When I was growing up, we were told that bacteria is bad for us. But in 2019, with a plethora of health websites, portals and products, most people have become acquainted with the concept of good bacteria, or probiotics.
Probiotics are good bacteria that your stomach and gut need to keep your digestive system healthy. In addition to promoting overall good health, they can help to prevent inflammation, heartburn, bloating, and other digestive issues, while also aiding in heart, brain and immune health. As an added bonus, there is some evidence to suggest that probiotics can assist in weight loss too.
Since your body maintains a fine balance of probiotic bacteria, you can take supplements to correct any imbalance you may have. Whether you’re suffering from digestive issues or simply want to feel your best, consider my review of the best vegan probiotics available.
Considerations Before Buying Probiotics
The following are some considerations for buying the best vegan probiotic products. When it comes to investing your money in a product you’ll be using frequently, the decision should not be taken lightly. And if that product is going to have a direct impact on your health, it is all the more reason to make an educated choice.
Is It Vegan?
Vegans typically avoid anything beginning with the prefix lacto, associating it with the inclusion of lactose, the sugar present in milk, or some other dairy-derived product. Naturally, you might be weary of products when they include strains of the probiotic Lactobacillus.
Products including this strain are free from dairy (so long as it states this on the label) so, from a food and allergy standpoint, they are safe to consume. Where it becomes a grey area for vegans is the ethical nature of the product. Lactobacillus is often grown on dairy products so, while the dairy has been removed from the probiotic itself, it may have been used within the production of the product.
The best way to ensure you’re consuming a vegan probiotic is to look for the vegan symbol or a certified vegan accreditation. Labels with ‘dairy-free’ or ‘vegan-friendly’ may have used dairy within the manufacturing process.
Which Probiotics Are Included and What Do You Want to Treat?
Research is certainly taking place into the benefits of probiotics and, to a lesser extent, whether probiotics of a single strain or the multi-strain variety are more effective. I won’t delve into the science here, but when purchasing a probiotic you may want to consider which bacteria are included and why you want to take a probiotic, i.e. what symptoms you want to treat.
While here is no conclusive evidence, studies have been conducted to suggest specific bacteria can help to treat and support the following:
- Constipation: B. lactis, B. longum, S. cerevisiae and a combination of L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus and B. animalis
- Diarrhoea: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: S. cerevisiae, and strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus
- Weight Loss: Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis
- Brain Health: Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Heart Health: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus reuteri
- Immune Health: Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum
Are Prebiotics Included?
You may have seen the term prebiotics and be confused on their difference with probiotics.
Probiotics are microorganisms that help maintain the microflora (or good bacteria) in the body. Prebiotics are the foods that fuel and improve the balance of these microflora.
If probiotics are the flowers in the garden of your stomach, then prebiotics are the fertiliser.
So, does your vegan probiotic need to include prebiotics as well? Since prebiotics are found in fibre-rich foods (think wholegrains, fruits, vegetables are soy beans) it’s quite likely as a vegan that you’re consuming plenty.
But if your diet is lacking in fibre, a probiotic that includes prebiotics can be a good way to ensure the microflora and being well fed to survive and thrive in you gut, and give you the best opportunity to experience the health benefits.
Is It Convenient?
Consider the form of the probiotic and whether it is convenient to you. For example, a chewable tablet may be an easier way of ingesting the live bacteria, or you may prefer to mix a powder in a morning smoothie. If you regularly travel, you may want something smaller that does not need to be stored in the refrigerator once opened.
And don’t forget to look at the serving size. Small capsules can be great, but if you need to take 5 a day you’ll be quickly going through a bottle.
Are Your Diet and Lifestyle to Blame?
Before making a purchase, consider the foods you currently eat and your lifestyle. Are they the cause of your digestive issues? Do you ingest an unhealthy balance of rich foods, lead a very inactive life and overeat or eat late at night? You may not be giving your body the best chance to digest foods properly.
