Probiotics may seem like a trendy wellness topic, but for good reason.
These tiny live bacteria are essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system and come with various other health advantages from improved immunity to mental health benefits.
Since digestive health and weight regulation are interconnected, this has led many to wonder if probiotics can promote weight loss.
We can consume probiotics from food or we can use supplements to support probiotic intake. If you’re looking to lose weight, probiotics will not serve as a magic bullet, but they may be helpful to take alongside a healthy diet and physical activity routine.
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Probiotic Supplements for Weight Loss
There are a few things to consider when purchasing probiotics and when searching for probiotics that support weight loss. We’ll go more into detail on these later.
- Colony forming units (CFU): This is the unit of measurement used to describe the quantity of bacteria in a probiotic supplement, and no, a higher CFU does not always mean a better product.
- Strain(s): There are hundreds of probiotic strains out there. The number of strains varies by supplement. Some will choose to combine 10–15 strains whereas some may use just one.
- Price: Probiotic supplements are not necessarily cheap. However, many brands offer discounts with a subscription.
- Delivery method:This simply means what form the supplement comes in. Probiotics may be sold as capsules, powders, or chewables.
- Dietary preferences: Depending on how they are manufactured, probiotics may or may not align with certain diets such as gluten-free or vegan. If this is an important factor in choosing the right supplement, make sure to always check the label.
- Storage information: Many probiotic supplements are shelf stable, but are just required to be kept in a cool, dry place, not unlike most supplements. However, since they are live bacteria, some brands are meant to be kept refrigerated.
Elm and Rye is a brand focused on using quality ingredients to benefit various health concerns. The site offers a quiz to help you find your perfect supplement routine and bundles for the best prices.
- Strain(s): L. acidophilus
- Buyers can choose between capsules or gummies
- Subscribe and save 25%
This is a great option for those who want to choose between a capsule or gummy. However, this product description does not list CFU content.
Culturelle is a recognizable brand that has excellent reviews for its products. Strains used in their products are clinically tested and offer several products for different health concerns.
- Strain(s): L. rhamnosus, B. lactis CECT 8145
- Additionally contains vitamins B6 and B12
- CFU: 12 billion
- Shelf stable
Culturelle products can be bought at physical drug stores as well as online. It is a cost-effective option for those looking to take probiotics for weight loss.
For 30 years, Metagenics has provided high-quality supplements and disseminated evidence-backed health and lifestyle information. The “control” line of probiotics uses a strain of bacteria that specifically targets weight regulation. Metagenics products are only sold through the Metagenics portal, which you will need to make an account for to complete your purchase.
- Strain(s): B. lactis B-420
- CFU: 10 billion
- Shelf stable
- $45.50 ($1.52/serving) (30 servings/container)
- 10% savings on subscriptions
Metagenics UltraFlora Control is a good option for those wanting to specifically target weight loss.
Flora Vantage Control is similar to UltraFlora Control in that it contains the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium lactis B-420. The bottle contains 30 capsules and dosage instructions are to take one daily.
- Strain(s): B. lactis
- CFU: 10 billion
- Storage: Shelf stable, but needs to be stored at a temperature less than 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit)
- Gluten free
- $44.50 for a one-time purchase
- $120.15 for 3 units every 3 months
- $84.56 for 2 units every 2 months
- $44.50 for 1 unit every month
If you’re after a probiotic that specifically targets weight loss, Flora Vantage Control may also be a good choice.
Probulin is committed to furthering probiotic use among the public. They offer various products with a focus on evidence-based supplements.
- Strain(s): L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. bulgaris, L. fermentum, L. helveticus, L. brevis, L. salivarius, L. rhamnosus, B. lactis, B. bifidum, and B. longum
- CFU: 20 billion
- Also contains African mango extract for weight regulation and ashwagandha for stress reduction
- Contains probiotics and prebiotics
- $69.99 (for 60 capsules)
- Subscribe and save 25% on your first order
This product is a good option for those looking for a multi-strain reliable probiotic focused on promoting weight loss.
This probiotic supplement comes in a sachet of unflavored powder that can be mixed into any unheated liquid. Mixing the supplement with hot tea, for example, may kill the bacteria intended to reach your gut. Garden of Life is a company focused on organic products, sustainability, and giving back.
- Strain(s): L. gasseri, L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. brevis, L. casei, L. paracasei, L. plantarum, L. salivarius, L. bulgarius, B. lactis, B. bifidum, B. breve, B. infantis, and B. longum
- CFU: 50 billion
- USDA organic
- $40.79 (for 20 packets)
For someone that doesn’t enjoy swallowing pills yet prefers a supplement with no flavorings or additives, Dr. Formulated Fitbiotics may be a good choice for you.
This synbiotic is not specifically formulated for weight loss, but may improve overall health. Seed’s motto is “not all probiotics are created equal,” and the company regards their products very highly. It’s important to note, buyers must purchase a subscription to buy these supplements.
