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Last updated: December 3, 2020

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Do you often suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or flatulence? Are you interested in naturally caring for your intestinal health? Then probiotics and prebiotics should abound in your diet. These nutraceuticals balance the intestinal flora while strengthening the immune system, lowering blood cholesterol, and preventing osteoporosis.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that colonize and have a positive effect on the microbiota in the colon. At the same time, prebiotics are indigestible compounds that serve as food for the good bacteria in the gut. Are you ready to learn everything there is to know about probiotics and prebiotics?

Key Facts

  • Probiotics are microorganisms – mainly bacteria – that have a positive influence on the bacterial flora of the colon. Prebiotics are indigestible plant substances that stimulate the growth of bacteria that form part of the healthy intestinal flora.
  • The benefits of probiotics and prebiotics go well beyond the gut. They improve the functioning of the immune system, reduce blood cholesterol, increase calcium absorption, promote lactose digestion, and mitigate diarrhea from antibiotics and rotavirus.
  • Probiotics and prebiotics can be obtained from conventional foods or supplements. There are various criteria that you should take into account when purchasing the latter, which include their dosage and your dietary restrictions, among others.

Our Selection: The Best Probiotics & Prebiotics Supplements on the Canadian Market

Experts have been vocal about the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics for years now, which is why the production of these supplements has grown significantly. Unfortunately, not all products meet the quality and concentration of active ingredients required to improve health. In the section below, you will find our selection of the best probiotics and prebiotics currently available out there:

Best Prebiotic Powder

This is the product you need if you’re looking for a prebiotic supplement to support your gut bacteria. Certified organic by the USDA, this powder is also free of gluten, soy, and dairy. Each serving of one scoop (7 grams) will provide you with a powerful prebiotic fiber blend from acacia, artichoke, and green banana. This powder is also vegan-friendly.

The food-based ingredients in this complete prebiotic complex have been clinically shown to reinforce your gut barrier by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing gut permeability.

Best Probiotics Supplement for Women

Being a modern-day woman can be tough, with busy lifestyles often leaving little time for self-care. The very first victim is your health. Did you know that an overwhelming majority of women in Canada don’t meet their daily nutrient and fibre requirements! This leads to a number of avoidable health issues like indigestion, low energy and immunity, hormonal imbalance etc.

Therefore, these one per day, shelf-stable probiotic 50 are designed specifically for women. Delivering 15 studied strains in a strength of 50 billion! Giving your digestive system a pure Canadian made digestive supporting 50 billion bacteria daily support.

Best Probiotic Supplement for Kids

This manufacturer provides 42 billion CFU per capsule, in this formula suitable for kids. With 4 human-compatible probiotic strains for action along the entire extension of the GI tract. They have added a 5% chicory inulin (prebiotic) to nourish the growth of the probiotic microorganisms and enhance their effects.

With targeted delivery with vegetarian DRcaps so they do the job where they are needed. And more importantly, these capsules are 100 percent vegan friendly.

Best Synbiotic Supplement

If you’re looking to combine the power of prebiotics and probiotics in a single supplement, this product by Dr. Tobias is an excellent option. This bottle will give you a 2 month of supply with 1 capsule per serving. These non-GMO supplements provide 30 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) of probiotics, with added prebiotics to boost their efficacy. This is the ultimate blend for healthy digestion.

Good health is all about good balance. That’s why they have formulated this product with a variety of good bacteria to keep your gut supported. This product is also gluten and lactose-free and non-GMO.

Best Probiotic Supplement

Sometimes probiotics are all you need to improve your health. If that’s your case, this is a potent product that contains 50 billion CFUs per serving of 1 veggie capsule. This gluten-free supplement is a blend of 11 strains of probiotics to truly contribute to your intestinal health. The capsules also include added organic prebiotic fiber to boost probiotic activity in your gut. Besides, they are made by a very well known, best-selling American brand.

Its patented delayed release technology protects each capsule from stomach acid to help ensure the probiotics are delivered to your intestines alive. The product does not contain any soy, sugar, gluten, eggs, yeast, animal derivatives, flavors or preservatives.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Probiotics & Prebiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics are generally safe for health and have very few contraindications. However, knowing what they are used for and how to manage your intake is essential. In the section below, we will delve into their benefits and characteristics, while answering the most frequently asked questions regarding these supplements.

Woman eating yogurt

Probiotics are microorganisms that exert a beneficial effect on the bacterial flora of the colon.
(Source: Suria: 112409558/ 123rf.com)

What are probiotics and prebiotics exactly?

These two concepts are closely related. Probiotics are living microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that can modify the gut flora and contribute to the overall health of the consumer when taken daily and in adequate doses. Lactobacilli and bifidobacterium are the most studied and used probiotics (1, 2).

