Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
Understanding the benefits and limitations of taking gummy supplements.
Gummies offer the best-tasting chewable option for those who can’t swallow pills
Accessibility is a huge piece of compliance in behavior change
Soil-based probiotics are the best choice for non-encapsulated probiotics
Encapsulated probiotics have far more research to support their efficacy (but that doesn’t necessarily mean gummies are less effective)
Gummy supplements may contain unwanted ingredients like sugar and gums in small quantities
The best probiotic gummies are gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and shellfish-free
Nearly every grocery store and health food store offers gummy supplements of some sort. Gummy vitamins, gummy fiber, omega-3 gummies, and probiotic gummies are all options, for both children and adults. While liquids and chewables are also options, the trend toward gummies has gained a lot of traction, likely because gummies tend to taste a whole lot better.
So, are they worth taking?
A big piece of behavior change when it comes to making healthy choices is the ease of compliance. You might find that if your healthcare professional tells you that it’s time to start taking certain dietary supplements, you’re ready to follow their guidelines until you see six or seven horse pills sitting on your counter in the morning and find taking all of them literally hard to swallow. That’s when taking gummy supplements begins to feel like a great idea to keep you on track.
But while gummies might be a great option for improving accessibility and compliance to a daily supplement regimen, there also might be some downsides. The questions of potency, efficacy, and potential unwanted additives all come to mind. Let’s explore the available research to learn if taking probiotic gummies for your digestive health is a good idea.
What Does the Research Say?
Research into the effectiveness of probiotic gummies is very limited, whereas probiotic capsules are very well-studied . The capsules that contain the living microorganisms in probiotic supplements are generally either made of gelatin or vegetable cellulose. These materials can transport the contents all the way through your digestive tract, nearly undisturbed by your stomach acids or digestive enzymes .
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about gummies—we simply don’t know for sure that the microorganisms can survive the GI travel in gummy form . Again, since the research is limited, there’s inadequate information available to fully support either argument: that gummies are not as beneficial as capsules, or that gummies are just as beneficial as capsules.
It’s worth noting that there are also other probiotic delivery forms that haven’t been as comprehensively studied as capsules, such as powders. But many people do find these forms effective and beneficial. Ultimately, if it works for you, there’s no need to question it! Now, back to gummies.
A 2022 study was done on undernourished infants to see if probiotic gummies would outperform a placebo gummy when it comes to body measurements or nutritional status. While those measures were unchanged in both groups (suggesting that the gummies had no impact), levels of beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria, butyrate, propronate, and total short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) improved .
Butyrate is an SCFA that is produced when microbes ferment dietary fibers in the colon. Butyrate has anti-inflammatory properties that may improve the lining and immune system of the gut . So while researchers weren’t looking for this outcome, this is actually quite a positive sign for the effect of gummy probiotics on gut health and immunity.
An earlier 2017 in vitro study was conducted to compare the efficacy of gummy probiotics using various prebiotic ingredients and “gummy” substrates (gelatin vs agar-agar). The results of this study showed that the best formulation of gummy probiotics contain gelatin, apple pomace, Lactobacillus paracasei LUHS244, and psyllium husk, and that these gummies could be just as effective as probiotic capsules .
However, a separate literature review looking at the process of probiotic encapsulation concluded that probiotic capsules performed better than non-encapsulated probiotics overall. The authors wrote: “The encapsulation of probiotics is well-studied by many researchers using various methods with different encapsulating materials” .
So while there’s promising research to suggest that probiotic gummies could improve overall health and wellness, particularly of undernourished infants, far more research needs to be done to support their general use across the population.
An important detail to note is that certain bacteria are far more likely to make it past caustic stomach acids than others. Soil-based organisms (probiotic strains that generally come from the Bacillus genus) are best used with probiotic gummies for this reason [6,7].
While many probiotic gummies on the market contain Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are also usually incorporated into probiotic gummies [3, 5, 8]. Since we don’t know how likely they are to make it through the digestive tract, the potency claims on the bottle should be taken with a grain of salt. When you’re deciding whether to opt for a probiotic gummy, consider that the total CFUs in the product may not survive the harsh conditions of the digestive tract.
