Okay, so you’ve heard of probiotics. You might even know a thing or two about why they’re important and how strains support our gut health, our immune system, and our body’s overall wellness. But have you ever heard of a CFU? “CFU” might sound like an important role at a corporation, but CFUs are actually a major part of what makes probiotics beneficial.*
CFUs, or “colony forming units,” are a unit of measurement used to determine the number of live bacterial cells in a probiotic supplement or lab sample. In other words, along with other factors, a CFU count can give us some insight into the quality of a probiotic.*
Read on for a deep dive into colony forming units—what they are, what they do, and how many help support gut health.*
What Are CFUs?
So, let’s get a little deeper into what CFUs are. When you’re looking at a bottle of Synbiotic+, you’ll see two pieces of information: the probiotic strain, or specific bacteria type that the supplement provides (like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG®), and the number of CFUs provided by the supplement. (3) The CFU count indicates how many live and active microorganisms are present in the supplement at the time of manufacture and how many live and active microorganisms are present at the end of shelf life. When we take the supplement, that number of microorganisms have an opportunity to grow in our gut and multiply, helping diversify our microbiome.*
Now, prepare for a little bit of sticker shock, because CFUs are often counted in the billions—mind you, we probably already have trillions of different bacteria living inside our body, but sometimes we can all use a little extra support.*
Why Are CFUs Important in Probiotics?
When choosing a high-quality probiotic supplement, CFUs are just part of the picture. According to our Senior Scientist Arianne Vance, “the quantity of CFUs in a supplement does matter, but when it comes to choosing a probiotic, it's important to look at the quality of the evidence rather than just the quantity of CFUs.” Because some benefits of probiotics are strain-specific (meaning different strains provide different benefits), “it's best to look for supplements that contain clinically-studied strains at clinically-studied dosages.” FYI: our Synbiotic+ has clinically-studied ingredients.*
Keep an eye on transparency as you shop—the CFU listed on the label can indicate how many CFUs are alive at the time of manufacturing or how many live CFUs are present at the end of a product’s shelf life. That’s important because some of the probiotics in a supplement may naturally die over the course of a product’s shelf life. (5)
Another factor to consider alongside CFU count is bacterial strain. Because science shows that some probiotics benefits are specific to certain strains, we can’t assume that all probiotics provide the same benefits. A good rule of thumb when shopping for a probiotic supplement is to look for clinically-studied strains listed on the supplement label. Add prebiotics to the mix and you've got a recipe for great gut health (hint: Synbiotic+ includes those two, but more on that later).*