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are basically the substrate for beneficial bacteria in the gut and stimulate the growth of these microorganisms. These compounds come from plants, are indigestible, and can be fermented by the bacteria that form the normal intestinal flora. Inulin is the most common prebiotic in supplements (2, 3).

What are the characteristics of probiotics and prebiotics?

Not all microorganisms can be used as probiotics, nor does every fermentable substance act as a prebiotic. They have to meet a certain number of criteria to be suitable for human consumption and to be used for preventive or therapeutic purposes. We have listed them below (1, 4, 5):

Criteria for probiotics

  1. Lack of virulence; in other words, they shouldn’t cause disease in an immunocompetent person.
  2. They should resist gastric juices and stomach acids to reach the colon intact.
  3. They must form part of the normal human bacterial flora.
  4. Once added to a food (such as yogurt) or a supplement, they must remain viable.

Criteria for prebiotics

  1. They must be natural compounds of vegetal origin.
  2. The enzymes of the foregut (in the mouth, stomach, or duodenum) shouldn’t digest them.
  3. They must reach the colon almost intact.
  4. Bacteria in the colon should be able to ferment them.

What are the most commonly used probiotics in supplements?

These supplements consist of probiotics that are safe for health and whose effects in humans have been thoroughly studied. The most frequently used probiotics are harmless strains of Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus (1, 2, 5).

Erin Palinski-WadeRegistered Dietitian
“When it comes to probiotics, different strains of bacterial do different things. To prevent strep throat, there is one particular bacteria strain that may be most effective. S. salivarius K12 is the bacteria strain that has been found in research to be protective against strep throat infections.”

What are the most beneficial types of prebiotics?

The prebiotics that offer the greatest benefits by improving the integrity of the mucous membrane of the colon and promoting the development of normal bacterial flora are fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), inulin, oligofructose, pectin, soy oligosaccharides, and beta-glucans (2, 4).

How do humans benefit from probiotics?

While the mucous membrane and microbiota of the colon are the first direct beneficiaries of probiotics, the advantages of these supplements are much broader. These harmless bacteria and yeasts also provide the following positive effects:

  • They balance the intestinal flora. Both harmless and pathogenic bacteria inhabit the colon; the latter proliferate and cause disease when an imbalance occurs. Probiotics compete with pathogenic microorganisms for nutrients and other resources while inhibiting their proliferation. They also promote the growth of good bacteria (1, 6).
  • They help treat and prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Long-term consumption of antibiotics destroys healthy intestinal flora, causes imbalances, and leads to diarrhea. In these cases, probiotics prevent acute diarrhea or shorten its duration. They are also useful in treating traveler’s diarrhea and rotavirus (7).
  • They regulate the intestinal transit. Just like they can treat or prevent some instances of diarrhea, probiotics normalize the rhythm of bowel movement and help avoid constipation (8).
  • They improve lactose digestion. The probiotic Streptococcus thermophilus helps digest lactose and mitigates flatulence, diarrhea, and bloating in intolerant individuals (1).
  • They protect the integrity of the intestinal barrier. Probiotics prevent pathogens from adhering to the epithelium, proliferating, and causing disease. By keeping the intestinal mucosa healthy, they also stop harmful microorganisms from entering the blood (1).
  • They strengthen the immune system in general. Probiotics not only keep your intestine healthy, but they also stimulate immunity in your entire body. These microorganisms are also used in cancer prevention and the reduction of allergy symptoms and contribute to the treatment to eradicate Helicobacter pylori (6).
  • They reduce inflammation and may help treat ulcerative colitis. This is directly linked to the maintenance and restoration of the integrity of the intestinal mucosa. While these results are promising, the effectiveness of probiotics in improving the quality of life of patients with ulcerative colitis still needs to be further studied (1, 9).

What are the advantages of prebiotics?

Prebiotics are fermented by bacteria in the colon and provide a number of benefits to your health. You can learn more about their properties below:

  • They stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine (especially bifidobacteria) (4).
  • They serve as a substrate for the colonocytes, which are cells of the intestinal mucosa. This also contributes to the maintenance of the integrity of the mucosa of the colon (4).
  • They reduce blood cholesterol levels by favoring its elimination by fecal matter (8, 10).
  • Oligrofructose improves insulin sensitivity and prevents blood glucose peaks (11).
  • They boost the absorption of calcium and magnesium at the intestinal level, which contributes to bone health (4, 8).
  • They can treat and prevent constipation by increasing stool weight (4).

Yogurt with fruits and nuts

Probiotics and prebiotics can be found in conventional foods or supplements.
(Source: Štpánek: 41571287/ 123rf.com)

When are probiotics and prebiotics recommended?

