Top Rated Probiotics- 2021 Supplement Guide
Similar to personalized nutrition, one size does not fit all when it comes to probiotics. With hundreds of different strains used in various supplements and thousands being studied, there are drastically different results for different groups of people depending on which probiotic they consume.
While there are a lot of great probiotic options for those who don’t have gut or health issues (we’ll share our top pics for everyone including those who’re most in need of a probiotic- endurance athletes!), there are certain strains recommended for different health conditions. How are you supposed to know which strains are best for your SIBO, recurrent UTI’s, frequent colds/illnesses, candida overgrowth, or your little athlete with frequent diarrhea? Well, we dug into the research and have the answers for you.
In this article, we will be reviewing the top rated probiotics for the most common conditions seen in the athletic population.
How to Find an Amazing Probiotic Supplement
As more and more research emerges, we are discovering the important role that probiotics play in various health conditions, particularly gastrointestinal and autoimmune disease.
It is important to note that strains of bacteria within the same species can actually have completely opposite effects on a specific disease state. These strains can also have very different properties, characteristics, and actions. It is also worth mentioning that probiotic effectiveness can be species-, dose-, and disease-specific and the duration of therapy depends on the clinical indication. You can read more about these concepts in our post 5 Essential Tips for Taking a Probiotic.
Probiotics contain microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in our gut. Probiotics are often essential to maintaining the immunologic equilibrium in our gastrointestinal tract because they have the ability to directly interact with our immune cells.
When searching for and debating what the top rated probiotics are, the following criteria were used:
- Evaluating the probiotic strains and amounts included per dose
- Analyzing when/if mono strains and multistrain probiotics were used
- Choosing supplements with probiotic strains likely to be resistant to the gastrointestinal environment (no point in consuming something that won’t be able to thrive!)
- Understanding and choosing supplements which included strains able to colonize the gut
- Analyzing the suitability of various probiotic strains for various populations from healthy people, to those with SIBO, Crohn’s disease, etc.
- Choosing brands with transparency and history of producing clean, chemically free supplements
Last but not least, before beginning a probiotic regimen, it is always best to work with a qualified health care practitioner. You will see that I list products but NOT dosage. This is because one size does not fit all and your practitioner will help you decipher the information and tailor the recommendations to your unique needs.
Alright, now let’s dive into specific conditions that most commonly affect active individuals.
Our Insider Tip
Most supplement recommendations in this post will include two links, one for the professional-grade supplement wholesaler, Wellevate, and one for Amazon.
Our favorite site for buying professional-grade supplements is Wellevate. The prices are significantly better than anything you will find elsewhere and you can rest assured that what you’re buying is direct from the manufacturer. (We’ve seen a lot of scams and false sales over the years with various companies.) The only thing we don’t particularly care for with Wellevate is that we’re unable to provide you with direct links to each individual product. So, first, you will want to register for a free Wellevate account. Once inside, type the name of your desired product in the search box, add it to your online cart and 20% off will automatically be applied to your account for all orders.
We will also be providing links to Amazon since many people are more familiar and comfortable with Amazon. However, we encourage you to compare prices and see what works best for you.
(Usual disclaimer: FWDfuel Sports Nutrition is a participant in the Emerson Wellevate Associates Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)
Top-Rated Probiotic for the Active Individuals Without Gut Issues
Alright, so maybe your health is excellent but you’re interested in incorporating a probiotic to maintain optimal health and reach peak performance.
Although, first let me say that in terms of fostering pristine gut health, (gut health = the microbiome, or community of bugs that live within your intestinal tract), nothing will ever replace a high-quality diet. Specifically, a diverse diet full of fiber-rich foods, otherwise known as prebiotics.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that serve as food for the probiotics, or “good” bacteria that reside in your gut. Think of it this way, humans cannot grow and thrive without adequate nutrition and the same can be said for the bugs inside your gut. In order to keep the right balance of good bugs, premium fuel is required! Some of the best forms of prebiotic-rich foods include onion, garlic, leeks, bananas, Jerusalem Artichoke, asparagus, oats and apples.
Assuming your diet is full of wonderful prebiotics, the next step is to look for a multi-strain probiotic. Remember, more diverse gut bacteria amounts to better immune health.
After you find multiple strains on your probiotic label (at least 5 but 10-12 would be ideal), make sure that you are able to see genus and species as well. For example, if you see Lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus is the genus and rhamnosus is the species.
Next, look at the colony-forming units or (CFUs). Your healthcare provider will be able to provide you with specific direction but generally speaking, going too low in CFUs may provide you with minimal results and going too high may end up being a big waste of money. Most healthy individuals do very well with approximately 25 billion CFU’s each day.
