What are CFUs and why ‘Billions Aren’t Better’

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN

CFUs is a term that was developed and is used in the probiotic industry to indicate the number of LIVE bacteria in a finished product. Many people mistakenly think, when it comes to CFUs, that more is better. Occasionally we hear, “My probiotic has 20 billion cfu/dose, but Dr. Ohhira’s only has approximately 400 million cfu/dose,” implying that there probiotic must be better because it contains a much larger number of bacteria per dose.

What are CFUs?

According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics usually work in the gastrointestinal tract, influencing intestinal microbiota.

Many tests have found solid health benefits for people who use probiotic supplements for improving digestion, but also for a boosted immune system, decreased allergies, a healthier heart and even for better moods and mental outlook. That’s why more and more professionals are giving medical advice to their patients, encouraging them to ingest these helpful live microorganisms.


Once you start to research the health benefits of probiotic supplements, you’ll soon encounter the term CFUs. CFU stands for colony forming units. This is the number of live microorganisms in your probiotic formula.  The most common live microorganisms found in probiotic supplements come from bacteria classified as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. In each of these broad groups, there are unique strains that provide different benefits to the gut and gastrointestinal tract.


Customers always ask us about probiotic dosage. Most probiotic supplements contain between 1 and 10 billion CFUs per dose. Some have an ultra-high count of up to 50 billion colony forming units per dose, or even more. However, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements says this high CFU count doesn’t necessarily boost the health benefits. The body can only absorb so many.


Dr. Ohhira’s all-vegetarian probiotic supplements are made with fermented live cultures derived from figs, mushroom, Goji berries, seaweed and other pure and natural ingredients. The fermentation process maximizes the health benefits of these live microorganisms and provides the important aspect of time for the production of postbiotics – those all-important nutrients made by the probiotics  and ultimately making the best probiotic supplements on the planet.