- Kelin M
9 Best Probiotics for Women in 2021
Updated: Oct 28, 2021
If health is wealth, your gut health is your trust fund. The microbiome is a hot topic right now and for good reason; caring for it is one of the best investments you can make in your overall wellbeing.
What is the Microbiome?
Your body contains a complex network of microorganisms that are collectively known as the microbiome. Both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria exist in harmony until something disturbs this harmony: travel, overuse of antibiotics, poor diet, or illness, for example. The majority of these microorganisms are in the gastrointestinal system- your gut.
When our microbes are out of balance, we become susceptible to illness and disease. We can restore this balance two ways:
By supporting the existing “good” bacteria using prebiotics (indigestible fibers that provide food for them) and
By adding additional good bacteria, living organisms known as probiotics.
You can read more about what prebiotics and probiotics can do for your body and which specific foods you should be eating to support your microbiome in our comprehensive guide, here.
Our Top Choices for Women
Garden of Life Women’s Raw: this one ticks all the boxes for a well-rounded, all-purpose probiotic- 32 strains, 85 Billion CFU, strains from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria genus.
Best for Digestion, Constipation:
DrFormulas' Nexabiotic: includes 23 strains of mostly Lactobacillus including our top 4 for gut health
Best for Weight Loss:
Physician’s Choice Thin 30: Contains the well-studied Lactobacillus gasseri and L. rhamnosus plus a number of supportive weight-loss ingredients.
Best for Immunity:
Dr. Tobias Deep Immune: contains hard-to-find Bacillus genus probiotics (spore forming) as well as prebiotics.
Best for Skin:
Codeage Skin Probiotics + Prebiotics: contains a whopping 50 Billion CFU of heavy-hitting skin health probiotics like L. paracasei and B. coagulans, plus a proprietary blend of herbs and prebiotics, and photoceramides.
Best for Vaginal Health:
Wholesome Wellness: This has 100 billion CFU of 34 different strains, including those that are best for fighting urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections. It also has D-Mannose and cranberry concentrate to fight against urinary tract infections plus prebiotics!
Best for Mood Support, Anxiety, Depression:
Lifted Naturals: 9 strains with 30 billion CFU and 2 of the strains are our favorite "psychobiotic" species, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum- ideal for mood boosting.
Best for Fertility:
Momma Prenatal Probiotic: 14 billion CFU of 18 strains that are all clinically proven to be beneficial to help you get pregnant and keep you and baby healthy once you are.
Best for Diarrhea:
Pure Saccharomyces 10B: contains 10 billion CFU of just one strain of yeast: S. boulardii. This is proven to treat diarrhea from both infections and after antibiotic use.
What to Eat to Restore Balance
Probiotic supplements are great for the microbiome, but you can dramatically affect your gut health through your diet, too. Gut-friendly foods come in two forms: prebiotic, and probiotic.
Prebiotics are found in foods with indigestible fibers found in a variety of foods including unripe bananas and raw garlic. In supplements, you’ll see them listed as “inulin, resistant starch, fructooligosaccharides, gum, or pectin”.
Probiotics are found in cultured and fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut. You can also take them in supplements. The most well-studied probiotics are in the genus (families) Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Different probiotic strains serve different purposes, as healthy people have around 1000 different strains in their body and a specific health concern will be connected with specific types of bacteria.
You can use probiotics to naturally improve your digestion, reduce your chances of urinary tract infection, improve mental conditions like depression or anxiety, or support healing of just about any other health condition.
Below, we’ll show you how to choose a supplement, and what we love (and don’t!) about our top picks.
Criteria to Choose a Probiotic
1. Have the strains been studied?
Here at Ingredient Nerd, we’re all about the research. When incorrectly mixed, probiotic strains can actually do more harm than good. Some strains can work against each other making the probiotic ineffective. So it’s important to make sure that the specific strains and the amount of each match what was shown in studies to have the effect the manufacturer claims!
2. Probiotic strength
It might sound like a lot to have millions of CFUs (colony forming units), but not in terms of the trillions of bacteria in your gut. You should choose a probiotic with at least 1 billion CFU overall.
Unfortunately, many probiotics are already dead inside the capsule as they haven’t been kept in the proper conditions or are a less-stable variety. Bifidobacterium, for example, are very delicate and unlikely to survive transport.
It’s important that the bacteria are alive and active, and that it’s in a form (such as coated capsule) that protects the bacteria from being killed by stomach acid. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are unlikely to survive stomach acid without protection.
4. Other ingredients
The added ingredients should match the purpose of the probiotic. If you’re taking a vaginal health probiotic, for example, you might want the most studied additives (like D-Mannose) included along with the correct probiotic strains. We also have a preference for those without unnecessary additives.
We look for supplements that are a fair price for the intended purpose. Less marketing, more science.
Here's the breakdown on why we chose our top probiotics for women.
Our Top Picks for Women
Garden of Life Women's Raw
What we love: If what you’re looking for is a general microbiome supporting probiotic for everyday use, this is a great one. What we love about this one is that it has 32 different strains, 85 Billion CFU, and a wide range of well-studies species.
It includes a diverse range of species, like L. reuteri that help with vaginal health and bone density, some that are abundant in the gut and great for digestion like acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium longum that’s great for mood, as well as probiotics from real food sources. It also has a blend of vitamins and minerals.
