When To Choose Lower CFU
There are generally two situations in which a lower CFU (colony-forming unit) is preferable to a higher CFU. One is related to age. A young infant under the age of 6 months should have no more than 1-2 billion CFUs, simply because of their age as well as the lack of biodiversity in their gut. Toddlers aged 6 months to 3 years also need a low CFU, somewhere within 2-6 billion. Children 3 years and older need fewer CFUs than adults, who need between 4-25 billion (consider also this here).
Outside of those ages, some adults do need lower probiotic concentrations. This is especially true for those who are already sensitive to supplements, have inflamed gastrointestinal tracts, and have autoimmune conditions, such as MCAS. Of course, there are many other possible health conditions that may make an individual more sensitive to probiotics. The way to find out if you’re sensitive is to start with a lower concentration and increase the dose until you notice changes in your digestion and overall health.
What is CFU in Probiotics? When to Go for a Higher CFU Probiotics?
So you’re an adult without a leaky gut, severe health conditions, or a sensitivity to supplements, but you want to improve your overall health or quickly deal with that annoying chronic constipation. You’re probably ready for some strong probiotics, maybe even some prebiotic supplements to give them some fuel to hit the ground running. In that case, feel free to indulge in a whopping 25-70 billion CFU.
Of course, you may feel the need to lower on the dosage for a beat if any temporary die-off symptoms, such as gas, bloating, loose stool, or headaches, get in the way of your daily life. On the other hand, if you start with a lower CFU, like 25 billion, and you don’t feel any improvements in your digestion or energy level, try doubling that amount to see if a higher CFU will move the needle.
How To Know if You’re Probiotic CFU is Too High
It is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. Some people have reported a sudden onset of chronic diarrhea (lasting longer than one week) when taking probiotics with a total CFU dose of 70 billion or higher. If you’re a person who has a severe medical condition, abdominal pain due to gut issues, or severe leaky gut, then too high a CFU dose can register as intolerable side effects.
In all of these cases, the best way to see if your symptoms are caused by too much CFU is to take the probiotics every other day or take half the dose and see if that improves the symptoms. If it does, then you can take the lower dose until you feel ready to scale up.
Don’t Forget to Factor in the Power of Prebiotics
Prebiotic powders, like inulin, Jerusalem artichoke, Triphala powder, FOS, and XOS, can help boost a probiotic supplement’s effectiveness when taken at the same time or even in the same capsule. Since they are so good at helping probiotics expand quickly, some people with sensitive digestive tracts or other severe health conditions may want to be very calculated about which prebiotics to take, when to take them, and how much.
If you think of prebiotic supplements as fertilizer for your favorite plants, then it might be easier to take into consideration how important gentle dosing is for the health of the plant. Finding the right amount of prebiotics to take can make the difference between helping a struggling probiotic grow or giving prebiotics to a probiotic population that you already have more than enough of.
Finding the CFU That’s Right For You
When it comes to the question of finding the best probiotic for you, it isn’t always about cranking the CFU up as high as you can possibly tolerate. There are some critical factors to take into consideration when searching for one:
Which prebiotics are included (if any)?
How old you are?
How sensitive you are to supplements?
How robust your digestive system is?
Which probiotic strains are included?
How quickly you’re looking for results?
This may sound like a lot of things to consider, but they all play a part in helping make your probiotic supplement uniquely tailored to your needs. When you know more about what your needs are and what you can tolerate, it makes it that much easier to meet those needs. Knowing how high your probiotic concentration (CFU) should be is a great place to start.
Lastly, please do not forget the most important thing. Consuming small amounts of probiotic foods like homemade yogurt and kefir (and others) daily can promote a healthy gut and this was proven in the course of a century. Those foods are perfectly balanced, so frequent consumption of moderate amounts is the key to improved health.