While traditional Western medicine still dominates the healthcare industry in the United States and the rest of the developed world, there’s been an infusion of the more Eastern philosophy of treating the patient rather than the disease into the mainstream.
To put it very generally, there’s a tendency in Western medicine to focus on ailments and the symptoms they cause, paying less attention to the holistic notions of lifestyle and wellness.
Of course, focusing on diseases is important for developing the cures and vaccines that save lives, there’s also room to factor in total body wellness.
In recent years, it’s become more and more widely accepted that digestive heath plays a big role in overall wellness.
Many alternative medicine experts believe that most health begins with gut health. This is where probiotics pills come in.
Since they have become so popular recently, there’s certainly no shortage of probiotic pills being sold in stores like GNC, Walmart, Walgreens / CVS, and others.
First where going to take a quick look at what probiotics are, why you should take them, where them come from, and what to look for when choosing the right pill for you.
If you’d like you can always click on one of the links below to skip to a store and find one right away.
ContentsWhat are Probiotics?
Why take them?
Where do they come from?
What to look for?
Skip to a storeGNC
CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Grocery Stores
What Are Probiotics?
It’s normal to thing of bacteria as harmful to your body.
After all, we take antiobiotics to kill off harmful bacteria when we’re sick. But there are good bacteria as well, and your body is full of both kinds.
Sometimes the balance between good and bad changes, and you end up with a weakened or compromised digestive and/or immune system.
Taking antiobiotics to treat an infection is a common cause for this unbalance.
When this is the case, probiotics can replenish and bolster your supply of good bacteria, and you may be healthier as a result.
Why Take Probiotics
Within your gut, there are trillions of bacteria – both “good” and “bad”. It’s believed that the correct balance is 80%/20% Good/Bad.
Probiotics can help maintain that balance.
Balancing and improving your gut health, it’s believed that you can improve your overall health and well being, as well as target specific areas of concern, such as:
The most common use for probiotics is to improve digestive health.
It’s widely thought and studies are beginning to show that adding certain strains of probiotics can reduce gas and bloating as well as improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel System.
Probiotics have also been studied and shown to help boost your immune system.
The gut is the key location of interaction between your body and what enters it from the outside world.
Populating it with good bacteria can ward off potential dangers before they get past this first line of defense.
Obesity is yet another condition that can be helped by adding good bacteria to your gut.
Recent studies show that obese people tend to have less diversity of gut flora than lean people.
A 2013 study determined that thin people have 70% more gut bacteria than overweight people.
This is a case as well where particular strains of bacteria are involved. Increased Firmicutes and decreased Bacteroidetes tend to be linked with obesity.
Animal studies show a connection between gut flora and mood.
It’s not clear yet if this holds true for humans as well, but changing the composition and ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in mice changes their mood and their levels of anxiety.
Skin conditions are also showing to be related to gut health.
The studies in this area are still very preliminary, but they have shown improvements in patients having acne issues after drinking a probiotic-rich drink as well as a lessened chance of babies developing eczema when taking probiotics.
There are other conditions that can benefit from in increase in good bacteria in your gut.
This is just a small list of the most commonly discussed ones. Now lets talk about popular probiotic sources.
Where Do Probiotics Come From?
You can get priobotics either from food or from supplements.
When you think of probiotics in food, you probably think of yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) which is by far the most common food source.
Look on the label for words like “Active Yogurt Cultures” to indicate that probiotics are present.
Other foods that contain probiotics are Kefir (a cultured mild drink), certain aged cheeses, sauerkraut, some pickles, and soy based foods such as miso.
One of the problems with getting your probiotics from food is that the strains can be limited.
The different strains determine what particular conditions can benefit.
A supplement – if you choose the right one – can cover all the necessary bases far more easily that trying to get all the different strains from the food you eat.
What To Look For In A Probiotic Pill
When probiotic supplements first became popular in the mid to late 1990s, the most important factor in choosing a supplement was how many billions of bacteria were in the pill.
The term used is CFU (Colonies Formed per Unit).
Generally speaking, the more CFUs, the better.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see numbers as high as 40 billion CFUs CFUs per capsule, or more.