- 53.6 billion AFU (Active Fluorescent Units)
- 30-day risk-free guarantee
- $49.99/month subscription
If you’re wanting to commit to a steady probiotic routine for overall health benefits, this could be the probiotic for you. The company itself is adamant regarding sharing science-backed information and sustainability practices, so that may also be a draw to some.
This synbiotic powder can be added to water for a once daily dose, or even blended into smoothies or oatmeal. Ora Organics is focused on plant-based nutrition and transparent ingredients.
- Strain(s): L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, B. lactis, L. reuteri, B. bifidum, B. breve, B. longum
- CFU: 20 billion
- Shelf stable
- Contains prebiotics
- Subscription offered
- $34.99 (30 servings)
- Get 25% off first order
This is a nice vegan supplement for those that appreciate a flavored powder to add to water or other cold liquids.
In addition to promoting gastrointestinal health, this product also aids respiratory health. Genestra brands fall under the Seroyal umbrella, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to creating supplements for a holistic approach to health.
- Strain(s): L. acidophilus, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, B. animalis subsp. lactis, and B. bifidum
- CFU: 50 billion
- $58.60 (30 capsules)
This is a good product with multiple health benefits which may lead to weight loss. However, this product does require refrigeration.
NewChapter has been formulating high quality supplements since 1982. This product contains the probiotic strain that has been clinically tested for weight reduction.
- Strain(s): B. Lactis B420
- 10 billion CFU
- Save 15% with a subscription
This supplement is a vegan option for those looking to use this specific strain to target weight loss.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Probiotic Supplements
Dietary supplements are regulated but not approved by the FDA in the United States, so if any supplement claims to be FDA-approved, that is not the case. However, many products are third-party certified, meaning this product has also been tested for safety and efficacy by an independent company rather than just the manufacturers. Look for a certification seal to deduce if a supplement is third-party certified. For more information on how to know if a supplement is trustworthy, check out this article by a registered dietician (RD).
Colony forming units (CFU) are the amount of live or active bacteria in a supplement. They are typically measured in CFUs per milliliter. Probiotic supplements typically contain 1-10 billion CFUs. While this is one indicator of quality, the number of live cultures isn’t the only thing to consider when choosing a probiotic.
If you are looking to take probiotics for weight loss, you will need to ensure that you choose a supplement with the right probiotic strain. Many options will be multi-strain probiotics, which some research suggests are more effective for weight loss, but some effective products are single strains. The most promising, or at least the most studied, probiotic strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium according to past research.
Strains are named based on the genus, species, and occasionally subspecies. For example, for Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus is the genus and acidophilus is the species. For Bifidobacterium animalis lactis, Bifidobacterium is the genus, animalis is the species, and lactis is the subspecies. More often than not, this bacteria will be labeled as simply “B. lactis.”
Certain probiotic strains can produce different effects, so it’s important to know what you are buying if looking to use probiotics to lose weight. Many types and strains will benefit digestive health, but there are fewer that have been clinically tested to reduce weight. Strains that have been studied in a clinical setting concerning weight regulation, fat loss, weight loss, or other body composition measurements include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. The Lactobacillus strains that have been clinically tested are L. acidophilus, L. plantarum and L. gasseri. For bifidobacterium, B. animalis ssp. lactis and B. bifidum have undergone studies that test the effectiveness of probiotics on weight management.
Pricing for probiotic supplements can vary widely, but in general, these supplements can be quite expensive. For 30 capsules, prices can range from $15 to $50. A few things contribute to this like research and development costs, the logistics of manufacturing and transporting costly products that contain live ingredients, and the fact that probiotics are considered dietary supplements and are not likely to be covered by insurance. You will likely pay more for brands that are tested and certified by a third party, but these can also be some of the most trusted and effective brands.
On average, most supplements will come in pill, or capsule, form. There is no indication that capsules or powders are superior to one another. The main thing is that the product description contains live, active cultures. Powders may be a better option for people that dislike swallowing pills, as they can be added to a variety of drinkable liquids. Some powders are even flavored to make the experience more enjoyable. Ideally, these products are flavored with natural ingredients for maximum health benefits. Probiotic gummies can also be a good solution, but again, you’ll need to watch out if these products are flavored with added sugars and other artificial compounds, which can be harmful to gut bugs.
Not all probiotics or probiotic supplements are vegan. Some products contain small amounts of dairy products or have been in contact with animal products. For example, Optibac probiotics are sometimes grown on a medium that contains animal-based products, which is something that consumers that stick to a strictly vegan diet may have qualms with. If you are after a vegan probiotic supplement, make sure to double-check the labels and ingredients.
Since probiotics are live microorganisms, storage requirements may vary. Most probiotic supplements will need to be stored in a cool, dry place. Some will require refrigeration and some will suggest refrigeration after opening to prolong and maximize benefits. It depends on your lifestyle and whether or not you’re able to keep probiotics adequately stored which may impact your choice.
