What Does CFU Mean? Does a Higher CFU Count Equal a Better Probiotic?

CFU stands for Colony Forming Units

When it comes to ensuring smooth running of the digestive system and a good boost for the immune system, you’ll struggle to find a better option than a once daily probiotic supplement.

With benefits such as gut health improvement, reduced inflammation, immune system improvement, reduction in UTIs and yeast infections in women, improved skin and a boost in energy levels, probiotics have been around for years and show no signs of slowing in popularity.

Of course, the supplement world in general is unregulated, which means not a huge amount is known about concrete side effects and the degree to which benefits are evident. Studies are ongoing, but for now, everything looks quite positive!

Finding the right probiotic for you can be hard, and it often comes down to medical or scientific terms which might be hard to understand.

What is a Probiotic?

The fact you are reading about CFUs in probiotic tells us that you already know a fair amount, but for completeness’ sake, let’s very quickly run down on what probiotics actually are.

Probiotics are live bacteria which live in the body naturally.

Over time and due to many external reasons, the natural supply of good bacteria can dwindle and reduce, which makes it easier for the bad bacteria to overrun your system.

When this occurs, illness happens

It is possible to increase the amount of probiotics in your body through your diet, but many people find this difficult via diet alone.

Hence, why many people opt for a supplement.

What Makes a Good Probiotic?

One size doesn’t fit all, so there are many things you need to think about when choosing your ideal supplement.

The most important areas to consider are:

  • Price
  • Brand name/reliability
  • Pack size
  • Reviews
  • How to take the supplement and how often
  • Strain type and what it conditions that particular strain is best for
  • Number of strains within one supplement
  • CFU count

The last point on that list might be confusing, so let’s explore what CFU is and whether a higher count is actually the sign of a better probiotic supplement.

What is CFU in Probiotics? (CFU meaning)

CFU stands for Colony Forming Units, and this is a term which tells you how many good bacteria within that supplement are able to divide themselves up and actually form a colony.

The reason that is important is because it basically tells you how many bacteria are alive and have the ability to protect your body from illness and conditions which would otherwise occur.

CFU is basically the number of bacteria which can do your body some good.

That’s the best way to simplify the term.

You’ll see numbers which head into the billions and that can be confusing when you’re trying to search for the most useful probiotic for you.

Is a high number good? Does it even matter provided it is a large amount? All of these questions cause confusion and need answering.

What is The Regular CFU Count to Look For?

When shopping around and searching for the best probiotic supplement for your needs, you shouldn’t only focus on the CFU, you should focus on the points we mentioned above also.

Remember, you are going to be taking this supplement (provided it suits your needs) every single day for a long time, so it needs to be cost effective too.

It’s no good spending a small fortune when you could find a product which does the same job for a cheaper price, or perhaps in a higher pack size which works out more cost effective over time.

The regular number to look for, i.e. an average, when it comes to CFU is between 5 to 15 billion.

Anything lower than that isn’t going to be quite as effective as it should be.

The number you need really depends upon what you’re using the probiotic for.

For instance, if you’re simply taking a daily probiotic to ensure smooth gut health and better immune system running then this average amount is enough for you, even towards the lower end of the scale.

If however you are taking probiotics to help with a condition, e.g. IBS or another issue, such as acne, then looking towards the higher end of the scale may be best for you, in order to get the benefits you need.

Does a Higher CFU Count Mean a Better Probiotic?

Not necessarily.

Again, it depends upon what you’re using the probiotic for.

For general use, simply for digestive and immune maintenance, then a regular CFU amount is more than enough for what you need.

The higher CFU probiotics are therefore a good option for anyone with a specific problem or issue.

If you’re trying to help a specific problem, e.g. IBS etc, then looking between the 15 – 45 billion mark is best.

This will ensure that the number of colonies formed by the bacteria are optimal for helping to treat the problem, plus giving you the regular benefits of immune and digestive system health.

A few conditions which will benefit from higher CFUs include inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, eczema, certain allergies, and illness related to the respiratory system.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely upon these alone, and if you have severe problems you should speak to your doctor before you start to take any supplements.

Finding out whether you require any specific treatment before you start taking supplements will ensure that your problem is sorted out to the best of your ability.

If you are given the green light to begin taking a supplement however, you need to shop around and find the ideal option, to give you optimal benefit.

Many studies are ongoing into probiotic use and just how beneficial they really are.

We also don’t know a huge amount about specific and possible side effects, especially when taking probiotics which have higher CFU counts.

