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Home/Blog/What Are CFUs? How Many Do You Need in Your Probiotic?

What Are CFUs? How Many Do You Need in Your Probiotic?

By Jordan Rubin

June 22, 2023

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When shopping for probiotics, you’ll notice that the strength/concentration of different probiotic supplements is listed differently than other types of nutrients. Instead of being measured in milligrams, probiotics are typically measured in CFUs, or colony forming units.

What are probiotic CFUs exactly? And which CFU count should you look for in a probiotic capsule?

There isn’t a recommended daily amount of probiotic CFUs that all adults and children should consume. Therefore, the amount that's best for you will depend on your current health interests and goals.

Below we’ll look more closely at the meaning of CFUs, plus the CFU count of our different SBO Probiotic formulas.

What Are CFUs? What Do They Do?

What are CFUs in probiotics? The meaning of CFUs is “colony forming units,” which describes how much of a probiotic strain you’re consuming when you take one serving of a probiotic supplement. In other words, CFUs* are the number of viable microbial cells within a supplement (*at time of manufacture).

Why are they called colony forming units? Because the microbes within probiotic supplements — meaning different types of bacteria and yeast — are meant to colonize in your gut once you take them. To “colonize” means to settle and establish control.

In this case, you’re hoping that “good guy” probiotics help crowd out “bad guy” bacteria in the gut, contributing to overall digestive health and more. For example, taking a quality probiotic, such as Ancient Nutrition's SBO Probiotics, each day can help reduce occasional constipation, gas and bloating, support a healthy digestive and immune system, and support healthy bowel transit time and healthy elimination.

A probiotic’s CFU count is important to know because it’s an indicator of how potent the product is. When choosing a supplement, you want to pay attention to both the CFUs and the specific types of probiotic strains found within the product. Each strain has its own unique roles and benefits, so it’s helpful if you take several strains within one supplement.

There are several main groups of probiotic strains, including Bifidobacteria, Bacillus and Lactobacillus. In addition to being the most widely available in both probiotic foods and supplements, these probiotics have also been extensively studied for their ability to support healthy digestive and immune system function.

Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including dietary supplementation. 

How Many CFUs Do You Need?

Now that you know what CFUs in probiotics stands for, you’re probably wondering: How many CFUs do I need?

How many CFUs are in a good probiotic? As a rule of thumb, choose a probiotic that has at least 25 billion CFUs per serving.  

Stronger probiotic supplements may contain up to 50–100 billion CFUs per serving, which you may want to gradually work your way up to taking, giving your body time to adjust.

Here are the amounts of CFUs in Ancient Nutrition’s SBO Probiotic formulas per serving. (*at time of manufacture):

CFU Probiotics to Consider

While knowing a product’s CFU count is a great start, there’s another criteria to consider when choosing between different probiotics.

Not every type of probiotic strain or supplement is equally effective; many strains can be diminished or partially destroyed in the stomach/digestive system once you take them, making them less beneficial. That’s because stomach acid, heat and moisture can all negatively impact the healthy microbes you’re hoping to have populate in your gut.

It’s key to take a probiotic that can actually withstand the harsh conditions of your gastrointestinal system, such as soil-based organism (SBO) probiotics

These “hardy” probiotics are the same types found naturally in soil and on fresh produce; they’re known to actually make their way into the right part of your GI system where they can go to work. 

Additionally, our SBO probiotic capsules take a unique “trifecta approach” to boosting gut health by combining SBO probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics (plus specific botanical ingredients) to provide powerful support for digestive health. 

Look for a probiotic supplement that clearly lists the CFU count per serving, and even goes into more detail in terms of stating how many CFUs you are receiving per probiotic strain. To maximize benefits, consider choosing a shelf-stable SBO probiotic, which has the added benefit of not requiring refrigeration (it can be stored at room temperature, unlike many other probiotic supplements). 

When is the best time to take probiotics? We recommend taking SBO Probiotics on an empty stomach, either first thing in the morning or right before bed, at the same time each day.

Final Thoughts

  • What are CFUs? They’re colony forming units, which indicate the potency of probiotic supplements.

  • What is a good number of CFUs in a probiotic supplement? This ranges from about 25 to 50 billion CFUs on average for adults, or sometimes up to 100 billion CFUs.

  • How many CFU probiotics should I take each day? Start with a lower amount, such as 25 CFUs, then consider increasing your intake if desired.

  • For the best results, we recommend SBO probiotics which can help maximize benefits.

Jordan Rubin is one of America’s most recognized and respected natural health experts. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Maker’s Diet and 26 additional titles, including his latest work Essential Fasting. An eco-entrepreneur, author and lecturer on health and nutrition, Jordan is the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, where he currently serves as CEO. Jordan is also the founder of Heal the Planet Farm and the Ancient Nutrition Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Sustainability located in southern Missouri and middle Tennessee.

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