The most common side effect of probiotic supplements is digestive issues like bloating and gas. However, this is normally just at first and symptoms typically subside. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no long-term studies measuring the effects of the long-term use of probiotics for weight loss.
Who Should Not Take Probiotics
Those immunocompromised or suffering from chronic health conditions should check with their doctor before taking probiotics. While probiotics are deemed safe for the general population, any dietary supplement may interact with other supplements or prescription medications one may be taking.
Most of us are aware of the “bad bacteria” that can cause infections and illness. However, fewer people are conscious of the “good bacteria” that keep us healthy and fight off bad bacteria. Probiotics are an example of beneficial bacteria that keep our bodies functioning properly. They aren’t the only way to obtain good bacteria, however, they are a valuable and straightforward option.
Prebiotics are essentially the food your gut microbes eat, including probiotics. Many high-fiber plant foods are considered good foods for your gut bugs. Garlic, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, onion, leeks, bananas, barley, and seaweed are all considered prebiotic foods.
These are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. Many studies have begun using synbiotics instead of just probiotics or just prebiotics because well, people need both to maintain a healthy gut.
These are the result of probiotics consuming prebiotics, so postbiotics are essentially waste products but are bioactive compounds that stick around to maintain gut health. Examples of postbiotics include short-chain fatty acids, lipopolysaccharides, enzymes, and other substances like vitamins and amino acids. Some supplements contain postbiotics, but the best way to increase their concentration in the body is to consume plenty of prebiotics and probiotics.
Gut Health, Probiotics, & Weight Loss
“Gut health” is a term that is all the rage at the moment, but what exactly is meant by this complex topic? Scientific research on this topic has grown substantially in the past few decades, allowing us to better understand the tiny ecosystem inside our bodies that affects so much else in the brain and body.
Since probiotics support gut health and gut health impacts weight management, many have made the connection between probiotics and weight loss. While the research is promising, the exact mechanisms by which probiotics may help with weight management are still being explored, but the gut microbiome is the modulator in this equation.
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria along with their genetic information inside the digestive system. The microbiome begins forming very early on in life, some experts believe it starts in the womb. The health of the microbiome is proposed to influence skin health, immune system function, and even mental health.
Probiotics may help maintain a healthy gut, leading to less inflammation in the body. Dysbiosis is a term used to describe imbalances in the gut bacteria, which is associated with digestive issues and even more serious health complications like inflammation and weakened immunity. Increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut syndrome,” is when the walls of a person’s intestinal lining become penetrable and microbes can travel into the bloodstream. This can alert the body’s immune system and be a source of inflammation. It is well documented that inflammation contributes to obesity or vice versa.
The key point in this discovery is that research indicates that gut microbiota can evolve relatively quickly based on various external factors. Perhaps the biggest influence on microbiome composition is diet. The foods we consume directly impact our gut bugs. In the western world, diets tend to be composed of ultra-processed foods high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and red meat. Unfortunately, bacteria in the gut thrive off of high-fiber plant-based foods, which is what many western diets lack. Also, things like alcohol, stress, exercise, and antibiotics can affect the health of the microbiome.
The perfect gut bacteria makeup has yet to be discovered, but what scientific research does tell us is that a diverse microbiome is a thriving one. Human studies have shown that having diverse gut bacteria versus having less diverse gut bugs impacts weight regulation. This 2020 review of clinical trials expressed that changes in gut microbiota composition changed the “degree of energy obtained from food, the composition and secretory functions of adipose tissue, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism in the liver, and the activity of centers in the brain,” meaning that the gut microbiome is clearly a modulator of metabolism and weight.
Probiotics From Foods
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut all have naturally occurring probiotics. A generally healthy diet will include some fermented foods, but for those that don’t consume many probiotics in their diet, supplementation may be a good option. “Fermentation” is the process of microorganisms breaking down sugars, specifically lactic acid fermentation produces many of the yummy fermented foods mentioned above.
Probiotics can be consumed through fermented food and drink, or dietary supplements. Both methods will add healthy bacteria to your digestive system and benefit your gut microbiome — a complex system of microbes and their genetic makeup that impact our overall health. While regularly taking probiotic supplements alone won’t lead to dramatic weight loss, utilizing these supplements in addition to a healthy diet and exercise regimen will provide health benefits and potentially weight loss. Additionally, the current evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy balance of good gut bacteria will help support digestive health and prevent weight gain in the future.
The best probiotic for weight loss will vary from person to person. It’s always a good idea to do independent research to decipher which supplement sounds right for you depending on the above factors and your personal health goals. If you have more questions about your diet and cultivating a healthy lifestyle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert personal trainers at EverFlex.
*The content in this article is for informative purposes only and is not to be used as medical advice. It is always best to consult with your doctor before beginning a new supplement regimen.