Digestive & Immune System Support

The Top-Rated Probiotic Supplements of 2020

Peter Gold
Health Editor

Peter is a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, applying his craft in the Pacific Northwest. His passion is preventive care and self-healing. His philosophy is healthy habits help people live their lives to the fullest.

How We Found the Best Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics have been steadily rising in popularity as more and more Americans begin to understand the critical connection between a balanced gut and a strong immune system. It comes at a time when modern research has made some of its most significant advancements in demonstrating how probiotics have benefits that extend beyond improved digestion, but also help boost memory, mood, energy, and reduced inflammation.

Even with all of the news about probiotics, there are still many who are unsure about how the gut microbiome functions, why probiotics are essential to keeping proper gut balance, and which supplements are the best choices.

With no shortage of information, we have compiled years of gut health research, and the role probiotics play in supporting our health. This simplified guide will help cut through the clutter and provide you with relevant information about which probiotics might be best for your own needs.

Health Benefits Of A
Balanced Microbiome

Did you know that 90% of the cells found in our bodies are not human cells but in reality are microbes, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. That means only 10% of cells in our body are human cells.1

These tiny microorganisms are found throughout the human body and make up the human microbiome, a complex world with thousands of different types of microbes interacting.

When the microbiome is in proper balance, the benefits go beyond just digestion, but also include immune function, brain and skin health, and much more. Even if you feel like your digestion is in top shape, these broader benefits are the reasons you should include a quality probiotic supplement in your daily routine.2

5 Ways You’re Damaging
Good Gut Bacteria

Some of the less favorable lifestyle choices we have adopted in our modern Western society influence our microbiome and can alter our health trajectory. While some of these choices are in our control, others are simply unavoidable. It is this very reason why gaining a better awareness of these factors can help support a healthy microbiome.

1. Too Little Fiber

Fiber feeds good bacteria. Without it, microbes feed on your gut’s mucous lining, allowing dangerous bacteria to escape into your body.4

2. City Pollution

Urban airborne particle matter enters our bodies through the air we breathe and the food we eat and damages our microbiome.5

3. Antibiotics

Antibiotics kill off bad bacteria, and at the same time kill off helpful bacteria.7

4. Poor Diet

Processed sugars and alcohol – you know the stuff you eat and drink that you know are bad for you – can alter your microbial balance and feed unhealthy bacteria.3

5. Stress

Stress reduces gut flora diversity and increases potentially harmful bacteria.6

Common Probiotic FAQ’s

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, which are the “good” bacteria that help keep the “bad” bacteria in your microbiome from overgrowing. Prebiotics are soluble fiber, which acts as food for the live probiotics strains.8 A high-quality probiotic product will include prebiotics in the formula to support the growth and effectiveness of the probiotics.

Are all probiotics the same?

No. The kind of bacterial strains, diversity of strains, and potency can make all the difference when it comes to results. It is important to carefully review the formula of a product before making a purchase decision.

What about drug store discount brand probiotics?

Your local drug store has no shortage of bargain-priced probiotics, but these usually contain only a few low-quality bacterial strains with minimal potency. For real results focus more on the quality of a probiotic even if it cost a bit more than the drug store brands.

What should I avoid in a probiotic?

Review a probiotic’s label carefully as some brands use additives, fillers, and binders that can be harmful to your health.9 Knowing what to look for and what to avoid is essential.

3 Essential Criteria For A
Quality Probiotic Supplement

We spent months researching probiotics and gathering user feedback. There are specific aspects that differentiate high-quality probiotics from generic ones. Below are the 3 most essential criteria to consider when deciding on which probiotic brand is best for your needs.

4 Things To AVOID
When Buying A Probiotic

1. Plastic Bottles

Probiotics are live bacterial strains, and so they are very sensitive to moisture, light, and oxygen. A plastic bottle is permeable and allows harmful elements to enter the bottle during storage and shipping, which destroys the probiotics. Look for a probiotic that comes in a dark amber glass bottle as only these can keep out harmful moisture and light.12

2. Not Backed By A Doctor

Creating an effective probiotic requires a solid understanding of which specific strains to use and in what level of potency. Avoid a brand which is not supported by a credible doctor specializing in digestive health.

3. Insufficient Return Policies

A reputable probiotic supplement brand will demonstrate they have faith in their product by offering a 100% money-back guarantee policy. Some try to complicate their refund policies by placing limitations on what kind of returns they will take. Avoid any brand that does not have at minimum a no questions asked 90-day money-back guarantee.

4. Relying on Amazon Reviews

Research showed that in March 2019, there were 1.8 million new unverified reviews, with an average of 99.6% of them being 5-star reviews.13 Most of these reviews are from people paid to write them. These fake reviews inflate the number and overall star rating of a probiotic. When deciding on a product that can impact your health, don’t rely on Amazon reviews as they can be extremely misleading.

2020’s Top Five Probiotic Supplements

Our review encompassed 78 different probiotic supplements, putting each through our rigorous ReviewScout assessment process. To determine 2020’s Top 5 Probiotic Supplements, we looked for predicted effectiveness, supporting studies, safety, pricing, return policy, and overall customer satisfaction.