And lastly, you will want to make sure you are purchasing a highly reputable brand.
How do you know what brand to trust? Luckily that is what we are here for! My absolute favorite multi-strain probiotic for the healthy individual is Therbiotic Complete by Klaire Labs. You will find that it contains 12 different strains, 25 billion CFUs and is made by one of the most trusted companies on the market.
Top-Rated Probiotic for the Explosive Athlete
Yes, believe it or not, there is a bit of research available on the most beneficial probiotic strains for athletes who require short bursts of speed and explosion in order to excel in their sport (think baseball, volleyball, sprinters etc.).
Research has shown that Bacillus subtilis has the ability to improve recovery and body composition in baseball players and volleyball players respectively. While we could certainly benefit from more research in this area, the information we do have is very promising.
Many experts believe that incorporating a soil based probiotic is one of the best ways to achieve gut health that is more similar to that of our ancestors.
Soil-based probiotics contain protective coatings that allow the bacteria to flourish once it reaches the warm moist environment of our intestines. [1,2]
The spores are resistant to extremes of heat, ultraviolet radiation, solvents, hydrogen peroxide, and enzymes.  Therefore, some scientists believe
Top Rated Probiotics for the Athlete with IBS
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a very, very common disorder affecting the large intestine. Symptoms include abdominal cramping, constipation, gas, diarrhea and sometimes food particles or mucous will be found in the stool.
IBS is hands down the most common condition I witness in active individuals. It does not matter if I am seeing a weekend warrior trying to juggle family, work, and training sessions or if it is the high school, college or professional athlete eating junk and only sleeping 5 hours a night in order to find “balance”- everyone seems to have some form of the condition.
Many athletes develop IBS or IBS like symptoms due to the nature of their sport and travel schedule. Diet is often less than ideal and stress is sometimes just a byproduct of the culture of the sport.
The craziest part about IBS is that so many people living with these symptoms think it is “normal” to feel this way because their gut has been so funky for so long! And what kills me the most is that their physicians often tell them “There is not much you can do about this. It’s probably just genetic so why don’t you give this prescription a try.”
Is the medication going to fix the cause of the problem?
Speaking of stress, I can feel it coming on as I write this…
Anyway, after working with a skilled registered dietitian and tweaking lifestyle factors- mainly diet and stress- adding the right strain of probiotic can help tremendously when it comes to controlling IBS symptoms. We want to try and rebalance the bacteria in the gut as best as we can.
The research points heavily to S. boulardii as the yeast strain famous for combating the symptoms of IBS, particularly diarrhea.[3,4,5] There was also a great study in 2009 that showed L. acidophilus CUL 21 and CUL 60, B.bifidum CUL 20 and B.lactis CUL 34 improved the total IBS symptoms and overall quality of life in 52 individuals.
My recommendation for a S. boulardii specific supplement is Thorne Sacro-B 60 (Wellevate only, not available on Amazon). For a great multi-strain probiotic which includes S. boulardii, Douglas Laboratories Multi Probiotic 40 billion (Amazon) (Check Wellevate for best price) is an amazing choice.
Top-Rated Probiotics for The Endurance Athlete with Gut Issues
Nothing is more annoying than experiencing persistent gut issues when you are training or recovering after a competition.
In my experience as a sports dietitian, my endurance athletes tend to have the worst gastrointestinal symptoms. The constant jarring of the gut from long training sessions can disturb the gut performance after a while.
And when your stomach is giving you a hard time day after day, how can you possibly train to your fullest capability?!
While there are many facets to improving gut health (sleep, nutrition etc.), the one thing most athletes don’t think to include is a probiotic!
A 2007 study showed that the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (L.GG) strain shortened the duration of gastrointestinal symptom episodes by 33% during training and by 57% during the 2 weeks after marathon racing.
When incorporated with proper diet, hydration, rest and recovery, the addition of L.GG for a minimum of 3 months before your next big race or competition could be a game changer. My favorite brand of this strain is Culturelle Health and Wellness (Amazon) (Check Wellevate for best price). Sometimes this item can be found at your local grocery store but definitely price shop.
Posts related to our Probiotic Supplement Guide:
- The Top Nutritional Supplement Brands in the World
- Best Time to Take Probiotics and 5 Crucial Tips for Success
- Best Probiotics Strains- Top Probiotic Strains to Include in Your Diet
- The Ultimate Guide for Athletes with Food Allergies
- 25 Best Prebiotic Foods & Supplements
Top Rated Probiotics for the Athlete with Poor Immune Health
Are you that person that is sick all winter long, no matter what measures you take for prevention?! Do you feel like your cold, flu etc. lasts longer than it does for others?