What we don’t love: If you have a specific health concern you want to address, you’d be better off choosing a targeted formula with less strains at a higher concentration per strain (this one doesn’t say how much there is of each).
Best for Overall Digestion and Constipation
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 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.
Best for Weight Loss
Physician’s Choice Thin 30
Why we love it: It contains two of the most promising weight loss probiotic strains- L. gasseri (connected to both weight loss and metabolic syndrome correction) and L. rhamnosus (in one study, women taking this lost 50% more weight compared to placebo).
It has 15 million CFU of just 6 strains, so this is a targeted formula. With its added prebiotic blend and weight management blend, it’s sure to not only help overall gut health but actually do what it claims and help with weight loss and appetite control.
What we don’t love: Many of the ingredients (like the prebiotics) could cause flatulence and digestive discomfort.
Best for Immunity
Dr. Tobias Deep Immune
Why we love it: Bacillus strains are dormant probiotics that have protection from acidic stomach conditions and the ability to create spores in the gastrointestinal tract. They’re unusual to find in supplements; this one has three! It also has the sturdy L. acidophilus.
It doesn’t need refrigeration and contains prebiotics. It has 4.4 Billion CFU of highly targeted immunity-enhancing probiotics.
What we don’t love: If you have an illness that causes digestive problems, taking a probiotic with prebiotics can make discomfort worse. Contains maltodextrin.
Best for Skin
Codeage Skin Probiotics + Prebiotics
Why we love it: Contains 50 Billion CFU of a small amount of proven skin-loving strains. Lactobacillus paracasei is anti-inflammatory, as is B. coagulans which has been linked to potential benefits for acne patients and for photoaging as well as others in the Lactobacillus family that are known for skin improvement, whether you’re concerned about acne, eczema, lack of elasticity or any other skin issue.
On top of that, it contains a blend of herbs and prebiotics and 30mg of phytoceramides, which are linked to fresh-looking skin.
What we don’t love: Tastes and smells bad, according to buyers.
Best for Vaginal Health
Wholesome Wellness 100 Billion CFU
Why we love it: This formula includes a whopping 34 different strains of probiotics (including the two specific strains shown in studies mentioned above to specifically improve vaginal bacterial health).
On top of that, this formula contains D-Mannose and cranberry fruit extract (proven to prevent UTI-causing bacteria from sticking to the vaginal wall) along with a prebiotic blend and many other herbs associated with positive vaginal health.
What we don't love: It's hard to find a "con" with this product, but it's very concentrated so if you have irritable bowel syndrome or any other digestive issues you'll want to ease into a supplement like this one with a lot of prebiotics (a pure probiotic may be better for you). It could cause discomfort or even exacerbate your digestion problems.
Best for Mood Support, Anxiety, & Depression Lifted Naturals
Why we love it: This simple probiotic has 9 strains and 2 are the most effective "psychobiotic" strains. It also contains 231 mg of prebiotic fiber per capsule. For the price, 30 Billion CFU is a steal!
What we don't love: This isn't exactly a targeted solution- we don't know how much of this blend is L. helveticus and B. longum and it could be a small amount. However, with 30 billion CFU overall and excellent reviews, it's a safe bet that this will be effective at helping you feel "lifted".
Best for Fertility
Momma Prenatal Probiotic
Why we love it: Even though this is advertised as a general prenatal probiotic, it contains exactly the right strains to help you get pregnant in the first place. L. reuteri RC-14, L. fermentum, L. gasseri, L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, L. crispatus, L. casei, L. salivarius have all had positive results when administered to correct fertility dysbiosis (in other words, they correct an unfavorable bacterial environment for getting pregnant.
Aside from L. rhamnosus and L. crispatus, this has all of them! On top of that, it has prebiotics. We love that unlike most probiotics, they list the exact strains used.
What we don’t love: Because this contains a prebiotic, this could cause flatulence and bloating at a time when women are especially prone to this (pregnancy).
Best for Diarrhea
Pure Saccharomyces 10B
Why we love it: There are two strains that are especially helpful in treating diarrhea from traveling, infections, and antibiotics: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii. This one has 10 billion CFU of just the latter which is a potent treatment for Candida yeast overgrowth. When experiencing diarrhea, it’s often best to keep things simple and this Pure product does just that!
What we don’t love: This may not be ideal for certain types of diarrhea (for example, in children Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG could work better). If you want probiotics to treat multiple issues, you’ll need to combine this with something else.
How to Read a Probiotic Label
Here are a few terms to know on a probiotic:
CFUs: These are "Colony-Forming Units", and it's the number of live bacteria (or yeast) cultures per serving. Many companies will overfill when manufacturing to guarantee you get the amount claimed after transit.
Other ingredients: Inactive compounds used as fillers, coloring, etc. that don't have benefits. The less of these, the better. Non-probiotic active ingredients are other vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and herbs that complement the probiotic.
Serving size: How much to take per day. It's a good idea to check before buying to make sure you're happy with the number of servings you'll need to take each day (and the cost per serving, not capsule).
Storage information: Pay close attention to this before you even buy. If it requires refrigeration, the cultures may not survive transport.
Best Probiotics for Vaginal Health
Best Probiotics for Mood Support