Last updated: October 5, 2020

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Do you suffer from constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or indigestion? Your intestinal flora could be the problem, and not for the reasons you think! Our intestines contain an incredible ecosystem of microbes. It’s made up of over 100 billion bacteria from up to 1,000 different species (1). These bacteria, along with other microorganisms, are fundamental to our digestive health and overall wellbeing.

But isn’t bacteria bad, you ask? Not always. Our bodies live in harmony with billions of bacteria in our skin, respiratory system, and beyond (2). They help keep us healthy and fight off infections from the harmful microorganisms. You might be asking yourself: “What’s the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria? What can I do to strengthen my helpful bacteria?” We’ll answer these questions, and many more, in this guide!

Key Facts

  • Your diet, genetics, and environment all directly influence your intestinal flora.
  • Your intestinal microbiome directly influences your immune system. It helps detect and fight off harmful bacteria which could affect your health.
  • Taking antibiotics can destroy bacteria which are vital for your health, as can certain medical conditions. It’s important to replenish those bacteria through your diet or supplements.

Our Selection Of The Best Products for Your Digestive Flora

Do you want to strengthen your digestive health, but don’t know which products to start with? Have no fear: we’ve compiled the standout products on the market. Let’s look at which ones best suit your needs!

Online Reviewers’ Favorite Probiotic

Users reviewing this product have highlighted the relief from indigestion which this supplement brought them. They also attest that it helped regularize their bathroom visits. According to the manufacturer, this probiotic is excellent for intestinal health, reducing day-to-day symptoms like gas, bloating, and constipation.

Each capsule provides a whopping 60 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) and 10 distinct strains of bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterias. Recommended dosage is 1 capsule per day.

The Best Probiotic for Kids

This probiotic contains 40 billion UFC per dose and 14 bacterial strains, combining the power of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and 11 other families. We recommend this product for small children and pregnant women; it’s also a good fit for vegetarians. As you’ll see, it has some of the highest user reviews for treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Each batch offers 120 GMO-free capsules. It naturally complements the gut flora and digestive systems of healthy people, so we recommend asking your doctor before taking this type of supplement if you’re on medication or have any medical conditions.

The Best Probiotic with Vegan Capsules

This probiotic includes 13 strains which offer the support you need for better digestive health, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each of its 60 servings includes 50 billion UFC. In fact, according to customers, its effects are felt right away – especially an increase in energy.

This product’s slow-release capsules are vegan, and the probiotics themselves are derived from vegetables. Recommended dosage is 2 capsules per day, taken between meals or on an empty stomach.

The Best Probiotic for IBS

This product combines 10 strains of probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. It then complements them with ascorbyl palmitate and silica to create capsules resistant to stomach acid. These vegan capsules can do good for your digestive system, improving intestinal health and detoxifying. They provide 50 billion UFC each.

Users especially highlight how this supplement helped ease gas, bloating, and frequent bathroom trips – especially for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The manufacturer recommends taking 2 capsules per day with water.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Probiotics

Some studies have claimed we first come into contact with intestinal bacteria immediately after we’re born. More recent studies, however, have even found intestinal flora in premature babies! This would indicate that our digestive bacteria is with us even in the womb.

These bacteria finish diversifying when we’re 2 or 3 years old. In exchange for our body providing shelter and nutrients, our microscopic buddies offer multiple benefits in return.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods, such as yogurt.
(Source: Marctran: 100914463/ 123rf.com)

What Is Intestinal Flora?

These tiny guests, also called our intestinal bacteria or intestinal microbiome, are microorganisms which mostly live in harmony with our bodies. This relationship is called mutualism; we benefit from our gut flora and they benefit from us.

The most common intestinal bacteria in the body are:

  • E. Coli (In spite of its relationship to various medical conditions, it naturally lives in harmony with our intestines. That can change when our intestinal flora falls out of balance.)
  • Bacteroides
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Eubacterium
  • Clostridium
  • Lactobacillus
  • Fusobacterium

What Do Intestinal Bacteria Do?

The roles of these microscopic guests remains under study, but many of their effects are already known (2, 5). Here are their most important jobs:

  • Preventing foreign microorganisms from colonizing.
  • Helping digest food.
  • Producing vitamin B and vitamin K, which our bodies cannot synthesize on their own.
  • Helping develop the immune system and keep it balanced.
  • Various studies are currently underway to assess their role in reducing the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
  • Current research suggests some correlation between healthy intestinal flora and treating certain neurological, metabolic, and psychiatric disorders (3).