But more recently, another number has taken precedence over, or has at least become as important as, just how many millions of bacteria there are.
This is the number of strains a particular pill has.
As we touched upon briefly above, different bacterial species and strains tend to be of benefit in different areas of health.
If you’re just looking to improve overall health, you’ll want to look for something with at least 3 different strains, probably more, covering different species to basically cover your bases.
Certain bacteria tend to live in certain sections of your gut, so by making sure you include several strains, you’ll ensure a higher degree of effectiveness.
- The most common strain within the most common species is the L Acidophilus strain in the Lactobacillus species. This is the one you’ll find in most yogurts with active cultures. It protects the walls of the intestines to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is most commonly used to ease digestive discomfort like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
- B Longum is another common bacteria. The B indicates that it belongs to the Bifidobacterium species. It helps protect the gut walls which is an important defense against so many issues, and it searches out and rids your gut of toxins.
- B Bifidum lives in both intestines and is important for proper digestion of dairy products as well as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. By breaking down foods into smaller components, the body is better able to absorb and use them.
- L Rhamnosus can be useful when you’re traveling to a foreign country. It helps prevent diarrhea and other stomach discomfort brought on by “strange” foreign bacteria that’s often introduced to your system during travel.
- L Fermentum is a Lactobacillus strain that helps contain some of the after effects of digestion. Certain byproducts can cause issues if not addressed. This is what L Fermetum takes care of.
There are tons of other strains to consider, most of which address particular concerns, so make sure to include them as factors in your choice.
You can get probiotics from the foods you eat, and when you’re starting out trying to increase your good bacteria, eating more probiotic rich food is a good place to start.
But making sure the probiotics you ingest are alive and active by the time they’re in your gut can be a little tricky.
In the old days, you’d have to refrigerate your probiotics to keep them alive.
This is not usually necessary now, though you’ll still want to protect your pills from exposure to light and heat.
At this point, the most widely preferred delivery mechanism is by capsule.
This method keeps the live bacteria safe from stomach acid so they can reach your intestines in their live state.
Several of the newer formulations include prebiotics which essentially are food for probiotics.
They’re fiber, and are generally supplied by the food you eat. But if you’re not getting enough, it’s possible to increase your intake by taking a probiotic pill that includes prebiotics.
Now, armed with all the background information you need to make a choice, let’s look at some probiotic pills sold in stores, in effort to find the best fit for you.
Store #1 – GNC
It’s often the first store we think of when we think about looking for a supplement, so it’s a logical first choice here as well. After visiting my local store, here’s a list of 3 top Probiotic pills at GNC.
GNC Ultra Probiobic Complexes
Rather than being just one supplement, this is a line of supplements.
GNC appears to have taken the approach that different customers are looking for different things.
While it might be best to offer one supplement that does it all, this is a valid approach as well. It allows customers to make smart choices in terms of what’s valuable to them.
Among the choices included in this line are:
- GNC Ultra Probiotic Compex 25 contains 25 billion CFUs, so it’s decent number but not incredibly high. It contains 2 strains – Acidophillus and Bifidobacterium, so they’re at the bare minimum there for improved digestive issues. This one would be best for someone just getting their feet wet with probiotics. It’s enough to be beneficial, but won’t really target any serious issues. It costs $34.99 for a 30 day supply of 30 capsules.
- GNC Multi-Strain Probiotic Complex 10 Billion CFUs is another version of an entry level formula. The price is much lower at $39.99 for a 3 month supply of 90 capsules, due to lowering the total number of CFUs to 10 billion, while spreading it out among different strains, realizing that some people place a higher importance on the number of strains than on the number of bacteria. It uses 8 different strains, including L Acidophillus and B Bifidum, as well as several other members of the Lactobacillus species to focus on improved digestion.
- GNC Ultra 25 Billion CFUs Probiotics Complex Multi-Strain combines the best of both worlds with a higher CFU number along with the same multiple strains as the 10 Billion CFU version. The regular price is not much more than the 10 Billion CFU Multi-Strain so it would seem to be a no brainer to upgrade to this one if you want to go multi-strain, especially considering that right now there’s a sale that brings the non-member price all the way down to $31.99.
