Are Liquid Probiotics Better Than Pills? – Benefits & Comparison

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/10/2023

Probiotic supplements in liquid form have become increasingly popular in recent years. But are liquid probiotics better than pills? 


Let’s look at the differences between probiotic pills and liquid probiotics and discover which one may be the better choice for you.    

Woman holding liquid supplement bottle

What are probiotics?


Probiotics are live microorganisms that form the gut microbiota, a symbiotic community of beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and fungi residing in the human digestive tract. 


Although these beneficial microbes are located in the gut, they interact with various physiological systems across the whole body and play a crucial role in promoting overall health and well-being.


Research published in ISRN Nutrition indicates that probiotics promote a diverse gut microbiome, which is linked to strong immune system function, digestive health, metabolic balance, and a lower risk of gastrointestinal and autoimmune diseases.


To be classified as a probiotic, a microbe must be alive when consumed, confer health benefits, 

and be safe for human consumption.


Probiotics naturally occur in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, kefir, and yogurt and can be obtained in supplemental form. 


Various factors, such as chronic stress, antibiotic use, and the consumption of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol, can impact the microbial diversity of the microbiome, which is associated with a wide range of health issues. 


Evidence published in Frontiers in Nutrition summarizes, “A disturbed intestinal flora can significantly affect human health and can cause diseases such as obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and colon cancer, and maintaining its balance is important.” 

Benefits and uses of liquid probiotics


Functional probiotic drinks and liquid probiotics are created by fermenting probiotic bacteria with a prebiotic medium. The resulting liquid contains high concentrations of live bacteria that are easily absorbed. 


Most liquid probiotics are formulated with various beneficial strains of bacteria, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus, and may also contain enzymes and vitamins to maximize their effectiveness.  


“Liquid probiotics are readily absorbed and have a much shorter transit time through the gastrointestinal tract than pills,” explains Dr. Berg. “This helps deliver the maximum number of healthy bacteria into the gut.”   


Compared to probiotic pills that release probiotics into the small intestines, liquid probiotics expose all parts of the gastrointestinal tract to beneficial microbes, which provide unique health benefits.


Liquid probiotics have shown potential benefits in the prevention and management of:


Liquid probiotics not only promote a healthy gut but may also benefit oral health. 


A study published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease suggests that liquid supplements containing probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, may help lower the risk of oral infections, gum disease, cavities, and tooth decay. 

Probiotic pills on green background

Benefits and uses of probiotic capsules and tablets


Probiotic pills are oral supplements that contain one or more strains of beneficial bacteria or yeasts in a concentrated form. 


Enteric-coated capsules and pills are designed to withstand the harsh acidity of stomach acid and release probiotics in the small intestine, delivering friendly microbes directly into the gut, which promotes a diverse microbiome. 


While probiotic pills may not offer substantial benefits for oral health, they’re linked to comparable health advantages as liquid probiotics.


Increasing gut bacteria diversity with probiotic supplements can help prevent the overgrowth of potentially harmful microbes associated with various health problems, including poor gut health, depression, food allergies, and skin conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.


In addition, certain bacterial strains may promote metabolic health by enhancing the body's ability to maintain balanced blood sugar levels linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. 


Research published in Cancers suggests that probiotics may have anti-cancer properties and that maintaining a healthy microbiome with beneficial bacteria can lower the risk of gastric and colon cancer. 

Man wondering

Liquid probiotics vs. capsules and tablets: which is better?


Deciding whether you should opt for probiotics pills or liquid probiotics depends on personal preferences, convenience, and your specific health needs. 


Both liquid and tablet forms have specific advantages and considerations, and which one is the better option can vary from person to person. 


Here are some factors to consider when choosing a probiotic supplement.


Potency and dosage

While the potency and dosage of probiotic supplements can vary greatly, liquid probiotics tend to contain a greater variety of probiotic strains and often deliver more colony-forming units (CFUs) per serving than probiotic pills. 


CFU is a measure that indicates how many viable microbes are present in a probiotic supplement, and it's generally recommended to opt for a high-quality probiotic supplement that contains at least 60 billion CFUs per serving. 


Products with fewer CFUs may not deliver enough beneficial bacteria into the gut to support a balanced microflora.


Liquid supplements allow flexibility in adjusting the dosage, which can be helpful for individuals who want to tweak their probiotic intake based on their individual symptoms and health status.


In contrast, capsules, pills, and tablets contain precise doses, which avoids overdosing or underdosing and maintains a consistent probiotic intake. 


Taste

Probiotic pills have little to no taste due to their outer coating that masks any flavor.


While some liquid probiotics are relatively flavor-neutral, others can have a noticeable taste ranging from slightly tangy to sour and may contain sweeteners or preservatives that can influence the product's flavor.