For instance, if you find a probiotic which you want to try which has a CFU count of over 45 billion, there is little evidence to suggest that it would be either more beneficial, or whether it would have any side effects.

Logic suggests it would be more beneficial, but again, we simply do not know for sure.

For that reason, perhaps it is best to stick within the amounts we mentioned previously, to ensure health and wellbeing, as well as improvement of your symptoms and conditions.

How to Find The Perfect Probiotic For Your Needs

We quickly mentioned earlier about the things you should think about when buying a probiotic, but in order to help you find the ideal choice, let’s look at this a little more deeply.

Firstly, you need to think about price and pack size.

The reason for this is quite obvious – you’re going to be taking these probiotics for a considerable length of time if you find them beneficial, so you need to ensure that they’re not zapping your bank account down to zero.

It’s also a good idea to try before you buy, e.g. go for a smaller pack size and try the supplement, rather than straight away purchasing a large pack size and being stuck with a supply if it doesn’t work for you. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all, and it might be that you need to try a few different probiotics before you find the ideal choice for your specific needs.

You should also do some research online and read reviews.

Again, the supplement world isn’t regulated, so there can be all manner of marketing ploys around, to try and tempt you into buying a product.

For instance, we just talked about probiotics which state they have more than 45 billion CFUs within them.

In some cases this could just be a marketing ploy to make you think that because the CFU number is so high, the benefits of taking the supplement will be too.

This isn’t always the case, and we simply don’t know.

You’ll probably find these products are more expensive as a result.

Reading reviews will give you honest answers to your questions, from people who have prior experience of taking them over a period of time.

There are many different strains of probiotics and it’s important that you do some research into which might be beneficial for your particular aims.

For instance, if you are trying to improve gut health, there are many strains which will help you, but if you’re trying to reduce the amount of UTIs you experience as a woman, there are a few specific strains which you should think about.

Talking to your doctor is a good starting point here, to find out the specific and honest answers to your questions, but reviews and online trusted sources may also be able to give you the information you need.

You also need to think about whether you want to opt for a product with just one specific strain within it, or one which has several.

Again, do some research and find out which option fits your needs best.

The CFU count is also a consideration.

We just mentioned that the higher types of counts, between 15 to 45 billion are best for people who have specific conditions they want to target, but the lower counts are enough for anyone who simply wants the regular benefit of better digestive system and immune system functions.

Give this some thought and read into the benefits, to find out if you need to target a specific area or whether you can be more general.

If you want to consider how you take the probiotic, this is something else to research.

You don’t take all supplements in the same way. For instance, some are yogurt-style drinks, some are capsules, some are tablets.

It depends on which is easier for you to take in terms of which you go for.

If you don’t like yogurt, you’re not going to want to opt for a drink! Some people also don’t like to take tablets, and you do need to swallow these whole, so that’s also something to think about carefully.

Finally, you might not think that brand name really matters, but in many ways it does.

The reason is because by opting for a big brand name, you’re getting peace of mind. A name which you have never heard of is not going to make you feel calm or at ease about taking it, but a name you’ve heard of time and time again, and one which is linked with positive reviews, will make you feel more confident about using that particular option.

Conclusion

So, does the CFU number really matter? Yes and no.

It really depends on you and what you’re taking it for.

A CFU below 5 billion is probably not going to be effective and as a result you should steer clear, but there are very few which would even fall into that category.

The bracket between 5 to 10 billion is the general and average range for anyone who is simply aiming for regular benefits, e.g. gut health and immune system.

If you are have a condition or specific problems you want to take the probiotic for, look at products which falls between 15 to 45 billion CFUs, to give you the power you need.

Anything over 45 billion is an unknown quantity, and whether or not it would give you supercharged benefits, or a world of side effects, nobody can be sure.

For many reasons, it is best to stick to these two brackets, to be sure that you will get what you need from your daily probiotic supplement.

Also bear in mind that because the supplement world isn’t regulated, we can’t be sure that you really are getting what you’re paying for.

By researching and reading reviews, you can give yourself a grater dose of peace of mind, as well as a good dose of probiotics to help you with whatever ailment or problem you are currently experiencing.

What Does CFU Mean? Does a Higher CFU Count Equal a Better Probiotic?
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Joao Vasconcelos

Joao is a health and fitness enthusiast and creator of one of the leading fitness blogs in Brazil. With a unique focus on weight loss, Joao is an advocate of functional fitness training and has his own line of natural weight loss juices.

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