- GNC Ultra Probiotic Complex 100 has the highest CFU number and a bit of multi-strain action as well. It’s got Acidophilus and Bifidum, as well as a smaller multi-strain blend of L Sativarius, B Lactis, and L Rhamnosus. It comes in very expensive at $49.99 for just 20 capsules.
These are the main GNC named formulas that come in capsule form.
They have a few other options as well, designed to address specific issues, like lack of energy and immune system support.
The additional benefits don’t come from additional probiotic strains or species though. They come from different herbs and nutrients, like Vitamin B12 and Guarana in the case of the Energy Formula.
There are also different delivery forms, like chewables and powder packets, but I’d recommend sticking with the capsules for now to make sure you get all the benefit you can from live bacteria.
This one is a little different in that it doesn’t list CFUs when it comes to its probiotic content.
Its formula is a proprietary blend that includes something called LactoSpore Bacillus Coagulans.
This is where the probiotic support comes from, but you can’t really tell what that really entails as far as how much actual support you’re getting.
The promo page talks about digestive support and relief from issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, along with weight loss support from Caffeine, Green Tea, and other Fruit Extracts.
In fact, it’s very similar in nature to a completely different supplement called Bio X4, by Nucific.
ProbioSlim sells at GNC for $69.99 for a one month supply, although you can actually find it MUCH cheaper at Walmart for as low as $19.88.
If what you’re looking for is really a probiotic and not a weight loss pill, I’d choose something with a CFU and strain listing so you know what you’re getting.
We have a ProbioSlim review here if you want more information on how it might be useful as a fat burner.
Renew Life Formulas Ultimate Flora MEGA POTENT 150 Billion
This one calls itself the most potent probiotic support available in a single capsule.
It’s two primary focuses are digestive and immune support, and to accomplish this goal, it contains 150 billion live cultures spanning across 40 strains, mostly but not completely in the Bifido and Lacto species.
It comes in an enteric coated vegetarian capsule for the best chance of survival all the way to your intestines.
The 30 count package will last a month and comes in at $69.99.
All the prices I’ve given for GNC products are the Non-Member prices.
If you plan to buy from GNC with any regularity, you should consider paying the $15 a year to become a member.
You save about $5 on each of the products we’ve talked about here.
Store #2 – Walmart
Walmart is easy, cheap, and convenient for almost everyone, so it would be a mistake to skip over it when looking for a viable probiotic supplement or two.
Most of the choices are on the low end of the price scale, but don’t be surprised if you find the occasional higher end probiotic.
The below probiotic pills at Walmart are some of the most highly rated and reviewed, and we chose them for their apparent effectiveness.
Related Article: 14 Best Weight Loss Pills At Walmart
Align Probiotic Supplement Capsules
Align one of the best known probiotic brands, and this product is the flagship original product.
It’s pretty weak compared with some of the options at GNC with only 1 billion CFUs, and they’re all of the strain B Infantis which is supposed to provide excellent digestive system support.
At $35.24 for a 6 week supply, the price is right, but I think this one needs to revamp its formula and increase both its strains and its CFUs to keep up with the latest products out there.
Florastor is another popular choice available at Walmart.
In fact, it’s the number one probiotic supplement worldwide.
It provides 5 billion CFUs, and it’s all one strain – Saccaromyces Boulardii, which is known to support the digestive process.
The recommended dose is 1 capsules per day, so the 50-count package will last a little more than a month and a half if you take it as recommended.
It costs $42.78.
It’s widely recommended by doctors and gets very good reviews.
TruBiotics One A Day
TruBiotics is an especially inexpensive option from Walmart.
It’s CFU count is low at 1.5 billion, but it spreads it out between the popular L Acidophilus and B Bifidum for optimal digestive health.
The recommended dose is 1 capsule per day, but at the price, you might want to consider doubling up on that dose to get greater benefit.
A 30 day supply at the recommended dose is $14.97, so even if you did double your dose, the price would come in at just about $30 a month.