However, most probiotic supplements can be added to water or smoothies, which can make strongly flavored liquid probiotics more palatable. 

Product expiration date

Shelf life

Probiotic supplements contain live probiotic cultures, which gradually lose viable bacteria over time. This explains why probiotics generally have a shorter shelf life than most other dietary supplements.


Probiotics in pill form are more resistant to light, heat, and moisture and typically have a shelf life of around one year. Liquid formulations are more susceptible to environmental factors and can lose potency after a few months.  


Many liquid probiotics require refrigeration to prolong the lifespan of beneficial bacteria and extend the product's shelf life. 


However, some high-quality liquid probiotics are formulated with specific probiotic strains that create a self-sustaining ecosystem, which helps maintain a longer shelf life without the need for refrigeration. 


It’s crucial to carefully read labels and check the expiry date and storage requirements of the probiotic supplement you plan to use. 


Ease of use

Probiotic pills are often a preferred choice for individuals who dislike certain flavors. Pills, tablets, or capsules also don’t require measuring, making them a convenient source of probiotics that can be quickly ingested. 


Liquid probiotics can be easily added to drinks or food and are an excellent option for those with difficulty swallowing pills.


In addition, it’s easy to adjust liquid probiotic dosages, which allows accurate supplementation tailored to the specific needs of individuals, including children and older adults.


Convenience

Probiotic supplements are an excellent way to promote a healthy microbiome for individuals who don’t consume enough probiotic foods.


Pills are convenient for travel and an active lifestyle. They’re easy to transport, quick to consume, don’t require refrigeration, and can be taken without measuring or additional preparation.


Liquid supplements can be added to food and beverages, making them a convenient choice for those who find it easier to remember taking supplements with a specific meal or at a particular time of day.

Magnifying glass

When not to take liquid probiotics


Probiotic supplements are generally considered safe and well-tolerated by most people.


However, some individuals are allergic to ingredients in liquid probiotics, and it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider immediately if you develop wheezing, swelling, or difficulty breathing after taking a liquid probiotic product. 


Evidence published in Clinical Infectious Disease recommends that individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressant drugs, avoid probiotics due to an increased risk of microbial infection.


It’s also important to discard liquid probiotics that haven’t been stored correctly. 


If a liquid supplement requires refrigeration and has been left unrefrigerated for an extended period, it may be susceptible to contamination by potentially harmful microbes.  

Woman measuring a liquid

Key takeaways


Are you considering taking a probiotic supplement and wondering if liquid probiotics are better than pills? 


Both pills and liquid probiotics promote a diverse microbiome, and which one is the better option for you depends on your preferences, habits, and health status.  


While pills offer a convenient and taste-free source of probiotics, liquid supplements can distribute beneficial bacteria throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, which can benefit oral health and lower the risk of gum disease. 



Additional Probiotics Resources



FAQ


1. Do liquid probiotics work better?

Liquid probiotics can be more potent and may potentially be more effective than probiotics in tablet form. Liquid supplements tend to deliver higher concentrations of beneficial microbes than probiotic pills and typically contain a more diverse selection of probiotic cultures.


2. Are liquid probiotics better than pills?

Liquid probiotics are readily absorbed and help promote microbial diversity throughout the digestive tract, including the mouth. 


Pill probiotics, on the other hand, release beneficial bacteria into the small intestines, which doesn’t benefit the oral microbiome.    


3. What form of probiotics is best?

What form of probiotics is best depends on your preferences, daily habits, and the health condition you are addressing. 


While pills are a convenient source of probiotics, liquid formulations can be an excellent option for individuals with difficulties swallowing pills or capsules and those who prefer to mix probiotics into foods or beverages. 


4. What are the benefits of probiotic liquid?

Liquid probiotics are readily absorbed and help distribute beneficial microbes throughout the entire digestive system, which may benefit the management of inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and urinary tract infections.


In addition, liquid probiotics promote a healthy oral microbiome, which is associated with a lower risk of cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.    


5. What are the benefits of probiotics in pill form?

Probiotic pills are a convenient option to promote a diverse gut microbiome linked to strong immune defenses, digestive health, and metabolic and hormone balance.


Probiotics in pill form have little to no taste, often making them a preferred choice for individuals who dislike the flavor of certain liquid probiotics.


6. Can liquid probiotics be frozen?

Probiotics are live microorganisms sensitive to extreme temperatures, and it’s generally not recommended to freeze liquid probiotics as this may decrease the number of viable bacteria and reduce the supplement's potency.



Sources


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045285/ 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9581195/ 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3813825/ 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7793079/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490230/ 



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