Is A Higher CFU Count Better In Probiotic Supplements?

Probiotics CFU CountNumbers like 900 million, 5 billion, and 50 billion CFUs are staggering, to say the least.

While looking for the right probiotic, working with millions and billions can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming.

How are we supposed to choose a CFU count when we can’t even fathom numbers that high?

To put it in perspective for you, our body naturally has about 100 trillion bacteria floating around at any given time.

This equates to about 5 pounds total of bacteria alone.  Yikes!  Now we have an excuse as to why we can’t fit into last winter’s slim fit jeans. :)

First off, let’s get a quick refresher on what CFU actually means.

CFU stands for “colony forming units” and is used to quantify how many bacteria in probiotics are capable of dividing and forming colonies.

That is a mouthful but think of CFUs as one distinct bacterium.

We know that probiotic bacteria are alive and active if they are able to divide and form these colonies.

Now we are all on the same page and know what CFU means.

Is a higher CFU count better than a lower one in probiotic supplements?

The answer to this question depends on what you’re using probiotic supplements for.

Many individuals use probiotics on a daily basis to maintain digestive and immune health.

In this case, a lower CFU count makes sense and can get the job done.

A good range for a daily probiotic is between 5-10 billion CFUs.

So, what about the higher CFU supplements?

The higher doses of live cells are optimal for specific ailments or for specific minor health problems.

When dealing with specific ailments, 15-45 billion CFUs is a good range.

Some specific ailments that may be helped by higher doses of CFUs include Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, allergies, eczema, and some respiratory illnesses.

For major health problems, be sure to see your personal health professional first.

It’s currently unclear about the added benefits or potential drawbacks of 45+ billion CFUs.

Although some people have reported stomach pain, gas and bloating when taking extremely high amounts of probiotics.

Keep in mind also that the highest doses of CFUs, 45+ billion are more than likely just a marketing scheme to make you think that added cells equals added benefits.

All this means is that you may be unnecessarily paying a higher price tag for something you may not need.

Tips on keeping your probiotics alive longer

Whether you’re taking a high dose or lose dose probiotic, you want the healthy cells to stay alive and potent.

Some tips to keep in mind to prolong the cell life are:

  • Follow the specific directions on the bottle
  • Make sure to refrigerate after opening or at all times, if the label says that’s required
  • Don’t expose the probiotics to excessive heat or temperatures
  • Make sure to seal your probiotic bottle tight after each use
  • Don’t handle the supplements and then put them back in the bottle, this may introduce moisture into the bottle from your hands

Final Thoughts

Probiotic supplements can be a great addition to your daily health regime or for specific ailments.

For a daily probiotic supplement, aim for 5-10 billion CFUs.

For a specific ailment, 15 – 45 billion CFUs is a good range to stick to.

If you’re looking for the perfect high or low dose CFU probiotic, check out our list of the 10 best probiotic supplements.

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About the Author

About the Author: Kate Watson is the Lead Researcher and Founder of Kate started this site after successfully using probiotics to treat some digestive issues she'd had since childhood. In her free time Kate loves nothing more than a good book (and a good glass of wine).