Because the price and the CFU count were so low, I checked the customer feedback, and it’s almost all positive.
Reviewers talk mainly about relief from gas and bloating, as well as all types of stomach pain.
The biggest issue I have with the Walmart choices is that even though they’re popular, they either don’t talk about CFUs and strains or they do talk about them but they’re very low compared to what’s available out there, like at GNC for instance.
It could be that until more of the population catches on to the potential benefits of probiotics, these Walmart options may continue to rule the market.
Store #3 – CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Grocery Stores
We lumped this group of stores together because in most cases, they all provide the same options.
They don’t tend to be the highest end products; they’re more inclined to sell the most popular, and at prices somewhat higher than what you’ll find at Walmart.
Phillips’ Colon Health
You can get Phillip’ Colon Health at CVS and RiteAid in particular for about $30 for a 60-count which should last 2 months.
That’s based on the recommended dose of just 1 pill a day.
It’s got 1.5 Billion CFUs across 3 strains – Lactobacillus Gasseri, B Bifidum, and B Longum, all good for digestive health and issues like diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
CVS and RiteAid customers who offer feedback all give this one 5-stars, citing how fast it works, how healthy it’s kept them, and how it just plain works.
Again, according to recommendations, the CFUs and strains are low, but perhaps there’s more benefit than we realize from the lower dose options.
Nature’s Bounty Probiotic 10 Advanced Ultra Strength Capsules
Nature’s Bounty Probiotic 10 Advanced Ultra Strength Capsules ups the ante of the drugstore brands by providing 20 Billion CFUs over 10 different strains.
With that kind of power, the focus is split between digestive health and immune function support.
Unlike most probiotics, the recommended dose of this one is 2 capsules, which means the 60-count package for $22.99 at Rite Aid will last 30 days.
This is probably the best price we’ve seen for this level of bacteria.
The 10 strain lineup is pretty impressive and includes L Plantarum, B Bifidum, L Rhamnosus, L Bulgaricus, L Saliarius, L Brevis, L Acidophilus, B Lactis, B Paracasei, and L Casei, most of which pertain to improved digestion with a touch of immune support as well.
Nature Made Digestive Probiotics Advanced
Nature Made Digestive Probiotics Advanced is at Walgreens, and it’s claim to fame is that it works in both the small and large intestines using 12 Billion CFUs across 2 different strains: B Lactis and L Plantarum.
The capsules are vegetarian and gluten-free, and the recommended dose is 2 capsules per day, both at the same time.
That makes the 60-count package costing $24.99 last a month.
Again, the reviews are good.
Customers are excited that they don’t suffer with gas and bloating anymore, and when they compare it with eating yogurt, they say the effect is very noticeably different.
Conclusion / Recommendation
More and more health conscious people are starting to take notice of the potential benefits of probiotic supplements.
It’s exceedingly common for doctors to recommend them to their patients, often at well visits, not just when there’s a detectable issue.
That says a lot for how completely these little capsules are catching on.
Something else that speaks to the quickness is how widely varied the cost as it relates to the content.
You can find a 1 Billion CFU supplement for the same price as a 10 Billion CFU supplement, some with single or dual strains, some with multi-strains.
This indicates to me that the industry is in flux.
It’s expanding so quickly, companies haven’t settled on a standard yet of what customers are willing to pay.
You should also note that despite all the sage advice about what you should look for and how strong and varied your bacteria should be, customers are sending in rave reviews for all levels of strength and variation.
We found just as many positive reviews for the cheap 1 Billion CFU products as we did for the expensive 25 Billion ones.
In the end, keep in mind your doctor’s advice if you’ve gotten any, and start off with the idea that less may be more.
If you start with a cheaper 1 or 1.5 Billion CFU product from Walmart or CVS and it works, then great.
If it turns out you need something stronger and/or more specialized, that’s available too, just at a higher price.
Want to add a probiotic supplement to this list? Leave a review or a comment below!
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How can I order more vital refs I want 6 jars this time. -Vivien
You can order it through their official website at gundrymd(dot)com- Rob
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