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  • Kelin M

Best 6 Probiotics for Digestion in 2021

Each of us has a complex network of microorganisms within our body. It’s known as the microbiome, and it contains trillions of bacteria and fungi which are concentrated in our gut (large intestine).

Not surprisingly, these microorganisms are closely connected to our digestive health. The harmony between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut can be thrown off- by antibiotic usage, travel, poor diet, illness, or stress, for example.

The good news is we can restore the balance. There are two ways:

  1. Support the good bacteria by feeding them with prebiotics (indigestible fibers)

  2. Take a probiotic supplement to increase the amount of good bacteria

You can read our comprehensive guide to supporting your microbiome (including which foods you should be eating) here.

Best Probiotics for Digestive Health

Many people experience digestive issues such as acid reflux, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Digestive health is directly related to overall gut flora balance, so it's a good idea to choose a probiotic that includes a wide spectrum of bacteria species, especially those in the Lactobacillus family (known to support digestion).

The most important are L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, and L. paracasei. L. rhamnosus also helps proper bowel function. We'll focus on probiotics that contain these species.

Saccharomyces boulardii is yeast that is also extremely effective at treating gastrointestinal disorders, so we’ll recommend our top pick and what it can help with.

Our Top Picks for Digestion and Gut Health

Best for Overall Digestion and Gut Health

DrFormulas' Nexabiotic: includes 23 strains of mostly Lactobacillus including our top 4 for gut health

Best for Women

Vitalitown Women's: 120 billion CFUs of 30 different strains including L. reuteri which is great for overall inflammation

Best for Leaky Gut, Lactose Intolerance, Gas and Constipation

Dr. Matthews' #1 Probiotic:15 billion CFUs of 15 different research-backed strains

Best for Diarrhea

Saccharomyces boulardii 10B: This contains only one strain and can be taken with antibiotics. Great for sensitive stomachs, correcting diarrhea and Candida overgrowth.

Best for Ulcerative Colitis

VSL #3: This potent 112.5 Billion CFU formula contains 8 strains shown to help with UC, and ships on dry ice.

Digestive Conditions that Can Improve from Probiotics

1. Diarrhea

Antiobiotics frequently throw the body into dysbiosis (where the bad bacteria take over the good), resulting in diarrhea.

Using probiotics have been proven to reduce the duration of diarrhea spells and even prevent it altogether when taken with antibiotics.

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Gastrointestinal symptoms in people who have IBS (such as pain, cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea) can be relieved using probiotics, as confirmed by 70 studies in this review. However, effectiveness is highly dependent on which probiotic strains have been used and concentration.

3. Constipation

Probiotics have been found to improve constipation in the elderly by 10-40% (depending on which study), by decreasing transit time and making stools softer. The most commonly used strain was Bifidobacterium longum.

4. Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s

While there’s limited data so far, clinical results have been encouraging.

More research needs to be done to determine the best strains and dosage, however, in this study it was found that the probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917 is as effective as the “gold standard mesalazine” (a medication for ulcerative colitis).

Unfortunately this probiotic is not commercially available at this time, but this is promising news for probiotic treatment of ulcerative colitis in general

5. Lactose intolerance

While some strains are more effective than others, it was found in this review that the relationship between probiotics and lactose intolerance is an overall positive one.

Criteria for Choosing a Digestive Health Probiotic

1. Strains

We want to make sure the strains contained in the probiotic are those that are the most effective for the specific condition we’re targeting. It might take some trial and error to find the right one, as the right strain varies depending on the source of the gastrointestinal problems.

If you find that your condition is worsened by taking a probiotic, discontinue using it. Besides seeking medical advice, you may wish to switch to one with fewer strains.

In general, we’re looking for L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. paracasei, and L. rhamnosus. We’re also looking at those with Saccharomyces boulardii for treatment of diarrhea.

2. Strength

A more concentrated probiotic is generally better (at least 1 Billion CFU, or colony-forming units), however, it can sometimes cause irritation to sensitive digestion systems to have too strong a dose.

3. Stability

We want the probiotic to get to the colon as this is where it will have its desired impact. This means it needs to survive your stomach acid.

Choose a probiotic that doesn’t require refrigeration so they don’t die in transport, and preferably one with delayed release to protect it.

4. Other ingredients

Pay attention to what is in the capsule besides probiotics. This is especially important for treating digestive conditions! Prebiotic fibers are important, but can also cause added discomfort and flatulence.

It’s a good idea to start with a simple formula and move to one with more herbs and prebiotics and your condition improves. You should also try to minimize non-beneficial additives like maltodextrin.

Our Top Picks for Digestive Health

Best for Overall Digestion and Gut Health

DrFormulas' Nexabiotic

Nexabiotic Gastroinstinal support bottle

Why we love it: It has predominately Lactobacillus species and includes the 4 types we recommend above- 23 strains in total! There are no prebiotics which can be irritating if you're already dealing with digestive issues, so you can take this regularly from the beginning.

The "other ingredient" list is really clean, it comes in delayed-release capsules, and the price is excellent. What's not to love?

What we don't love: If you have lupus or any other inflammatory disease, you'll want to avoid probiotics containing L. paracasei (which is otherwise very beneficial). This also contains maltodextrin which some may want to avoid.

Best for Women

Vitalitown Women's Probiotic

Why we love it: 30 strains and 120 billion CFUs at a fair price plus digestive enzymes and a bit of prebiotics- this is a great choice. Contains L. reuteuri which reduces inflammation in the body along with the gut-friendly strains we recommended and many others, including those that are great for vaginal health!

What we don't love: The extra ingredients in this blend could be irritating to those with digestive problems. Some of the strains included are not well-studied and there's no way to know how much of the highly-effective strains are included vs. the less-known ones. Contains L. paracasei which could be harmful to those with Lupus.

Best for Leaky Gut, Lactose Intolerance, Gas and Constipation

Dr. Matthew #1 Probiotics

Why we love it: 15 strains with 15 billion CFU and they're all well-researched, including the 4 we recommended above. It has prebiotics as well, but not much else making this a very gut-friendly formula.

What we don't love: The "other ingredients" aren't ideal (including stearic acid from palm oil). Some people find these pills bulky and difficult to swallow.

Best for Diarrhea

Pure Saccharomyces boulardii 10B

Why we love it: Contains a clinically-proven strain to help with diarrhea. This is excellent for when your gut is especially sensitive as it contains no other strains and is very targeted to overcome Candida overgrowth. It has 10 Billion CFU so it’s very concentrated. Can be taken with antibiotics!

What we don’t love: This won’t help with every gut condition and is specifically made for antibiotic-induced or traveler’s diarrhea.

Best for Ulcerative Colitis and IBS


Why we love it: With 112.5 billion CFU, this is an extremely concentrated probiotic! It has 8 strains and arrives on dry ice, plus over a thousand reviews from people with ulcerative colitis and IBS agree that it really works.

What we don’t love: It contains corn starch which many people are allergic to, and it is really expensive.

Learn More

Want to learn more about how to support your microbiome and restore gut harmony? Check out our complete guide.

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