Pros and Cons of Gummy Supplements
An important factor in compliance to a daily supplement regimen is accessibility. Many young kids and adults of all ages have trouble swallowing pills [7, 9]. Choking is a real risk, especially among children and older adults, so if a supplement is necessary, whether it’s a daily probiotic or some other nutritional support, finding a suitable vehicle for the ingredient is really important. You may also find that they can be more cost-effective than the super high-dose capsules. A suitable vehicle is one that’s easy to take, is cost-effective, tastes good, and is convenient.
Flavor plays a big role in chewable supplements because the supplement spends some time in your mouth before it’s swallowed. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a major factor if you’re trying to establish a consistent, daily supplement routine. No one wants to stick to a regimen if it’s unpleasant. And if the choice is between probiotic gummies or no probiotics, gummies are probably the way to go!
So in some cases, gummies could be the right solution. They’re easy to chew, and they generally taste pretty good. Vitamin D gummies, for example, have been shown in at least one study to have good bioavailability when compared to tablets, which suggests that taking a gummy vitamin may be a great idea if it improves compliance .
The downside of gummies, across all categories of supplements are the potentially unwanted additives. Probiotic gummies and other gummy supplements often contain added sugar, (or artificial sweetener if they’re labeled “sugar-free”), food coloring, gums, and stabilizers to improve shelf life [2, 3,8].
Sugar feeds harmful gut bacteria, so if you’re taking daily probiotic gummies, it’s possible that they could be doing more harm than good . While the total amount of the average probiotic gummy is very low (usually between one and four grams), if you’re planning to take a regimen of gummy supplements, those grams of sugar can add up quickly. Certain food colorings have been shown to have negative effects on the gut microbiota in animal and in vitro studies .
Gums (such as guar gum, locust bean gum, and gum arabic) in probiotic gummies could promote digestive issues such as gas and bloating in people with sensitive guts, which again, creates the opposite of the desired effect in a product that’s meant to support the digestive system .
The Best Options for Probiotic Gummies
Overall, probiotic gummies may contain small amounts of ingredients that are not optimal for gut or overall health. However, probiotic gummies that are free of sugar, artificial ingredients, preservatives, gelatin, and common allergens (such as gluten, egg, soy, dairy, shellfish, etc.) can easily be found on the market. If the goal of taking a daily probiotic is to increase the count of good bacteria in your digestive tract, and you’re set on a gummy, be sure to look for probiotic gummies that contain:
2–5 billion CFU, ideally a Bacillus strain
Minimal calories (20 or less)
Minimal sugar or sugar-free (sugar alcohols and stevia are ok for most) (5 grams or less)
No synthetic colors or preservatives
If you’re curious about gummies, give them a try for a few weeks. If you pay attention to your symptoms and find improvements with gummies, they could be just what you need.
What’s the Verdict?
Gummies might be a viable solution for multivitamins, but there’s not enough information available to definitively say that they’re a great way to take your daily probiotic. While probiotic gummies may claim to have all the same benefits as regular encapsulated probiotics, there’s insufficient research to affirm that claim.
We know that soil-based probiotic strains are far more likely to make it to their destination than lacto- or bifido- varieties, so it stands to reason that if you’re specifically looking for a probiotic gummy, one with high levels of soil-based microorganisms is your best bet for achieving the immune health and digestive health you’re looking for in a probiotic.
That being said, gummies usually contain some undesirable ingredients that could end up giving you the opposite effect of what you’re looking for. If you have the option to take encapsulated probiotics, there’s far more research to support their overall health and wellness benefits. For support on your journey to optimal health, reach out to our clinic to set up a time to chat.
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations, including all-in-one triple therapy probiotics, to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
Yoha KS, Nida S, Dutta S, Moses JA, Anandharamakrishnan C. Targeted delivery of probiotics: perspectives on research and commercialization. Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins. 2022 Feb;14(1):15–48. DOI: 10.1007/s12602-021-09791-7. PMID: 33904011. PMCID: PMC8075719.
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Rinninella E, Cintoni M, Raoul P, Gasbarrini A, Mele MC. Food additives, gut microbiota, and irritable bowel syndrome: A hidden track. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 27;17(23). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17238816. PMID: 33260947. PMCID: PMC7730902.
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