By now you may be familiar with the term probiotics. After all, probiotics are frequently mentioned in commercials, magazine advertisements, and health-related websites, especially those focused on gastrointestinal health.
But how much do you really know about probiotics and how they affect your body and overall health?
Probiotics are generally comprised of one or many strains of live bacteria and yeasts, each offering consumers a unique formula to aid in the healing of digestive and immune systems.
Understanding which of these individual probiotics strains are included in your supplement and how they work together can give you the knowledge to maximize their benefit to your digestive and immune system’s overall health.
As you introduce your gut to these “good” or “helpful” bacteria strains, healing begins from the inside out. Introducing a powerful combination of these strains of probiotic bacteria has been associated with changes in the activity of hundreds of genes.
These changes caused by high potency probiotics have been shown to mimic the body’s reactions displayed by other prescribed medicines that positively influence the immune system and those that lower blood pressure but without the harsh side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
Friendly probiotic bacteria train your immune system to understand the difference between cancer-causing pathogens and non-harmful antigens and trains them to respond appropriately. This crucial function keeps your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the leading cause of allergies.
With well over 500 strains of probiotics, it would be impossible for a supplement to contain them all. Instead, manufacturers tend to create a formula that relies heavily on the most common strains. They often include:
Bifidobacterium animalis: Known for its ability to withstand extremely low pH conditions, studies show that B. animalis promotes digestive and optimal nutrient absorption, supports a healthy immune system, and fights off pathogen bacteria.
A 2015 study found that B. animalis promotes regularity, helping to relieve constipation.
B. breve: Researchers have found that B. breve reduces the intestinal tract’s pH to stop the growth of disease-causing bacteria and yeast in the digestive tract and vagina. By fermenting sugars, it assists your body in absorbing nutrients and breaking down plant fiber until it is easily digestible.
B. lactis: In studies, B. lactis has been shown to fight against tumor growth by actively killing tumors in the body, while also boosting immune system functioning, improving digestion, and helping reduce the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases.
Other studies demonstrate the healing effects B. lactis has on inflammatory bowel disease by making it more difficult for foreign matter to pass through the gut wall into the rest of the body and decreasing the toxic effects of gluten on the lining of the intestines.
B. longum: It’s a well-established fact that B. longum positively influences amino acid fermentation, which helps the body maintain muscles and overall cell structure. Additionally, it ferments carbohydrates, improving the body’s metabolic rhythms. I
n a 2015 study, researchers reported that B. longum can reduce daily stress, possibly by releasing substances that stimulate the vagus nerve to relieve anxiety.
Lactobacillus acidophilus: L. acidophilus and the digestive benefits it provides have been studied extensively. Different studies indicate that it can help treat bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections, while also possibly preventing traveler’s diarrhea caused by eating unsafe foods.
Research is ongoing into how L. acidophilus may enhance the immune response to certain vaccines and help manage the growth of cancer cells, though early results are positive.
L. reuteri: More than 170 clinical studies have been performed on L. reuteri alone by BioGaia, a Swedish healthcare company, and leader in the world of probiotic research.
Study highlights include that L. reuteri can help prevent diarrhea in hospitalized children and adults who work together in a small, confined environment, as well as prevent colic in infants, reduce the occurrence of plaque and gum bleeding, relieve constipation, and fight against the growth of candida in the vagina.
L. rhamnosus: L. rhamnosus has also been the focus of myriad studies. In different studies, researchers found evidence that Lactobacillus Rhamnosus may counteract diabetes and weight gain, help control seasonal allergies (particularly hay fever), strengthen overall immune function, relieve the symptoms of IBS, improve feelings of anxiety, and lessen symptoms of depression, especially when it is combined with prebiotics.
L. gasseri: Multiple studies on L. gasseri identified its ability to increase levels of folic acid or folate in the body, which is known for treating anemia and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular events.
In addition, it was shown to suppress the formation of bad bacteria, such as H. pylori, consumed through contaminated or spoiled foods.
Other studies have focused on L. gasseri’s strong antimicrobial properties and have found that it can be used to control and eliminate vaginal infections caused by the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus.
B. bifidum: Many B. bifidum studies have focused on the prevention of gastrointestinal infections. Researchers have determined that B. bifidum is involved in the breakdown of fiber in your gut. It also coats the inner lining of your intestines while stimulating your immune system.
By attaching to cells in the intestines, B. bifidum protects it from damage caused by toxins and germs, while also preventing toxins and germs from entering your bloodstream and making you sick.
L. salivarius: Researchers have found that L. salivarius produces its own antibodies targeting invading pathogenic bacteria, particularly E. coli and Salmonella. It also produces lactic acid that helps fight off bad bacteria and create an environment other probiotics can thrive in.
L. bulgaricus: Scientists have determined that L. bulgaricus plays a significant role in protecting the gastrointestinal lining from excess acid buildup, maintaining hormonal stability, ensuring proper nutrient absorption, and promoting regularity.
After dissecting and inspecting the various key strains that may be in your probiotic supplements, it is easy to see why they, particularly those discussed above, are crucial for your overall health.
Their long list of health benefits doesn’t stop there, though; prebiotics and probiotic supplements play a vital role in almost every system in the body to strengthen, enhance, and extend the quality of your life. These benefits include:
1. Helping the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your body stay balanced to ensure your body is functioning at its very best
2. Working to replace “good” bacteria that may be lost for whatever reason, such as when you take an antibiotic
3. Ensuring that food moves properly through your gut (peristalsis) and breaking down food into nutrients your body can use for energy, cell repair, and growth
4. Promoting mineral absorption from the foods you eat, particularly iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and other minerals that are crucial for bone health
5. Helping to metabolize and break down body wastes by attaching to the wall of the intestines and dislodging any accumulated decay before flushing it out of your body
6. Giving your immune system a boost to stop the growth of harmful gut bacteria and possibly promoting the production of natural antibodies in the body, such as IgA-producing cells, natural killer cells, and T lymphocytes
7. Killing oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and decrease the effects of gingivitis (This is important because tooth decay and gingivitis are linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.)
Although your body always needs probiotics, there are certain occasions when they become even more important. For example, when you are taking antibiotics, it is always a good idea to include a probiotic supplement in your daily routine.
Remember, antibiotics can’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria. As a result, they will kill any type of bacteria that gets in their way.
This is also the case if you are struggling with digestive issues, such as diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, leaky gut, or irritable bowel syndrome. Multi strain probiotics have been shown time and time again to get rid of diarrhea, relieve constipation and acid reflux, improve a leaky gut, and regulate IBS.
Probiotics naturally complement each other. However, research shows that probiotics require fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of soluble fiber that is found in a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables, to thrive. In fact, this type of fiber plays such a crucial role in ensuring probiotics work well together that researchers have named them prebiotics.
The combination of probiotics and prebiotic strains creates a synergistic effect that allows the body to thrive.
In addition to the numerous probiotic supplements available today, you can also turn to live-cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and kefir, or make a yummy probiotic smoothie to ensure your body is getting the probiotics it needs to keep you healthy and happy.
With that being said, the easiest and most efficient way to make certain your body is getting probiotics is by taking a supplement.