#1 Stonehenge Health
Dynamic Biotics

A+

Overall Grade

1. Stonehenge Health Dynamic Biotics

  • OVERALL RATING 9.7/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness 9.9/10
  • Ingredient Quality 9.9/10
  • Value 9.7/10
  • Return Policy 9.5/10
  • User Rating 9.6/10
Pros
  • 16 Diverse Probiotic Strains
  • 51 Billion CFUs of live cultures
  • Clinically studied sub-strains listed on the label
  • Includes Prebiotic NutraFlora™ fiber
  • Dark Amber Glass Bottle for light and moisture protection
  • Endorsed by a Doctor Specializing in Gut Health
  • Vegetarian acid-resistant capsules
  • Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten and Soy Free, No artificial ingredients
  • Verified 90-day 100% money-back return policy
Cons
  • The product tends to be out of stock due to high demand.
Why We Chose It

Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics is Review Scout’s top choice. With 16 diverse clinically studied probiotic strains, in a potent 51 Billion CFUs strength, NutraFlora prebiotic fiber, vegetarian delayed-release acid-resistant capsule, and a dark amber glass bottle make this an excellent probiotic supplement.

Dynamic Biotics lists each probiotic strains’ sub-strain giving shoppers the confidence that these high-quality and clinically studied strains.

We were able to verify that Stonehenge Health’s formula does not contain any synthetic fillers or artificial ingredients. It is also one of just a few brands we found to be endorsed by a Doctor who is a leading gastroenterologist and expert in digestive health.

As a top-tier, customer-focused brand, Stonehenge Health backs its products with a no-questions-asked, 90-day money-back guarantee. We also really liked that they offer customers impressive discounts on bundles. Click on the link below to see their current specials.*

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#2 Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics
Original Formula

A-

Overall Grade

2. Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics Original Formula

  • OVERALL RATING 9.0/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness 9.3/10
  • Ingredient Quality 8.9/10
  • Value 9.1/10
  • Return Policy 8.1/10
  • User Rating 9.4/10
Pros
  • 12 diverse strains
  • Includes a variety of prebiotics
  • Lists each strain’s substrains
Cons
  • Does not list CFU count
  • Lacking key strains for immune support
  • Contains Soy
  • Very limited return policy
Why We Chose It

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic formula took second place with 12 diverse strains in acid-resistant capsules wrapped in individual blister-packed servings. We were happy to see that Dr. Ohhira’s includes natural prebiotics, minerals, and amino acids. And while the formulation does include strains known to support the immune system like L. rhamnosus or L. reuteri, a positive sign is that the product lists each strain’s substrains. A notable concern is that Dr. Ohhira does not disclose the number of colony-forming units (CFUs), which is a key indicator of a probiotic’s potency.

Be aware that Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic formula contains soy, which may not be suitable for those with allergies. We were disappointed to see that Dr. Ohhira offers an extremely limited return policy. You have only 30-days to evaluate the product, and if you are not satisfied, only new, unopened bottles can be returned for a refund. This is not a customer-focused policy and one you would not expect from a premium-priced brand. We prefer to see brands offer at least a 90-day unconditional money-back guarantee.*

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#3 Just Thrive Probiotic

B+

Overall Grade

3. Just Thrive Probiotic

  • OVERALL RATING 8.8/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness 8.7/10
  • Ingredient Quality 8.9/10
  • Value 8.7/10
  • Return Policy 8.5/10
  • User Rating 9.1/10
Pros
  • Highly robust strains likely to colonize
  • Probiotic strains support digestive health and biome balance
  • Lists each strain’s substrains
  • Free of GMOs, soy, dairy, sugar & gluten
Cons
  • Does not contain prebiotics
  • Plastic bottle
  • Lacking key strains for immune system support
  • Limited 30 Day return policy limited to two bottles
Why We Chose It

Just Thrive is a popular probiotic brand that took third place in our ranking. Although this formula has only 4 probiotic strains in 3 billion CFU’s – unlike our top choice with 16 strains in 50 billion CFU’s– it does include patented Bacillus Indicus HU36®. Studies show this strain produces antioxidants at the site of absorption. It’s also highly robust and easily survives the journey through the digestive tract. Reviews have been mostly positive, but some users have complained that Just Thrive causes bowel movement issues like diarrhea.

