Gluten-Free Probiotics Choices


If you have digestive issues, it wouldn't be unusual for you to turn to supplements such as probiotics — advertised as helping to normalize digestion — for help.

And so it's unsurprising that many people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity look for gluten-free probiotics to augment their possibly dysfunctional digestive systems, even though research on the helpful effects of probiotics is scant in celiac disease and lacking completely in gluten sensitivity.

Nonetheless, if you're interested in trying them, you should shop carefully: not all probiotics are gluten-free (although most are), and may contain dairy (an issue if you're also sensitive to the lactose and/or casein found in dairy products).

Choosing a High-Quality Probiotic

Generally speaking, the best probiotics share several characteristics.

You should look for products that have high numbers of CFUs, or colony-forming units — the higher the better (most of the best ones have numbers in the tens of billions). In addition, check manufacturing and expiration dates, since probiotics start to lose their potency when they leave the factory, and you don't want an old batch.

Some probiotics need to be refrigerated while others are "shelf-stable," something you may want to consider if you travel frequently (and don't want to lug a cooler around just for your probiotics). Some probiotic formulas also contain prebiotics, which are forms of carbohydrates that are supposed to help feed the probiotic micro-organisms.

The only research that's been done on probiotics in celiac disease has involved the strain Bifidobacterium infantis, which is included in many different probiotics formulas (see my article on probiotics, linked above, for the results of that research). Other common strains include Lactobacillus acidophilus (which may contain dairy, as it's a dairy-digesting strain) and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Some naturopathic physicians recommend looking for a high-quality probiotic that combines multiple probiotic strains.

Which Gluten-Free Probiotics Are Available?

Here's a list of probiotics products that are considered to be gluten-free by their manufacturers. It's not a comprehensive list since there are literally dozens of different probiotics products on the market, but it should provide you with a starting point in your gluten-free probiotics quest.

Available gluten-free probiotics, in alphabetical order:

  • CeliAct Gluten-Free Diet Support. While this isn't marketed strictly as a probiotic — it contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and is more of a multivitamin — it also contains 1 billion CFUs of Bacillus Coagulans for digestive support. The product is free of gluten, dairy, soy, and egg. This supplement should be stored "in a cool, dry place," but does not require refrigeration.
  • Country Life Power-Dophilus. This probiotic by Country Life — a vitamin manufacturer that is certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Association — contains a total of 4 billion CFUs of probiotics, with four different strains (including Lactobacillus acidophilus). It's dairy-free in addition to being gluten-free, contains no yeast or soy, and is certified vegan. This product is shelf-stable and does not require refrigeration.
  • Culturelle Digestive Health. This product comes in both capsules and in an orange-flavored chewable form, which would help if you (or a family member) have trouble swallowing pills. Culturelle contains 10 Billion CFUs of Lactobacillus GG plus inulin, a prebiotic carbohydrate. Culturelle is dairy- and gluten-free, according to the manufacturer. It should be stored in a cool, dry place, but does not require refrigeration.
  • Florastor Probiotics. Florastor probiotics, which come in adult and kids versions, actually contain a form of yeast known as Saccharomyces boulardii lyo. According to the manufacturer, this "friendly" yeast works to displace less friendly microbes from your digestive tract. Florastor products are considered gluten-free and vegetarian. They contain about 33mg of lactose (the same as in a slice of cheese, the manufacturer says), and may contain traces of soy. It's free of other major allergens. Florastor should not be refrigerated.
  • Kirkman Labs Pro-Life Gold Hypoallergenic. Kirkman is well-known for making allergen-free formulas, especially for kids on the autism spectrum who are sensitive to a wide variety of foods. This product contains 11.5 billion CFUs with six different strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. It's free of all major allergens, including corn, egg, soy, and yeast, in addition to gluten, and is shelf-stable.

Choosing the Right Gluten-Free Probiotic for You

Obviously, this is only a small sampling of the probiotics available in your local health food store or online — I've chosen to include these products because they're safely gluten-free (and free of other allergens in many cases) and because they have good reputations in the alternative healthcare community.

In taking probiotics, some people stick with one product, while others swear by rotating brands and microbes — the idea there being to build up a diverse population of intestinal microflora. But ultimately, you'll need to decide — in consultation with your doctor — what type and combination of probiotics might work best for your specific health situation.