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Shopping for supplements (especially if you're a woman) can become a tricky business. If you're anything like us, you typically find yourself walking the aisles (or trolling the internet) in search of the perfect product, only to end up overwhelmed, frustrated, and ultimately empty-handed. And while some supplements are fairly straightforward, Others, well are not. Enter probiotics, the buzzy bacterial supplements that people can't stop talking about.
From different types of good-for-your-gut bacterial strains to ingredients to CFU count (don't worry—we'll explain in a second), the art of choosing a quality probiotic can feel more like a mathematical equation than a strategic health move. Plus, as far as price goes, they can cost a pretty penny. To make sure you get the (bacterial) bang for your buck that you deserve, we turned to some of the industry's leading nutritionists to offer some perspective. And while the majority of our experts told us they recommend probiotics specific to their clients, they were willing to share with us a few they love most.
Keep reading for some of the best probiotics for women, according to nutritionists.
Best Overall: Garden of Life Probiotics Supplement for Women
Not one, but two members of our expert panel cited Garden of Life's probiotics as one of the best probiotics for women. It's a favorite of Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and Isabel Smith Nutrition founder and certified nutritionist specialist Brooke Scheller, MS, CNS.
According to Scheller, "The most cutting-edge research coming out about probiotics is that specific strains of bacteria can have specific impacts on the body. For example, deficiencies in particular bacterial strains in the gut can cause deficiencies in serotonin and some of our other "feel good" brain hormones. This can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are unfortunately plaguing our society. Because of this emerging research, choosing probiotics can really be personalized for each person's health goal."
Best Capsule: VSL 3 High Potency Probiotic Capsules
For women with more severe digestion disorders (IBS, ulcerative colitis, etc.), registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz recommends this probiotic. However, as was a common theme among the nutritionists we consulted, probiotics definitely aren't one-size-fits-all: "In the case of probiotics, you often get what you pay for, so the more expensive brands tend to be the stronger ones. Having said that, I often recommend probiotics based on each individual case. No matter which one you choose, try to avoid taking with food that is too acidic, such as orange juice or coffee, as acid can kill off some of the probiotics before they have a chance to do their job."
Best Gluten Free: Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete
According to Dana James, CNS, founder of Food Coach NYC, it's imperative to consider a number of things when shopping for a probiotic, and this formula from Klaire Labs is her all-time favorite. "It's a 12-strain probiotic with 50 billion CFU for two capsules. When you're looking to buy a probiotic look for diversity and quantity, this is the one that balances both." Plus, she adds, "it's gluten- and dairy-free!"
Best Vegan: Proviotic Purely Vegan Probiotic
As the founder of Kore Kitchen (an organic meal delivery and cleanse service based in L.A.), nutritionist Meryl Pritchard knows a thing or two about health. Her probiotic pick of choice? This vegan formula from Proviotic. According to Pritchard, she takes it every day and says that she can truly feel it working in her body: "It's a vegan probiotic that's born on a flower and grown in juice as opposed to being isolated from the human or animal mouth, intestine, or colon. The bacteria, called L. bulgaricus, is derived from the European sundrop flower (found in the mountains of Bulgaria). There are over 300 different types of L. bulgaricus, which are usually sourced from dairy yogurts, but Proviotic is the only one extracted directly from the leaves of a plant. A lot of probiotics can have trace amounts of soy, gluten, or dairy since they're traditionally grown in milk-, soy-, or barley-based solutions. Since Proviotic is grown in GMO-free vegetable juice, it's completely allergen-free."
However, it's important to note that Pritchard is also a huge advocate for ingesting probiotics through food, not supplement form alone. To keep her gut in tip-top shape, she incorporates fermented foods like kraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha into her diet as much as possible.
Best Budget: Jarrow Formulas Bifidus Balance
Ali Heller, a nutrition specialist and one of our favorite foodies to follow on Instagram, tells us that although she's not committed to any one brand, she's recently been really into Jarrow's probiotic formulas. Wender tells us that although she feels it's been working very well for her, she's wary when it comes to making recommendations: "Each individual may need something different in a probiotic (dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.), so there is no one probiotic I recommend to everyone."
However, she did offer some additional insight, explaining that in general, a probiotic supplement with a high CFU count and multiple strain is super important, as is a well-established, reputable company behind it. And as with any medication or supplement, Wender recommends consulting with your physician or dietitian first.
Ed. Note: Be sure to speak with your personal physician when considering a new supplement or any significant changes to your diet.