes in the form of a powder that you use to make a drink.
There is a range of fibre-filled ingredients in the mixture. All are organic and include acacia gum, guar gum, and the plant sugars Galacto-oligosaccharides, inulin, and flax seed. All of these are effective prebiotic ingredients, but quantities are not disclosed. Neither is the flavour of the powder.
Prebiotic supplements can cause side effects such as flatulence, stomach pains and diarrhoea. Customers must ensure they drink plenty of water with PrebioThrive because guar gum can pose a choking risk.
You can buy PrebioThrive from the official Gundry website. It is very expensive at $79 for one month’s supply, going up to $414 for six month’s supply. There are discounts for first time users. All Gundry MD products come with a 90-day guarantee. You must contact the customer services department for more details regarding the refund and return shipping.
Read our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/prebiothrive/
OLLY Probiotic and Prebiotic is a chewable gummy supplement available in a choice of three flavours and, according to the advertising, is a fun way of taking a health supplement.
The product contains 500 million CFU of Bacillus coagulans, a type of bacteria present in the digestive system, as well as obtainable through diet. It is also taken for common digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea. The prebiotic blend contains fruit sugars, xlyitol – often used as a low calorie sweetener, and inulin – an indigestible starch present in fruit and veg. It provides food for healthy probiotic gut flora.
Feedback is mixed, but, according to health experts, taking a daily probiotic is not necessary for health unless you have a digestive issue. Just remember that although this product looks like a sweet, it is a supplement, and should not be given to children.
Olly Probiotic and Prebiotic costs between $12.99 and $31.99, depending on flavour and retailer. If you buy via the OLLY website you are covered by a 30-day guarantee.
Check out the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/olly-probiotic-prebiotic/
ActivatedYou Morning Complete is an expensive health powder supplement inspired by a minor Hollywood actress called Maggie Q. It contains a range of antioxidants, adaptogens, prebiotics, probiotics, and more, making it look like several supplements rolled into one. As such, Morning Complete contains multiple ingredients, including supergrasses, and antioxidants. There are blends of ingredients to support metabolism, cellular health, and sugar balance.
The prebiotic and high-fibre blend is based on chicory and cinnamon. The probiotic blend adds up to 10 million CFU and contains nine well-known probiotic strains, including Bacillus coagulans and rhamnosus. Serving size seems slightly low compared to other probiotic supplements.
Morning Complete is only on sale via the official ActivatedYou website. It is expensive, costing $79.99 for 30 sachet servings. Flavour is apple/cinnamon. There is positive customer feedback on the official website but we don’t know how much of this is genuine. On the plus side, there is a 90-day money-back guarantee on offer.
Read the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/activatedyou-morning-complete/
Aava Labs Probiolac is a probiotic supplement from Finland. It contains 15 well-known probiotic strains with different functions, such as Lactobacillus salivarius – which helps the digestion of protein, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and more. It also contains the essential mineral zinc. Each capsule adds up to 200mg, but individual quantities are not disclosed.
The capsules use a “patented delivery system” but there is no further information about how this works.
Although probiotic supplements lack evidence and as yet are not approved by any health authorities, there is good customer feedback for Aava Labs Probiolac, with many people satisfied with this supplement.
Probiolac is available to buy from the official Aava Labs website or via Amazon. It is not expensive, at only £16.99 for 60 capsules (1-2 month’s supply). There does not appear to be a money-back guarantee.
Read the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/aava-labs-probiotic/
It Works! Probiotics is a probiotic supplement that, according to the advertising, will improve digestion, immunity, and colon health. It contains different probiotic strains, plus a prebiotic formula.
It Works! is a US-based multi-level marketing (MLM) company. The company sells a range of health and beauty products via a network of home distributors. We have covered numerous It Works! supplements and in all cases they are very expensive and not very good. Probiotics looks equally inferior and there is very little real ingredients information.
The formula contains 10 million CFU of five commonly-used probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus gasseri. There is also a prebiotic blend (260mg) based on green vegetables and fruit sugars.
As with all MLM supplements, you are supposed to buy via a local distributor. Do this and you will be encouraged to sign up for auto-shipping – which we do not ever recommend. You can also purchase it from Amazon, where it costs around $52.00 for 30 capsules (one month’s supply).
There is some customer feedback on Amazon but opinion is mainly negative, with many saying it is ineffective. There is also no money-back guarantee.
See our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/it-works-probiotics/
Physis Advanced Probiotics is aimed at improving digestive issues caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as bloating, abdominal pain, and digestive irregularity. It contains high servings of probiotic strains and seems popular with customers.