We applaud Just Thrive’s “Bottom of the Bottle” guarantee, which means you can use the entire product and still ask for a refund if you’re unhappy. At the same time, we’re disappointed that it’s limited to a 30-day timeframe and only on two bottles. We prefer to see brands offer at least a 90-day unconditional money-back guarantee.*

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#4 Align Probiotic

C

Overall Grade

4. Align Probiotic

  • OVERALL RATING 7.5/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness 7.9/10
  • Ingredient Quality 8.1/10
  • Value 7.6/10
  • Return Policy 7/10
  • User Rating 6.7/10
Pros
  • Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegetarian
  • Easily found in most retail stores
Cons
  • Contains many unhealthy additives and fillers
  • Low amount of only 1 billion CFUs per serving
  • Only contains one strain Bifidobacterium 35624™
  • Does not contain prebiotics
Why We Chose It

Align only offers one single patented probiotic strain Bifidobacterium 35624™, which can be limiting for those with a need for a variety of strains to help balance their microbiome. This product contains milk, eliminating those who are lactose intolerant. Align also contains several undesirable ingredients in the forms of sucrose, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, amongst others.*

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#5 Florastor Daily Probiotic

C-

Overall Grade

5. Florastor Daily Probiotic

  • OVERALL RATING 7.0/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness 6.9/10
  • Ingredient Quality 7.8/10
  • Value 6.6/10
  • Return Policy 6.5/10
  • User Rating 7.1/10
Pros
  • Contains well-researched strain Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Easily found in most retail stores
Cons
  • Limited to only one single strain
  • Contains dairy
  • Does not contain prebiotics
  • No company guarantee or return policy
Why We Chose It

Florastror only offers one single patented probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii lyo CNCM I-745, which is specific to relieving antibiotic-induced diarrhea. The single strain is too limiting for broader digestive health issues. This product contains milk (lactose), eliminating those who are lactose intolerant. Reviews have been mixed from users, with some stating they did not get their desired results. Florastor does not have a guarantee policy listed on their site, leaving consumers to deal only with the refund/return policy from the retail store they purchased it in.*

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

Citations
  1. Crew, B. (2019). Here’s How Many Cells in Your Body Aren’t Actually Human. [online] ScienceAlert. Available at: https://www.sciencealert.com/how-many-bacteria-cells-outnumber-human-cells-microbiome-science.
  2. Publishing, Harvard. 2019. “Can Gut Bacteria Improve Your Health? – Harvard Health”. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health.
  3. Magnusson, K.R., L. Hauck, B.M. Jeffrey, V. Elias, A. Humphrey, R. Nath, A. Perrone, and L.E. Bermudez. 2015. “Relationships Between Diet-Related Changes In The Gut Microbiome And Cognitive Flexibility”. Neuroscience 300: 128-140. Elsevier BV. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.05.016.
  4. “Low-Fiber Diet Study: Lack Of Fiber Can Lead To Colon Infection”. 2016. Labblog.Uofmhealth.Org. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/gut-bacteria-eat-colon-lining-when-starved-for-fiber.
  5. Salim, Saad Y, Gilaad G Kaplan, and Karen L Madsen. 2013. “Air Pollution Effects On The Gut Microbiota”. Gut Microbes 5 (2): 215-219. Informa UK Limited. doi:10.4161/gmic.27251. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4063847/
  6. Konturek PC, et al. 2019. “Stress And The Gut: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences, Diagnostic Approach And Treatment Options. – Pubmed – NCBI “. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/223
  7. Yoon, Mi Young, and Sang Sun Yoon. 2018. “Disruption Of The Gut Ecosystem By Antibiotics”. Yonsei Medical Journal 59 (1): 4. Yonsei University College of Medicine (KAMJE). doi:10.3349/ymj.2018.59.1.4.
  8. Davani-Davari, Dorna, Manica Negahdaripour, Iman Karimzadeh, Mostafa Seifan, Milad Mohkam, Seyed Masoumi, Aydin Berenjian, and Younes Ghasemi. 2019. “Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, And Clinical Applications”. Foods 8 (3): 92. MDPI AG. doi:10.3390/foods8030092.
  9. Yigzaw, Erika. 2016. “The Hidden Dangers In Your Dietary Supplements | Achs.Edu”. Info.Achs.Edu. http://info.achs.edu/blog/dangerous-supplement-ingredients.
  10. Chapman, C.M.C., G.R. Gibson, and I. Rowland. 2012. “In Vitro Evaluation Of Single- And Multi-Strain Probiotics: Inter-Species Inhibition Between Probiotic Strains, And Inhibition Of Pathogens”. Anaerobe 18 (4): 405-413. Elsevier BV. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2012.05.004.
  11. Chang, Hung-Yang, Jin-Hua Chen, Jui-Hsing Chang, Hung-Chih Lin, Chien-Yu Lin, and Chun-Chih Peng. 2017. “Multiple Strains Probiotics Appear To Be The Most Effective Probiotics In The Prevention Of Necrotizing Enterocolitis And Mortality: An Updated Meta-Analysis”. PLOS ONE 12 (2): e0171579. Public Library of Science (PLoS). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171579.
  12. Fenster, Kurt, Barbara Freeburg, Chris Hollard, Connie Wong, Rune Rønhave Laursen, and Arthur Ouwehand. 2019. “The Production And Delivery Of Probiotics: A Review Of A Practical Approach”. Microorganisms 7 (3): 83. MDPI AG. doi:10.3390/microorganisms7030083.
  13. Amazon Flooded With Millions Of Fake Reviews In 2019 – Reviewmeta Blog “. 2019. Reviewmeta.Com. https://reviewmeta.com/blog/amazon-flooded-with-millions-of-fake-reviews-in-2019/.