Several vegan-friendly foods, such as fermented foods like miso, tempeh, non-dairy yogurts, sauerkraut, and kombucha tea, are sources of probiotics, too. You may like to try these before supplementing your diet with vegan probiotic capsules, liquids or powders. Although, it is worth noting that you may not be able to consume enough probiotics through these foods alone.
The Best Vegan Probiotic Products Reviewed
The following is a review of some of the best vegan probiotic products available. To make things easier, they’ve been separated into categories:
- Pills and capsules
- Probiotic supplements specifically for children
Best Vegan Probiotic Pills and Capsules
Probiotics in pill or capsule form are convenient in size, making them easy to store and travel with. I recommend capsules over tablets as they typically are free from the synthetic binders, fillers, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colours and additives commonly used in many tablets. Using vegetable cellulose for the shell, capsules can often be opened easily so that the contents can instead be mixed into a beverage or added to food.
Packing the punch of sixteen microbial strains, the MRM Daily Probiotic vegan capsules offer great support to your gut health. The presence of MRM’s customized Microbac live transport allows the probiotics to be delivered to your body with greater stability and frequency, triggering the activity of 25 billion cells. The controlled fermentation of good lactic bacteria also allows the addition of prebiotic inulin and beneficial postbiotics. There are 30 capsules in one container.
- The capsules have the goodness of prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics and enzymes.
- The Microbac live transport system increases the delivery and stability of the probiotics by five times.
- The capsules are 100% vegan and contain no added soy, nuts, gluten or yeast ingredients.
- The capsules are shelf stable and do not need to be refrigerated.
- Some people find they don’t notice a difference after starting a regime with the capsules.
This dairy-free probiotic from Country Life has a dynamic blend of 12 billion CFU per serving of four probiotics that help boost your digestion. The probiotics in the capsules help support both the small and the large intestines. The unique MAKTrek delivery system protects the Power Dophilus formula and allows the live cultures to do their job well. Established in 1971, Country Life’s Power-Dophilus capsules have been doing a reliable job for decades.
- The capsules are 100% vegan and are known to help microflora balance in your small and large intestines.
- The capsules are certified gluten-free by the GFCO.org.
- With 200 capsules per container, you conveniently get 66 servings per purchase.
- The capsules contain lead, which triggers a health warning in some parts of the world, since it has been shown to cause birth defects.
- The product is not shelf stable and requires refrigeration once the seal has been broken, making it less convenient to travel with.
All the goodness of raw kombucha is concentrated into these vegan capsules with live probiotics and enzymes. There are 23 fruits and vegetables in these capsules, grown organically. All the best qualities of kombucha — vitamin B, probiotics, enzymes and high polyphenols — are packed into sugar-free capsules that you can take directly or by mixing the contents in water. Being raw, there are no synthetic binders, no high heat, no fillers or artificial flavours used in this product.
- Other than probiotic goodness, the capsules have the attributes of potent B vitamins, organic fruits and vegetables, including apple, beetroot, tart and blackberries
- It has a blend of at least 13 enzymes.
- The capsules are great for boosting metabolism, increasing energy and strengthening the immune system.
- Requiring 2 capsules per serving, and including only 60 capsules in the container, means you only get one month’s supply per purchase.
The Best Vegan Probiotic Powders
If you find probiotic capsules are too difficult to swallow, powders are a good alternative. While not as convenient for travel, the benefit of a powder is that you can simply mix it in to your breakfast smoothie or juice and take confidence in knowing you’re starting your day with a great health kick.
Country Life Realfood Organics Probiotic Daily Powder
Bacteria Strains: 9, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum
Bacteria Count: 5 billion cells per serving
Serving Size: 1 scoop (1.5 g)
Price Guide: ££
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This daily powder from Country Life is the perfect food blend that nourishes your body. With the nutritious combination of probiotics, prebiotics and raw fruits and vegetables, the powder can be taken along with a cool beverage of your choice or you can sprinkle the powder on your meals. Organic inulin also adds prebiotic goodness to the blend, which maintains balance in your gut.
- Other than probiotic goodness, there are also fermented whole foods, active aloe vera and organic inulin from agave fruit.