If you want to improve your health with these supplements, you should take them in adequate doses and on a regular basis (1, 12). Called synbiotics, blends of probiotics and prebiotics are recommended to prevent and/or treat the following conditions:

  • Acute diarrhea caused by antibiotics;
  • Traveler’s diarrhea;
  • Rotavirus diarrhea;
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon);
  • Lactose intolerance;
  • Ulcerative colitis;
  • Constipation;
  • Hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol);
  • Allergies.

What types of probiotic and prebiotic supplements are there?

A healthy adult who consumes food sources of probiotics and prebiotics won’t need to ingest these types of dietary products. However, you could improve your intestinal and overall health if you are in one of the situations mentioned above by using the following supplements:

  • Pure probiotics: Generally consisting of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, they are marketed in the form of capsules, tablets, and gummies. Pure probiotics provide 30 to 40 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) per serving. This value indicates the number of bacteria present in a given dose.
  • Pure prebiotics: Inulin is the primary component, with oat fiber and soybean oligosaccharides also common. They come in tablets or powder form. Inulin has a sweet and mild taste. You are usually advised to take 10 to 12 grams of prebiotics per day.
  • Synbiotics: These supplements are the best option as they combine probiotics and prebiotics. Therefore, the same product provides the beneficial microorganisms and the substrate needed by these bacteria and/or yeasts to multiply and exert their positive effect in the gut. They are sold as capsules or tablets (5).
Did you know that breast milk is a source of prebiotics? The oligosaccharides in human milk stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in babies’ intestines.

What are the food sources of probiotics and prebiotics?

As we mentioned earlier, both probiotics and prebiotics can be obtained from your regular diet. All prebiotics are suitable for vegans because they come from plant sources or breast milk. Probiotics, on the other hand, can be found in animal products as well as vegan-friendly foods (1, 4, 8).

Sources of probiotics Sources of prebiotics
Yogurt
Kefir
Kombucha (vegan)
Fermented soybean: miso, tempeh, natto (vegan)
Sauerkraut (vegan)
Pickles in brine (vegan)
Breast milk
Oats
Artichoke
Soy
Chicory
Onion
Garlic
Beet
Asparagus
Banana

What are the side effects and contraindications of these supplements?

Excessive intake of prebiotics can cause flatulence and diarrhea. Infections are rare with probiotics, having only been reported in immunosuppressed people – such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or a recent transplant. Probiotics are not recommended when your defenses are low (2, 4, 12).

Kefir

All prebiotics are suitable for vegans because they come from plant sources or breast milk.
(Source: Joannawnuk: 55105158/ 123rf.com)

Buyer’s Guide

While probiotics and prebiotics belong to the group of supplements called “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), you have to factor in various aspects before opting for a specific product (12). In the following section, we will delve into the primary shopping criteria that can help you make a successful purchase:

Type of Probiotic & Prebiotic

As we explained, inulin is the most widely used prebiotic in supplements; it is generally obtained from chicory root. Fructooligosaccharides (from the degradation of inulin), oat fiber, and soy oligosaccharides are also widely used in food supplements and are highly effective.

Choosing the right type of probiotic is essential to reaching your supplementation goals. If you want to balance the intestinal flora and increase your defenses, you can opt for a blend of different strains. If you aim to improve lactose digestion or treat diarrhea, you will want to choose a specific probiotic (6, 12):

Goal Recommended probiotic
To prevent or shorten the duration of acute diarrhea caused by antibiotics: Blend of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii (yeast)
To improve lactose digestion: Streptococcus thermophilus
To mitigate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon): Bifidobacterium lactis HN019
To relieve the symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy:  Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12
To reduce the duration of rotavirus diarrhea in children:  Lactobacillus reuteri SD2112, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Lactobacillus casei Shirota

Dose

It is essential that you take the appropriate doses of probiotics and prebiotics for them to have a positive impact on your health. For prebiotics, you can take doses of 10-12 grams per day. Each serving of probiotics, on the other hand, should give you between 100 million and 1 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) (1, 12).

Oatmeal with fruits

Probiotics and prebiotics are substances present in conventional foods and that can truly contribute to intestinal and general health.
(Source: Hofacker: 38372481/ 123rf.com)

Dosage Form

These supplements generally come in the form of capsules and tablets. Synbiotics are your best option since these products combine both probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are available in fruit-flavored gummies too, making it easier for specific population groups to ingest. The prebiotic inulin can be consumed as a powder, dissolved in water or juice.

Suitability for Vegans

Probiotic and prebiotic food supplements are often suitable for vegans, as their ingredients are of plant or synthetic origin. You will rarely find animal-based compounds in them. If you opt for capsules, don’t forget to check the nutrition label to make sure that the capsule material is hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (plant cellulose).

