Last updated: December 1, 2020

How we pick our products

17Products analysed

34Hours invested

11Studies researched

124Comments collected

Do you often suffer from diarrhoea, 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 diarrhoea 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 UK 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 Symbiotic Supplement for Vegans

These vegan easy to swallow capsules are filled with the highest quality viable bacteria. With 40 billion CFU per serving (2 capsules), and with a 15 strain complex you can rest assured that you are purchasing one of the best products on offer. Furthermore, this product is completely vegan friendly. And it contains no artificial colours or flavours. This product provides contaminant-free, pure ingredients. Free from gluten, lactose and nuts.

This brand was established in the UK in 2014. Since then they have become a recognised and trusted vitamins and supplements brand by customers across the world. Their products are high quality and everything they make is certified in the UK.

Best Organic Prebiotic Fibre 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 UK 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 this brand has created a blend of synergistic wholefood ingredients, that is hassle free to use and super healthy. Each serving provides a potent dose of gut healing dietary fibre and a huge range of vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamin A, B, C, E, zinc, iron, chloride, calcium, manganese and vegan omega 3.

Best Bio Cultures Complex Supplement

With 16 strains for the best results. Unlike many brands that only include few strains, this product provides a broad spectrum of bacterial cultures. It contains ‘prebiotics’ that act as food for bacterial cultures, which helps them stay alive longer. The bacterial cultures will stay alive until the end of shelf life, and you don’t need to store them in the refrigerator.

For your peace of mind, this product is certified vegan, and so is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. This is a dairy-free product. It is also free from corn, gluten and soy, and is non-GMO. You can break open the capsules and pour the contents over food or mix it in milk. Made in the UK

Best Bio Culture Complex Supplement

If you are looking to combine the power of prebiotics and probiotics in a single supplement, this product by N2 is an excellent option. This bottle will give you a month of supply with two capsules per serving. These non-GMO supplements provide 4 billion UFC of probiotics, with added prebiotics to boost their efficacy. This is the ultimate blend for healthy digestion.

This probiotics and prebiotics supplement comes in vegetable chlorophyll capsules instead of tablets to provide maximum concentration and purity, minimizing the use of agglomerates. It also helps with the absorption of active ingredients for reducing intestinal irritation.

Best Prebiotic Powder in Sachets

This unique galactooligosaccharide (GOS) works by selectively increasing the level of bifidobacteria and other health-promoting gut bacteria in just 7 days. Maintaining a balance of gut bacteria is good for our digestive health. It dissolves easily in your favourite hot or cold drink. You can also sprinkle it over food.

More so this product is suitable for adults and children over 4 years old to take every day. It is also gluten free and suitable for vegetarians. Its lactose content is safe for most lactose intolerant people.

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 diarrhoea caused by antibiotics. Long-term consumption of antibiotics destroys healthy intestinal flora, causes imbalances, and leads to diarrhoea. In these cases, probiotics prevent acute diarrhoea or shorten its duration. They are also useful in treating traveller’s diarrhoea and rotavirus (7).
  • They regulate the intestinal transit. Just like they can treat or prevent some instances of diarrhoea, 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, diarrhoea, 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 favouring its elimination by faecal 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 diarrhoea caused by antibiotics;
  • Traveller’s diarrhoea;
  • Rotavirus diarrhoea;
  • 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 fibre 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 diarrhoea. 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 defences 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 fibre, 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 defences, you can opt for a blend of different strains. If you aim to improve lactose digestion or treat diarrhoea, you will want to choose a specific probiotic (6, 12):

Goal Recommended probiotic
To prevent or shorten the duration of acute diarrhoea 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 diarrhoea 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. Symbiotics are your best option since these products combine both probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are available in fruit-flavoured 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 symbiotic 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).

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAqaBTHnNV_/

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 diarrhoea, 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 symbiotics. 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