What Can Affect Intestinal Flora’s Balance?

Our intestinal flora is able to adapt to changes in its ecosystem and keep maintaining our digestive health. However, some situations can drastically modify the microbial ecosystem. The consequence? Our bacteria are incapable of adapting to the changes, causing dysbiosis (2).

This condition can be the result of various processes: a drastic reduction in the natural population of intestinal bacteria, changes in the intestinal environment like pH levels, or colonization by toxic bacteria.

  1. Intestinal conditions like colon cancer, celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or foreign bacterial infections.
  2. Conditions like obesity, diabetes, and immune disorders.
  3. Prolonged use of antibiotics.
  4. Diets low in fiber and high in sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fat.
  5. Aging combined with poor eating habits.
  6. Sedentary lifestyles.
  7. Stress.
  8. Alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse.

What’s the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Though the words sound similar, there are meaningful differences between probiotics and prebiotics. It’s worth taking the time to distinguish between them – let’s explain.

  • Probiotics: Living microorganisms which, when consumed in appropriate amounts, improve intestinal and overall health. The most common strains on the market are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
  • Prebiotics: Large molecules which our bodies do not digest, which lets them them reach the intestines in high enough amounts to serve as ‘food’ for our bacteria. These include inulin, potato starch, the galactooligosaccharides found in breast milk, and many more.

Who Might Need to Avoid Probiotics?

Though probiotics are considered to have some of the least side effects among supplements, people with certain conditions may need to avoid their use.

  • Immunocompromised people. This group includes people living with HIV/AIDS, transplant recipients, and people with autoimmune diseases (systematic erythematous lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis) (22). For these people, using probiotics requires strict medical supervision.
  • Children and breastfeeding women. Though probiotics recommended for children do exist, they should still never be taken without asking a pediatrician.
  • Pregnant women and older adults. For pregnant women and senior citizens, probiotics are almost always recommended if they’re needed. However, they should be taken with more caution, since these groups’ immune systems can be compromised more easily (23).

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast.
(Fuente: Manchinda: 127562913/ 123rf.com)

Buyer’s Guide

Probiotics are not a universal fix for all consumers, and some may not even work as intended. To make the best possible purchase, it’s important to know what to look for. These parameters will help you find the perfect probiotic for you (3):

Resistant Bacterial Strains

Look for products which can withstand humidity and survive at room temperature. Those which are highly susceptible to changes in the air or require refrigeration can easily lose effectiveness (14).

Probiotics get this resistance from quality capsule lining, as well as being combined with prebiotics like inulin and phospho-oligosaccharides (18).

Your gut microbiome helps detect and fight off harmful bacteria which can affect your health or influence your immune system. (Source: Geralt: 123081/ Pixabay.com)

Lining of Pills and Capsules

From the moment of production until their arrival in the digestive tract, probiotics come into contact with harmful external conditions which can affect them. High temperatures, humidity, and contact with stomach acid or bile can reduce the amount of live bacteria in probiotic products, lowering their effectiveness.

Putting supplements in safe capsules is shown to be one of the optimal methods for protecting the live bacteria inside (25). One of the most useful materials for this purpose is alginate mixed with biopolymers.

Colony-Forming Units (CFU)

The first two factors we discussed should be combined with a product containing anywhere from 100 million to a billion Colony-Forming Units (CFU). This refers to the amount of living or dead bacteria contained inside a probiotic (14).

On their own, high CFU does not guarantee an effective product, since microorganisms are only useful if they can reach the digestive tract alive (24).