- The powder is easy to ingest and can add flavour to otherwise dull beverages.
- There is no soy, corn, gluten or preservatives.
- Some people complain that the fermented foods don’t agree with their digestive system.
- Others find it takes a few weeks for their bodies to adjust to the powder.
Priding themselves on growing, harvesting and curating the highest-quality, most nutrient-rich greens from the land, fresh waters and seas around the world, Amazing Grass’ Raw Reserve probiotic whole food supplement stimulates normal micro-flora in the gut. With 25 billion probiotics aimed to improve digestive health, this certified organic product can help alkalize, promote detox and support immunity.
- It’s a natural energy booster with the power of organic, nutrient-rich super greens.
- The product has no added sugar, is gluten-free, non-GMO and certified organic.
- It is easily added to smoothies or other liquids, meaning that boosting your digestive health is as easy as having breakfast each day.
- The earthy, grassy flavour can be a little overpowering for some.
Best Vegan Probiotic Liquid
Yet another form of vegan probiotics, a liquid probiotic product can conveniently be taken on its own or added to meals or beverages. Although some liken taking it on its own to having a swig of vinegar, which won’t appeal to everyone!
Microbz Bio-Live Gold
Bacteria Strains: 14, including Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, Combocillus
Bacteria Count: 5 billion live microbes per serving
Serving Size: 10-20 ml for adults; 5-15 ml for children
Price Guide: £
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This fermented probiotic liquid has multiple strains of live active cultures. The gut-friendly bacteria are great for improving your digestion. Unlike freeze-dried probiotic capsules, Bio-Live is brewed to 3.2 pH which helps the bacteria survive the stomach acid and reach the gut while still active. Each bottle has the goodness of over 50 juices, herbs and minerals, and will last you for a month. There are 14 different strains of live bacteria, bringing you the digestive health you’ve always craved.
- There are over 50 juices, herbs and minerals in the liquid, other than 14 different strains of probiotics.
- The liquid is fed with malt extract during the process of fermentation, which means all the excess sugar is digested by the good bacteria.
- It is suitable for both children and adults.
- It is gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.
- Some people find the taste unpalatable.
Probiotic Supplements for Kids
As a parent, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure our children are getting all the nutrients they need to be healthy – especially with fussy eaters. Vegan probiotic supplements for kids are designed specifically with the nutritional needs of children in mind and make it easier to help you give your child what they need for good digestive health.
There are 10 clinically-tested probiotic bacterial strains in this Now Foods supplement for kids. It is great for boosting the immunity of your kids and improving their digestive and gastrointestinal health. The bacteria culture also helps to maintain a healthy intestinal flora balance. It is sweetened with xylitol so your kids will not reject it outright because of the taste, but it will not harm their teeth.
- The tablets are naturally sweetened with xylitol so that children enjoy the taste while not harming their teeth.
- They are free from wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, shellfish or tree nut ingredients and are 100% kosher.
- The capsules are manufactured in a facility which may handle potential allergens.
An easy and convenient way to give your kids healthy supplements, this certified vegan dietary supplement from MRM has a winning combination of two beneficial probiotic bacteria — Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium breve BR03. The customized Microbac live transport system increases the stability and delivery of the probiotics at least five times.
- The effect of the probiotics is enhanced, thanks to the customised Microbac live transport.
- There are 500 million cells of each probiotic in one serving, making a grand total of 1 billion CFU.
- The drops contain no colours, sweeteners or artificial flavours.
- Some parents find the dropper design to be faulty, making it difficult to administer the correct dosage.
Are Vegan Probiotics Right For You?
Whether you want to treat a specific digestive issue, or improve your overall health, probiotics can be a great addition to your diet.
It is important to keep in mind that, particularly if your diet had previously been lacking in food rich in pre and probiotics, that you may experience some discomfort as your body adapts to the increase in fibre and good bacteria.
As with any significant changes to your diet, it is recommended you speak with your healthcare professional if you are considering frequent use of probiotics or experiencing digestive issues.