Align is a brand that makes digestive health supplements, and their most popular product is a probiotic for digestive support.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in Align probiotic based on medical research to determine if it’s likely to be effective. We’ll also highlight some food-based probiotic alternatives that we believe to be cheaper and healthier.
Align Probiotic Ingredients
Align’s most popular product is a probiotic supplement called Align Probiotic Supplement which claims to provide “24/7 digestive support.”
This supplement only contains one active ingredient, which makes it easy to review. The active ingredient is a probiotic called Bifidobacterium longum 35624.
Generally it’s a sign of a high-quality supplement when the actual strain is reported. Many low-quality probiotics like Uqora Promote, which we recently reviewed, only list the probiotic genus and species (Bifidobacterium longum) and not the specific strain (35624).
Different strains of probiotics, even within the same species, can have different biological effects.
There exists research suggesting that this probiotic strain may be effective for treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The linked study, which was published in the Reviews in Gastrointestinal Disorders journal, analyzed two individual clinical trials on B. longum 35624 for IBS and concluded it may be effective.
One of the studies analyzed in the above-linked review however only proves the strain is effective at a different dose than exists in Align. The dose that was found to be effective in the study was 100 million colony-forming units (CFU), while the dose in Align is 1 billion CFU.
While it’s good at at least there’s some data suggesting Align may be effective, this certainly isn’t a large amount of convincing data.
A separate medical review noted that “When physicians were asked which probiotic preparations they recommended for the various conditions, it was clear that the most commonly recommended probiotic for all conditions except for pouchitis, was the B. infantis strain marketed as Align despite current literature only evaluating this strain for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.”
Our takeaway is that it may be useful for patients with IBS to speak with their doctors about Align, but even the medical data for that use case is relatively weak. For other intestinal conditions or for general health improvement, there doesn’t seem to be much research suggesting Align is effective.
It’s worth noting that Align sells an “Extra-Strength” product with the same formulation at a 5x higher dose of the active ingredient. We don’t have any reason to believe this is more effective than the standard version, and in fact the one study on this strain where we could locate the dosage, as discussed above, the effective dosage was actually found to be lower than that in Align, with a higher dose being less effective.
Questionable Inactive Ingredients
Align only has one active ingredient, but has 9 inactive ingredients which is somewhat uncommon.
The supplement contains titanium dioxide as a colorant, and this ingredient was recently banned in Europe over genotoxicity concerns. The European Union (E.U.) has much stricter consumer safety regulations than much of the world.
Align also contains a preservative called propyl gallate, and medical research on the safety of this ingredient found it to be “slightly toxic when ingested”.
Sucrose is another questionable ingredient, because this is the chemical name for table sugar. Align claims that “there’s a little bit of sucrose leftover to help grow the probiotic”, but no reference to the exact dosage of sucrose or how this helps “grow” the probiotic. Sucrose is not included in many other probiotic formulations that are stable at room temperature, so this ingredient addition is very odd and seemingly nonscientific to us.
We know from medical research that diets high in added sugars cause inflammation in the gut, so sucrose seems to be a very strange choice for a probiotic formulation.
It’s worth noting that the dosages of these ingredients are almost certainly low (even though Align doesn’t publish them), because they’re inactive ingredients. That being said, we recommend avoiding supplements with questionable additives. There’s simply no point in taking an overpriced supplement with questionable efficacy and additives when there are so many natural alternatives.
Better Probiotic Alternatives
We recommend whole foods over probiotic supplements. There exist whole foods with levels of probiotics significantly higher than the overall dose you find in Align, and these foods don’t contain any questionable additives.
Kimchi is a fermented cabbage product with strains of beneficial bacteria called lactobacilli. A medical review of the health benefits of kimchi found it to have “anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion” effects among many other benefits listed.
This probiotic food can often be found at Asian supermarkets, as it’s a staple of Korean cuisine. We recommend purchasing kimchi with a label that indicates “live and active cultures”, because pasteurized kimchi will have less probiotics.
Kombucha tea is a fermented beverage rich in antioxidant compounds and probiotics. The production of kombucha tea is much less standardized in our experience than kimchi or other fermented foods, so it’s important to source a trusted supplier.
Medical research has shown kombucha consumption may cause a range of health benefits including normalizing depressed immune function.
Sauerkraut is one of the oldest probiotic foods known to humankind, and has been studied extensively by researchers for its benefits to human health.
Kraut improves IBS symptoms as proven by this clinical trial, and the results were consistent whether or not the kraut was pasteurized which is impressive. Early research also suggests that this probiotic food may have anticarcinogenic effects (meaning it may help prevent the onset of cancer).