Specific Strains

Though some bacteria may belong to the same genus or species, strains are what differentiate their therapeutic activities. Here’s an example:

Genus: Bacillus
Species: coagulans
Strain: GBI-30, 6086

Certain strains have been proven effective at preventing or treating intestinal illness, as well as other illnesses. Standouts include (10, 19, 20, 21):

Symptom Recommended Strains Effects
Stomach pain from Irritable Bowel Syndrome Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086
B. longum subsp. infantis 35624
Escherichia coli DSM17252
Improves symptoms.
Bloating caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome B. animalis subsp. lactis DN-173 010 Improves symptoms.
Diarrhea and/or constipation caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome B. animalis subsp. lactis Bb12
B. animalis subsp. lactis HN019
Improves symptoms.
Diarrhea caused by antibiotics L. paracasei subsp. paracasei DN-114 001 Improves symptoms.
Respiratory illness Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG
Bifidobacterium animalis ssp.
Studies suggest it can prevent respiratory infection (19).
Diabetes L. salivarius UBLS 22 Studies suggest it stabilizes insulin and blood sugar levels (20).
Seasonal Allergies  Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13
Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1
Bifidobacterium longum MM-2
Probiotics are currently being researched as a potential treatment for respiratory symptoms in seasonal allergies such as rhinoconjunctivitis (21).

Summary

Research into our intestinal flora has barely begun to hit the tip of the iceberg. Today, we know that these bacteria influence our immune system’s development and functioning. They also impact our metabolism and can even affect our mental health or help prevent various cancers from forming.

Certain situations can decimate this bacterial population. These include intestinal conditions, malnutrition, taking antibiotics, and aging. In these scenarios, you must make an effort to support your ecosystem so it can multiply and diversify, bringing health and wellness into your life.

Feel free to leave a comment. Sharing this information can help reduce the taboo against bacteria, so go ahead and share this article! Let’s make these bacteria as popular as they deserve to be.

(Featured image source: Silviarita: 3186730/ 123rf.com)

References (25)

1. Guarner F., Papel de la flora intestinal en la salud y en la enfermedad [Internet]. Nutrición Hospitalaria. 2007. [Consultado el 28 Abr 2020].
Source

2. Teresa A., Giuseppe D., Susana D., Manuel F. Microbiota [Internet]. Recomendaciones de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica. 2016. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Source

3. Inés K., Mónica K., Ana C., Marianela A., María A., Vanesa A., Marisa A., Lilia C., Tamara C., Paola H., Silvia S., Martín V., Martín G. Microbiota Intestinal – Huésped ¿Nexo Salud-Enfermedad? [Internet] Actualización en Nutrición Vol. 15 Nº 2. 2014. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Source

4. Rafael C. Síndrome de intestino irritable [Internet]. Elsevier. 2010. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Source

5. Mario G., Fanny A., Composición y Funciones de la Flora Bacteriana Intestinal [Internet] Repertorio de Medicina y Cirugía. 2011. [Consultado el 28 Abr 2020].
Source

6. Moreno V. Flora bacteriana intestinal [Internet]. Anales de Pediatría. 2006. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Source

7. Neus E. Cómo elegir un buen probiótico [Internet]. Soycomocomo.es. 2017. [Consultado el 30 Abr 2020].
Source

8. Emma W., Intestinal bacteria and ageing [Internet]. Smith and Nephew Research Centre. 2007. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

9. Francisco F., y cols. Probióticos y prebióticos [Internet]. Guías Mundiales de la Organización Mundial de Gastroenterología. 2017. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

10. Hungin A. y Cols. Probiotics in the management of lower GI symptoms in clinical practice [Internet]. The European Society for Primary Care Gastroenterology. 2013. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

11. AEProbio. Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in Canada [Internet]. Probioticchart.ca. 2020. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

12. AEProbio. Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in USA [Internet]. Probioticchart.ca. 2020. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

13. Suma M., Anthony L. Low-FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome [Internet]. Gastroenterology and Hepatology The Independent Peer-Reviewed Journal. 2012. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

14. Antonieta G., Ramon B. Probióticos [Internet]. Elsevier. 2017. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

15. Eva C. Alimentos prebióticos y probióticos [Internet]. Elsevier. 2004. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

16. Natalia C., Francisco G., Raquel M., Sonia N., Teresa R., Juan R., Juan S. Microbiota Intestinal y Salud, Cuidando nuestras Bacterias [Internet]. Colegió Oficial de Enfermería de Cantabria. 2018. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

17. Luis Antonio L. Nutrición simbiótica: recuperar y mantener la salud a través de los alimentos fermentados [Internet]. Vivosano.org. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

18. Sneyder R. y Cols. Encapsulación de Alimentos Probióticos mediante Liofilización en Presencia de Prebióticos [Internet]. Información Tecnológica Vo. 27. 2016. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

19. Rigassio R. y Cols. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections [Internet]. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