Nutritional Information

The label of any probiotic, prebiotic, or synbiotic supplement should provide more information than simply the ingredients and recommended dosage. In the case of probiotics, the genus, species, and strain should also be specified. In addition, you should find the number of CFUs per serving, the shelf life of the product, as well as storage recommendations (12).

Summary

Probiotics and prebiotics are substances that are found in conventional foods and that can significantly contribute to intestinal and general health if taken daily and in the right doses. They help shorten episodes of acute diarrhea, lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation in the gut, and increase calcium absorption.

Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that promote the balance of the flora in the colon, while prebiotics provide the substrate for these microorganisms to develop. Blends of probiotics and prebiotics are called synbiotics. They are marketed in the form of tablets or capsules; these products are considered to be safe for health.

Did you find our shopping guide helpful and interesting? Feel free to leave us a comment in the section below, and don’t forget to share this article on your social media!

(Featured Image Source: Kriger: 40950433/ 123rf.com)

References (12)

1. Garrote A, Bonet R. Probióticos [Internet]. 2017.
Source

2. Olveira Fuster G, González Molero I. Probióticos y prebióticos en la práctica clínica [Internet]. 2007.
Source

3. Álvarez Calatayud G, Azpiroz F. Empleo de probióticos y prebióticos en atención primaria [Internet]. 2015.
Source

4. Castañeda Guillot C. Actualización en prebióticos [Internet]. 2018.
Source

5. De las Cagigas Reig A, Blanco Anesto J. Prebióticos y Probióticos, una Relación Beneficiosa [Internet]. 2002.
Source

6. Castro L, de Rovetto C. Probióticos: utilidad clínica [Internet]. 2006.
Source

7. Pérez C. Probióticos en la diarrea aguda y asociada al uso de antibióticos en pediatría [Internet]. 2015.
Source

8. Gimeno Creus E. Alimentos prebióticos y probióticos [Internet]. 2004.
Source

9. Van der Waal et al. Probiotics for improving quality of life in ulcerative colitis: Exploring the patient perspective [Internet]. 2019.
Source

10. Marti del Moral A, Moreno Aliaga M, Alfredo Martínez J. Efecto de los prebióticos sobre el metabolismo lipídico [Internet]. 2003.
Source

11. Lightowler H, Thondre S, Holz A, Theis S. Replacement of glycaemic carbohydrates by inulin-type fructans from chicory (oligofructose, inulin) reduces the postprandial blood glucose and insulin response to foods: report of two double-blind, randomized, controlled trials [Internet]. 2017.
Source

12. Sanz Y, Collado M, Dalmau J. Probióticos: criterios de Probióticos: criterios de calidad y orientaciones calidad y orientaciones para el consumo [Internet]. 2003.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Informative article
Garrote A, Bonet R. Probióticos [Internet]. 2017.
Go to source
Scientific article
Olveira Fuster G, González Molero I. Probióticos y prebióticos en la práctica clínica [Internet]. 2007.
Go to source
Scientific article
Álvarez Calatayud G, Azpiroz F. Empleo de probióticos y prebióticos en atención primaria [Internet]. 2015.
Go to source
Scientific article
Castañeda Guillot C. Actualización en prebióticos [Internet]. 2018.
Go to source
Scientific article
De las Cagigas Reig A, Blanco Anesto J. Prebióticos y Probióticos, una Relación Beneficiosa [Internet]. 2002.
Go to source
Scientific article
Castro L, de Rovetto C. Probióticos: utilidad clínica [Internet]. 2006.
Go to source
Scientific article
Pérez C. Probióticos en la diarrea aguda y asociada al uso de antibióticos en pediatría [Internet]. 2015.
Go to source
Scientific article
Gimeno Creus E. Alimentos prebióticos y probióticos [Internet]. 2004.
Go to source
Scientific article
Van der Waal et al. Probiotics for improving quality of life in ulcerative colitis: Exploring the patient perspective [Internet]. 2019.
Go to source
Scientific article
Marti del Moral A, Moreno Aliaga M, Alfredo Martínez J. Efecto de los prebióticos sobre el metabolismo lipídico [Internet]. 2003.
Go to source
Scientific article
Lightowler H, Thondre S, Holz A, Theis S. Replacement of glycaemic carbohydrates by inulin-type fructans from chicory (oligofructose, inulin) reduces the postprandial blood glucose and insulin response to foods: report of two double-blind, randomized, controlled trials [Internet]. 2017.
Go to source
Scientific article
Sanz Y, Collado M, Dalmau J. Probióticos: criterios de Probióticos: criterios de calidad y orientaciones calidad y orientaciones para el consumo [Internet]. 2003.
Go to source
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