Are you the one who is always sick or injured on your team? You seem to catch whatever is going around no matter how far you distance yourself.
Unfortunately, my friend, that is a sign that your immune health is suffering.
First and foremost, you should focus on eating fresh, whole food. Try to minimize packaged foods as much as possible. Stay hydrated. Sleep at least 7 hours a day. Enjoy a TBSP or two of fermented foods each day. Stay consistent with your daily multivitamin (For the record, my all-time favorite is O.N.E. by Pure Encapsulations (Amazon) (Check Wellevate for best price))
These are the core steps to getting your immune health back. Once you’ve laid the foundation, then it can be very beneficial to incorporate a multi-strain probiotic. A professional grade, multi-strain probiotic can help to restore the balance of your gut bacteria and can also improve intestinal permeability.[8,9,10] My favorite of all time is Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete (Amazon) (Check Wellevate for best price).
Top Rated Probiotics for the Athlete with SIBO
If you’ve been diagnosed with SIBO, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, a daily probiotic might be beneficial when working to control any unpleasant symptoms. Now, as you might have guessed, working closely with your healthcare provider is critical to your long-term success and significant diet changes will likely need to be made. Just popping a probiotic will not do the trick. Everyone’s health status, symptoms, and training demands are very different and in some cases, a probiotic may worsen your symptoms.
However, I am here to help provide a little bit of direction as the information available can be extremely overwhelming and most individuals would, in fact, benefit from a probiotic. The right probiotic can essentially crowd out the “bad” bacteria that has overgrown and help your body repopulate with the “good”.
In combination with the right nutrition approach, here are my top 3 recommendations for a FODMAP friendly probiotic include:
- UltraFlora IB by Metagenics
- Probiotic Supreme or Probiotic Synergy, both made by Designs for Health
- LactoPrime Plus made by Klaire Labs
Be sure to check out Wellevate for the best price on all 3 of these as well as free shipping over $49 as a thank you for supporting our blog.
Lastly, if you are looking for extra support while following a low FODMAP diet approach to fight SIBO, check out our posts on The Low FODMAP Diet for Athletes and the Top 3 Pitfalls to Avoid on the Low FODMAP Diet Plan.
Top Rated Probiotics for the Athlete with Recurrent UTIs
There is nothing more frustrating than repeat urinary tract infections (UTIs)! The worst part? An antibiotic is typically prescribed to help tackle the bacteria. While this may be helpful short term solution, sometimes the long term complications of repeat antibiotic use can be worse than the reason you took the antibiotic in the first place.
It is important to note that risk for a UTI increases with age and sexual activity, however, new research is suggesting that Lactobacillus species may be useful when it comes to preventing your next UTI.
Why Would Probiotics Decrease the Risk for a UTI?
Here is the thought process:
If one is able to introduce beneficial bacteria to the vagina by means of a probiotic, the colonization of “bad” bacteria is prevented and therefore prevents the spread of these bad guys into the urinary tract.
A vaginal microbiome ( the colony of bacteria inside the vagina) is healthiest when it is acidic. It is believed that certain Lactobacillus strains produce H20, thereby promoting a more acidic environment.[11,12]
While the current research is limited and a bit conflicting, the majority of information available suggests that probiotics can be beneficial for preventing UTIs. It has not been proven if probiotics can actually be used to treat a UTI, but prevention is key and the research looks promising.
Top Rated Probiotics for the Athlete with Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a crazy little fungus that lives inside all of us. Most of us would never know one way or the other that it’s hanging out in our skin, mouth, vagina, and intestines. However, for those of you reading this who have suffered from candida overgrowth, you know how aggravating it can be.
The constant bloating, feeling of fatigue, sugar cravings, and itchy butt are some of the most common symptoms to name a few. By the way, if this sounds familiar, you may want to read our posts The Ultimate Candida overgrowth Diet Plan and 7 Essential Tips for Success on an Anti-Candida Diet.
Candida overgrowth can take over your immune health like an excess of weeds that pop up throughout a beautifully groomed garden. Stress, crummy diet, and antibiotics are some of the most common reasons this occurs.
If you are suffering from candida overgrowth, please find a qualified health care provider to help you address this issue. Proper diet and supplementation will be your first steps to healing.