20. Rajesh V. Impact of probiotics on health-related quality of life in Type II diabetes mellitus: A randomized single-blind, placebo-controlled study [Internet]. College of Pharmacy, Mandya . 2019. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

21. Dennis W. y Cols. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial [Internet]. Euro J of Clinical Nutrition. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

22. Montse V. Probióticos y salud [Internet]. Elsevier. 2015. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

23. Oscar B. Inocuidad, prevención y riesgos de los probióticos [Internet]. Revista chilena de pediatría. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

24. Office of Dietary Supplements. Probiotics [Internet]. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. 2020. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

25. Rodríguez Y. y Cols Encapsulación de probióticos para aplicaciones alimenticias [Internet]. Revista Biosalud. 2016 [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Source

Why you can trust me?

Scientific article
Guarner F., Papel de la flora intestinal en la salud y en la enfermedad [Internet]. Nutrición Hospitalaria. 2007. [Consultado el 28 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Teresa A., Giuseppe D., Susana D., Manuel F. Microbiota [Internet]. Recomendaciones de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica. 2016. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Inés K., Mónica K., Ana C., Marianela A., María A., Vanesa A., Marisa A., Lilia C., Tamara C., Paola H., Silvia S., Martín V., Martín G. Microbiota Intestinal – Huésped ¿Nexo Salud-Enfermedad? [Internet] Actualización en Nutrición Vol. 15 Nº 2. 2014. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Rafael C. Síndrome de intestino irritable [Internet]. Elsevier. 2010. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Mario G., Fanny A., Composición y Funciones de la Flora Bacteriana Intestinal [Internet] Repertorio de Medicina y Cirugía. 2011. [Consultado el 28 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Moreno V. Flora bacteriana intestinal [Internet]. Anales de Pediatría. 2006. [Consultado el 29 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Informative article
Neus E. Cómo elegir un buen probiótico [Internet]. Soycomocomo.es. 2017. [Consultado el 30 Abr 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Emma W., Intestinal bacteria and ageing [Internet]. Smith and Nephew Research Centre. 2007. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
World Guides of the World Gastroenterology Organization
Francisco F., y cols. Probióticos y prebióticos [Internet]. Guías Mundiales de la Organización Mundial de Gastroenterología. 2017. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Hungin A. y Cols. Probiotics in the management of lower GI symptoms in clinical practice [Internet]. The European Society for Primary Care Gastroenterology. 2013. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
AEProbio. Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in Canada [Internet]. Probioticchart.ca. 2020. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
AEProbio. Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in USA [Internet]. Probioticchart.ca. 2020. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Suma M., Anthony L. Low-FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome [Internet]. Gastroenterology and Hepatology The Independent Peer-Reviewed Journal. 2012. [Consultado el 2 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Antonieta G., Ramon B. Probióticos [Internet]. Elsevier. 2017. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Eva C. Alimentos prebióticos y probióticos [Internet]. Elsevier. 2004. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Informative article
Natalia C., Francisco G., Raquel M., Sonia N., Teresa R., Juan R., Juan S. Microbiota Intestinal y Salud, Cuidando nuestras Bacterias [Internet]. Colegió Oficial de Enfermería de Cantabria. 2018. [Consultado el 3 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Luis Antonio L. Nutrición simbiótica: recuperar y mantener la salud a través de los alimentos fermentados [Internet]. Vivosano.org. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Sneyder R. y Cols. Encapsulación de Alimentos Probióticos mediante Liofilización en Presencia de Prebióticos [Internet]. Información Tecnológica Vo. 27. 2016. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Informative article
Rigassio R. y Cols. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections [Internet]. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Rajesh V. Impact of probiotics on health-related quality of life in Type II diabetes mellitus: A randomized single-blind, placebo-controlled study [Internet]. College of Pharmacy, Mandya . 2019. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Dennis W. y Cols. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial [Internet]. Euro J of Clinical Nutrition. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Montse V. Probióticos y salud [Internet]. Elsevier. 2015. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Oscar B. Inocuidad, prevención y riesgos de los probióticos [Internet]. Revista chilena de pediatría. 2017. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Office of Dietary Supplements. Probiotics [Internet]. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. 2020. [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source
Scientific article
Rodríguez Y. y Cols Encapsulación de probióticos para aplicaciones alimenticias [Internet]. Revista Biosalud. 2016 [Consultado el 8 de Mayo del 2020].
Go to source