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 support your digestion and overall health?
Probiotics generally contain one or multiple strains of live bacteria and yeasts, each offering consumers a unique formula to aid in the function of digestive and immune systems.
Understanding which of these individual probiotics strains are included in your supplement and how they work can give you the knowledge to maximize their benefit to your digestive and immune system’s overall health.
As you introduce these ‘good’ bacterial strains to your gut, they encourage balance in the microbiome already living in your gut. You want to keep this microbiome at an 85/15 level, with 85% being probiotic or “good” bacteria and introducing potent probiotic strains helps support this balance.
70% of your immune system resides in the gut as part of this microbiome, and probiotics help support microbial balance which in turn, supports immune system function. Probiotics help the immune system identify the difference between healthy compounds and environmental threats, to promote healthy immune responses.
With well over 500 strains of probiotics, it would be impossible for a supplement to contain them all. However, there are several that are important in promoting overall health. These are the top 11 strains you want your probiotic to 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 environmental threats. A 2015 study found that B. animalis promotes regular bowel movements and can help reduce occasional constipation.
B. breve: B. breve supports the intestinal tract’s pH to stop the growth of “bad” bacteria 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: This potent strain has been shown to promote healthy cell growth while also supporting immune system and respiratory functions, and promoting digestive health. One study found evidence of the natural healing support B. lactis has on gut lining health, strengthening its integrity to keep the nutrients you should be absorbing in the gut, where they need to be.
B. longum: B. longum positively supports amino acid fermentation, which helps the body maintain muscles and overall cell structure. Additionally, it ferments carbohydrates, supporting the body’s metabolic health. In a 2016 study, researchers reported that B. longum can reduce occasional daily stress.
Lactobacillus acidophilus: L. acidophilus and the digestive support it provides have been scientifically studied. This probiotic strain can help support bacterial balance in the vaginal ecosystem, while also promoting healthy bowel movements and reducing occasional diarrhea. Research is ongoing into how L. acidophilus may also promote the immune response to help support healthy growth of cells in the body.
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. L. reuteri can help reduce occasional diarrhea in children and adults who work together in a small, confined environment, as well as promote overall health by supporting optimal digestive and immune system function. It can also support a healthy bacterial balance in the vaginal ecosystem.
L. rhamnosus: L. rhamnosus may support normal blood sugar levels and healthy weight management as well as reduce occasional seasonal threats. By promoting a healthy gut microbiome balance, L. rhamnosus can also help reduce discomfort from occasional indigestion, gas, and bloating, particularly after eating, especially when it is combined with prebiotics.
L. gasseri: L. gasseri helps to support folic acid or folate in the body, which is known for promoting heart and circulatory health. In addition, it works with other probiotics to promote balance in the gut microbiome to protect against everyday toxins from food. Women can also promote vaginal microbiome balance and health with L. gasseri’s powerful cleansing properties.
B. bifidum: A B. bifidum study has focused on the support it provides for digestive health, and has determined that this powerful probiotic helps breakdown the fiber in your gut. It also supports the gut lining to fend off occasional toxins and other particles that can interfere with immune system responses.
L. salivarius: L. salivarius produces its own antibodies targeting environmental threats and also produces lactic acid that helps fend off occasional toxins and “bad” bacteria to support a balanced environment other probiotics can thrive in.
L. bulgaricus: L. bulgaricus plays an important role in fending off bad actors in the gut to promote healthy gut lining so beneficial nutrients can pass through while keeping other particles out, for optimal digestive function and regular bowel movements.
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 helpful in supporting your overall health.
Their long list of health benefits doesn’t stop there. The inclusion of prebiotics on a probiotic supplement plays helpful roles in almost every system in the body to support and promote health.
1. Balancing the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut helps support proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
2. Nourishing “good” bacteria that may be overwhelmed by occasional oxidative stress.
3. Promoting proper food movement 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 support bone health.
5. Helping to metabolize occasional everyday toxins for removal from your body.
6. Supporting immune cell activity to protect against environmental and seasonal threats and promoting the production of natural antibodies in the body for healthy immune responses.
The human body contains more bacteria than cells, so maintaining healthy bacterial balance is important for overall health. Although probiotics can regularly support your overall health, there are certain occasions when they can be beneficial.
For example, when you are taking antibiotics, your doctor might also suggest you take probiotics. Regular probiotic supplementation can also help promote digestive health to help alleviate common gas, bloating, and indigestion, particularly after eating.
Probiotics require fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of soluble fiber that is found in a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables, to thrive. This type of fiber is commonly known as prebiotics. In simplest terms, prebiotics are food for probiotics, helping nourish them to keep them alive and active in the gut.
The combination of probiotics and prebiotic strains creates a synergistic effect that allows the body to thrive. By encouraging the growth of the good bacterial strains and crowding out the bad ones, you enjoy the benefits of good digestion, including more energy, better weight control, and making feeling good the new normal.
You can add certain foods to your diet such as live-cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and kefir, or make a yummy probiotic smoothie to help get the probiotics your gut needs.
Or, you can add a good, solid probiotic supplement that can help support your digestive, immune and overall health. 1MD Nutrition’s Complete Probiotics Platinum® has 11 different strains and guarantees 51 billion live cultures per capsule for optimal digestive and immune system support.