Feel Better: 6 Things to Look for in a Good Probiotic

There are so many different options out there, making so many great-sounding claims. How can you make sure you get one that works? Follow this advice.

Your gut is filled with a huge collection of bacteria and other tiny organisms that help your body digest your food and extract nutrients you need. But when the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria gets wonky, you can have symptoms ranging from gas and bloating to yeast infections and UTIs. Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha and miso naturally add healthy bacteria to your diet, but it can tough to get enough of those into your daily diet. So here’s what to consider when picking the best probiotic supplement for you.

Look for “Women” on the Label

A mix that targets vaginal health. Amazon

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If you want your probiotic to help prevent UTIs or yeast infections, look for a supplement that says “vaginal health” or “for women” on the label. These aren’t just marketing claims—women’s probiotics contain specific strains of bacteria that are known to keep the vagina and urinary tract healthy. Probiotic capsules that contain Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium typically target digestive health, while ones formulated specifically for women, like this one, may include L. reuteri and L. fermentum, which studies suggest may help prevent UTIs.

“Prebiotics” Matter, Too

Sprinkle into your smoothie. Amazon

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Good gut bacteria only grow and flourish if they have the right “food” to feast on. They especially like certain types of fiber such as inulin, or “prebiotic” fiber. Oats, garlic, onions and bananas have a bunch of the stuff, but if you’re not sure that you’re getting enough of it, you can opt for a probiotic that includes a dose right in the package, like this one.

Look For At Least 1 Billion CFU

This one’s for the ladies. Amazon

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Probiotics are measured in “colony forming units,” or CFU, not milligrams or IUs like other supplements and vitamins. A good probiotic supplement will have at least 1 billion CFU, according to ConsumerLab, a leading supplement-quality watchdog.

Consider Brands that Offer Money Back Guarantees

Some probiotics should be kept in the fridge—not these. Amazon

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Another thing to know about probiotic supplements: They all have a different mixture of bacteria species, and every human being has a different mixture of bacteria in our guts. That means one supplement won’t necessarily work as well for one person as it does for another. If you have specific symptoms you’re trying to target, picking a probiotic with a money back guarantee, like this one, is a great idea. Try them for two weeks and if nothing good is happening, return them and try another.

Take Note of Expiration Dates

Classic probiotic mix. Amazon

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Some probiotic supplements stay potent longer than others. The bacteria in these products are alive, and they can die off right in the bottle before you have a chance to take them. So check the expiration date, and consider looking for a brand that guarantees potency, like this one.

Go For Quality

A best-seller, for a reason. Amazon

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Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way as prescription drugs, and some brands may be less scrupulous than others about quality control and making accurate claims on their labels. If in doubt, go for a well-known brand with a proven track record, like this one.