I would also highly recommend a probiotic compromised of the bacteria known as S.boulardii. It is actually a yeast, but research has shown its ability to reduce fungal infections such as candida overgrowth. In fact, one study showed that S. Boulardii was just as effective as nystatin, a powerful anti-fungal prescription medication, in reducing fungal infections and invasive colonization.
Top Rated Probiotics for Children
Are probiotics safe for children? It’s a common question and fortunately, the research is very clear.
Probiotics are definitely safe for children, even infants for that matter but caution is advised in immunologically vulnerable populations.
As mentioned at the start of this article, strain, dose, frequency etc. should be tailored to the individual, especially if they have a specific symptom/disease state. Check with your healthcare provider to help determine if this is a good route for your child.
However, I can certainly present you with research to help guide you during your visit with your healthcare provider.
Top Rated Probiotic for the Young Athlete in Need of Microbiome Support
While there will never be a replacement for a whole food diet, low in added sugar, a multi-strain probiotic may be beneficial for the picky child who is only open to eating a few foods, mostly processed, with limited fruit and vegetable intake.
Remember, the vast majority of our immune system lives in our gut. There is an ecosystem of bacteria residing within our gastrointestinal tract. The goal is to have a nice balance of bacteria. The more variety of bugs, the better. When an individual eats a very limited diet, the end result is typically a microbiome that is a bit off-balanced with minimal bacterial variance.
One way to help support a child’s microbiome is to include a probiotic that contains the L. rahmnosus GG and L. salivarius strains. Research has linked these strains to improved bacterial ratios and increased secretory IgA levels. Secretory IgA is the first line of defense against potential food allergens, toxins and pathogens.[15,16].
Top Rated Probiotic For the Young Athlete with Diarrhea
Diarrhea. Is. The. Worst. And it is especially a problem when a young athlete experiences diarrhea on a routine basis as dehydration can lead to suboptimal energy levels and performance.
There are many reasons a child or adolescent may experience bowel distress in the form of diarrhea. It can be acute as a result of a virus or infection. Diarrhea can occur after antibiotic use, poor dietary choices or undiagnosed food sensitivities, food poisoning etc.
The research is quite strong in regards to S. boulardii and its ability to tackle diarrhea.[17,18,19, 20], even with antibiotic-associated diarrhea. There is research to support the use of B. lactis strain for diarrhea during hospital stays, L. rhamnosus to help resolve diarrhea and decrease intestinal permeability (which reduces the frequency of future diarrhea episodes), and L. acidophilus and B. longum strains when diarrhea and vomiting is a result of Rotovirus.[22,24]
My favorite brand of S.boulardi for children is Florastor Kids (only available on Amazon)and if you are looking for multi-strain blend that includes L. rhamnosus, B. lactis, B. longum and L. acidopholus as mentioned above, I would suggest Complete Probiotic Powder for Kids (Amazon) by Dr. Mercola. Be sure to compare pricing with Wellevate.
Top Rated Probiotic for the Young Athlete with Eczema
It blows my mind how many young children are walking around covered in eczema. What is even more shocking is how many physicians and even worse, dermatologists tell the family that nothing can be done other than the ordering of a prescription. “It’s very common for children to experience skin conditions and it is also totally normal. Nothing to worry about.”
Common, yes? Normal, NO!
The immune system is not happy about something and we need to do a bit of rebalancing. The coolest part though? There is a solid amount of research available regarding eczema and probiotic use.
When digging into the evidence, you will find that the L. rahmnosus GG and B. lactis strains take the lead across the board when it comes to decreasing the severity and sometimes even resolving eczema in children.[25,26,27,28,29,30,31] My favorite in this category is Nordic Naturals Kids Probiotic Pixies (Amazon) (Check Wellevate for best price). Awesome berry flavored packets that contain a blend of both strains? Don’t mind if I do!
I’d like to mention one last point from my experience as a clinician. I have only seen eczema resolve with probiotics AND diet change. Sometimes we go as far as utilizing food sensitivity testing but usually, we just focus on removing the the most common food allergens (dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanut) along with the right probiotic, and progress is made.
In summary, probiotics can benefit a wide array of individuals. When supervised, and combined with an unprocessed eating regimen, the right probiotic routine can be a game changer when it comes to long-term health!
- FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology, Volume 53, Issue 1, 1 June 2008, Pages 107–113, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-695X.2008.00413.x
- Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 52, Issue 10, 15 May 2011, Pages 1212–1217,https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cir183
- Reid, G. & Bruce, A.W. World J Urol (2006) 24: 28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-005-0043-1
- Eur J Pediatr. 2013 Oct;172(10):1321-6. doi: 10.1007/s00431-013-2041-4. Epub 2013 May 24.