Each capsule of Physis Advanced Probiotics contains a whopping 45 billion CFU of Lactobacillus acidophil, a probiotic strain which is often taken to restore healthy gut balance. Other ingredients include 1 billion CFU of Bifidobacterium bifidum and other probiotic strains in equally effective serving sizes.
Some customers have mentioned mild side effects when first taken, but with over 2000 mainly positive reviews on Amazon, this supplement looks safe and effective.
Physis Advanced Probiotics is not expensive, costing as little as £23.00 for three month’s supply. It is easily available via the official website, Amazon and other sites. An XL version is also on sale.
There is a money-back guarantee and it looks very good. Customers are invited to return their product (opened or unopened) for a full refund. Physis Advanced Probiotics is certainly one of the better probiotic supplements on the market.
Read our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/physis-advanced-probiotics/
Herbalife Simply Probiotic is a basic powder that contains just one probiotic strain. The advertising claims the supplement will give you digestive balance every day.
Herbalife is a well-known multi-level marketing (MLM) company. To buy, you have to find a Herbalife distributor or negotiate the Herbalife website and become a distributor yourself. None of this is straightforward.
Simply Probiotic contains a blend of Bacillus coagulans, plus inulin and maltodrextrin. The probiotic content is diluted by the inulin and seems to contain 15 billion bacteria per one gram serving.
There are some concerns. Maltodrextrin is a food sweetener that has been found to interfere with the action of probiotic spores. In addition, when Simply Probiotic was tested on mice in 2014, it was found to promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Side effects could be an issue, especially if your immune system is weakened. There is a risk of introducing bacteria into the body..
As with all MLM products, Herbalife Simply Probiotic is overpriced. It costs $24.95 for a 1.06-ounce container. This works out to be $1.20 per serving, twice a day. There is no customer feedback available and you are not covered by a money-back guarantee.
Read our in-depth review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/herbalife-simply-probiotic/
A weight loss supplement in capsule form, Bio X4 claims to tackle weight loss in four ways. One of these ways is by use of a probiotic blend, alongside a weight management blend, an appetite suppressing blend, and a digestive enzyme blend.
Bio X4 contains 4 billion CFU of Lactobacillus strains and Bifidum bacteria usually found in dairy products. Lactobacillus strains may help with digestive health but there is no evidence for weight loss. Some research suggests that some Lactobacillus strains may cause weight gain. The other ingredients may be effective for weight loss, but are in very low quantities here.
One bottle (30 day’s supply) costs $49.00, so this is quite an expensive product. You can buy bulk orders and benefit from free shipping.
We have received hundreds of comments about this supplement, including many complaints. Most mention side effects like weight gain, dehydration, and abdominal pain, although a few people are satisfied with the supplement.
Worryingly, Nucific seem to be hard to contact and customers have struggled in obtaining the advertised 90-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/bio-x4/
Two of the most common ailments out there are mild insomnia and digestive issues. Peptiva Probiotics + Sleep Support claims to improve these issues with one supplement.
Peptiva contains a probiotic blend of 26 billion CFU. The probiotic strains are well-known and based on Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. They may have digestive benefits and help balance gut bacteria as claimed.
The sleep function is harder to assess. Despite the addition of melatonin, valerian, and GABA, which can be effective, there are many customer complaints that say this part of the formula just does not work. There is positive feedback on Amazon, but a high percentage of these are fake comments. Side effects may include mild gastric distress (probiotic), grogginess, fatigue, and similar caused by the Sleep Support.
Peptiva Probiotics + Sleep Support is very expensive. It costs $59.99 for 30 capsules if you buy from the official website. US shipping is $4.99. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee advertised. Peptiva promises a refund on used products, minus shipping and processing fees.
Read our review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/peptiva-probiotics-sleep-support/
As you can see from our reviews, there are many differences between the various probiotic and prebiotic supplements on the market. And although they all claim much the same thing, they have widely varying ingredients profiles that are sometimes hard to comprehend.
Does 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) sound like a lot of bacteria? 26 billion? 4 billion? How can the customer be expected to understand these differences when even trained scientists have yet to establish a recommended serving size of any particular probiotic strain? The simple answer is that you can’t.
One of the major issues with these types of supplement is that in many cases, research has thrown up some very conflicting results. Some Lactobacillus strains, for example, are supposed to cause weight loss, but other research suggests the complete opposite. Prebiotics may help nourish good bacteria, but then again it may increase the growth of bad bacteria (pathogens).
We are all different, so the complexity of the human microbiome makes a big difference in how any probiotic strain will work in the body.
According to some research, probiotics and prebiotics may hold the key to future medical advances. But until there is a way to predict how these microorganisms actually work consistently, taking an OTC probiotic supplement is no guarantee of improving your health.