Probiotics: CFUs Explained

by Melissa Chichester

Don’t run away from the word “bacteria.” The bacteria in our bodies is pretty incredible. Bacteria outnumber our cells ten to one, and we have trillions of tiny bacteria in our bodies. These microorganisms can make up between one and three percent of our body mass.

Probiotics are the friendly microorganisms that help keep your digestive tract balanced.* They assist with maintaining healthy digestion and intestinal health, plus they support healthy immune function.* With all of these nourishing properties, you might want to run out and get your first probiotics supplement! But what about the numbers on the bottle? It might read “20 billion CFUs.” The big question is, are more CFUs better and more effective? The answer may surprise you.

Colony forming units

CFUs are “colony forming units,” and this refers to the number of active microorganisms that can be found per serving in the probiotic supplement you are taking.

CFUs of the probiotic strains are what help to play a role in the effectiveness of your supplement, but the amount of CFUs your body needs is very personal.

There are many different types of probiotic strains studied at different CFU amounts that can provide various benefits to the body. Did you know that antibiotics could alter the beneficial bacteria in the gut? Probiotics, especially acidophilus, can help nourish and encourage balance in the gut when taking probiotics..*^

General CFU guidelines

For someone wanting to take probiotics to support their overall well-being and digestive tract bacteria balance, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends a CFU count between five and 10 billion per day for children and between 10 and 20 billion per day for adults. Ranges above 20 billion are useful for assisting individuals with targeted wellness needs.

What changes CFU counts

The amount of CFUs listed on the bottle of your supplement can change depending on how your probiotics are stored.

Heat, light, moisture levels, and air exposure can make probiotics weaken, so they aren’t active anymore.

To counteract this, probiotics should be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool place. Do not store them near a shower that generates humidity. Making sure the bottle is tightly sealed also helps protect the integrity of your supplement.

^Note: Probiotics are not intended to serve as a replacement for antibiotics, nor should you discontinue taking any prescribed medication while supplementing with probiotics.