Lactobacillus Rhamnosus: Health Benefits and Possible Side Effects

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, or L. rhamnosus, is one of the most common bacteria found living in the human body. It helps to produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose sugars into lactic acid. Read on to learn more about its benefits.

12 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus: Health Benefits and Possible Side Effects

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, or L. rhamnosus, is one of the most common bacteria found living in the human body. The body contains trillions of bacteria, most of which are beneficial to your health, including L. rhamnosus

As part of the lactobacillus genus, this bacterium produces the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid is beneficial for your health.

L. rhamnosus has adapted in a way that allows it to survive the acidic conditions of the stomach and intestines. It is able to colonize your digestive tract and can protect the area from the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. 

Detailed studies of L. rhamnosus discovered that it has a great affinity for intestinal mucosal cells, which allows it to colonize and thrive within the human gut. There are a variety of L. rhamnosus strains, each with its own strain-specific gene functions, allowing it to adapt to a wide range of environments. 

Beneficial bacteria like this are called probiotics, and they support functions and systems within the body. L. rhamnosus, like other probiotics, are adapted for survival in the acidic environment of the stomach and intestines. The lactic acid they produce creates additional acid in the area, which prevents the colonization of more harmful bacterial strains. This helps to protect your gut from infection. 

The Health Benefits of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

Probiotics like L. rhamnosus are known for improving gut health, but there are additional benefits these bacteria can provide for your overall health. 

Stronger Immune System

70% of your immune system lives in your gut. This means the bacterial community in your gut does more than just digest food. These microbes are essential to overall health and immunity. Probiotics like L. rhamnosus maintain bacterial balance thus protecting you from infections. These bacteria may live in your gut, but they boost your immunity in several ways.

By keeping your gut in balance, this probiotic prevents colonization of harmful bacteria that can trigger illness. Additionally, L. rhamnosus stimulates immune responses that promote a natural vaccination and can mitigate allergic responses. Because of its ability to travel successfully through the digestive tract and acids, L. rhamnosus is one of the most advantageous probiotics to take.

Probiotics such as L.rhamnosus also trigger the production of antibodies and other helpful immune cells. T-lymphocytes and natural killer cells are also activated which protect against infection and kill harmful cells such as cancer cells. It is especially important to take probiotics during any course of antibiotics. This way your gut community stays balanced, and you have the additional immune support your body needs.

Gut Health

By preventing harmful bacteria from colonizing in your gut, L. rhamnosus protects your intestines from inflammation and infection. Inflammation in the gut is linked to many digestive disorders and interferes with digestion and absorption of nutrients.

L. rhamnosus also produces beneficial short-chain fatty acids, such as acetate and butyrate. These compounds are producers when L. rhamnosus ferments the fiber you have consumed, and it then becomes the source of nourishment and maintenance for the cells lining your intestinal walls. 

The production of these short-chain fatty acids has also been linked to reduced risk for colon cancer.

IBS Relief

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders in the world, affecting between 9 and 23 percent of the population. Characterized by several uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and gas, IBS can be easily prevented and treated with probiotics like L. rhamnosus

Research has found links between IBS and an unbalanced gut bacterial community. Individuals with IBS will have reduced levels of beneficial bacteria like L. rhamnosus and more harmful strains like Clostridium. 

When supplements of L. rhamnosus are consumed regularly, the symptoms of IBS have been shown to disappear, and the lining of the gut wall heals and strengthens. 

Dental Health

Cavities are a common problem as a result of poor diet. They can also be related to an unbalanced bacterial community. Cavities develop when bacteria in the mouth produce acid that breaks down your enamel. These harmful bacteria also cause inflammation in the oral cavity, which increases your risk for gum disease. 

Taking probiotics like L. rhamnosus can create a healthier balance of bacteria in your body and in your mouth, preventing the colonization of the harmful strains. When taken regularly, L. rhamnosus has been found to reduce cavity growth and gum inflammation.

Prevent Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be caused by an infection or by an unhealthy gut. Infections are common causes of diarrhea and can lead to dehydration if too much water is lost. Taking antibiotics is one of the most common ways to disrupt the natural gut flora balance, and diarrhea is the result. 

L. rhamnosus has been found to restore balance in the gut when antibiotics are present, to prevent unpleasant digestive troubles like diarrhea. L. rhamnosus can also prevent the growth and colonization of harmful bacteria that can cause infection. 

UTI Prevention

A UTI (urinary tract infection) can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, including your bladder and kidneys. UTIs are more common among women but can develop in anyone as a result of harmful bacteria. 

Probiotics like L. rhamnosus can prevent these bacteria from spreading and can also kill them. Several studies have found that L. rhamnosus are safe and effective for preventing and treating UTIs. 

It is important to note that not all strains of L. rhamnosus can kill these bacteria, as not all of them attach well to cells along the urinary tract. 

Diabetes Support

Studies have found that L. rhamnosus can help to reverse insulin resistance. Insulin resistance develops when your body ignores the signals from the insulin hormone. 

Blood glucose is not removed as efficiently as needed, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. L. rhamnosus can help to reverse this, allowing blood sugar levels to balance out, but it has not yet been proven to prevent the onset of insulin resistance. 

Fight Allergies

L. rhamnosus probiotics stimulate and encourage the growth and colonization of friendly bacteria in the body. The more friendly bacteria you have, the less room there is for harmful strains that can cause illness. 

By preventing harmful bacteria from colonizing, L. rhamnosus can also prevent or relieve the severity of allergy symptoms.

Acne Treatment

Acne is a common skin condition caused by excessive bacteria and dirt on the skin, which get trapped in your pores. Studies found that L. rhamnosus probiotics suppress the growth of harmful bacteria, which reduces the appearance of acne. 

When combined with a daily skin cleansing regimen, L. rhamnosus supplements can keep your skin clean and free from blemishes. 

Lower Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases. L. rhamnosus was found to act on cholesterol in a similar way to statins (cholesterol medications) and reduces total blood cholesterol. In doing so, L. rhamnosus prevents the buildup of arterial plaque, which can clog arteries and cause hypertension as well as a heart attack or stroke. 

Taking Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

You can find L. rhamnosus probiotic supplements at any health food store, and you can buy the species by itself or combined with other probiotics. 

Probiotics are measured by the number of living organisms within a capsule. A standard L. rhamnosus capsule will contain 10 billion live bacteria (10 billion CFU). For the best general health benefits from L. rhamnosus, a capsule with 10 billion CFU is sufficient. 

If you are taking this probiotic to prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea, then it is recommended to take two capsules per day. This will give you 20 billion CFU each day to counteract the antibiotics you also consume. 

Always take the probiotics a few hours after the antibiotics, and continue taking them for at least a week after the course of antibiotics is completed. This ensures the gut gets back to a healthy balance after any destruction caused by the medication.

Always take the recommended dose listed on the supplement label or the dose your doctor has advised for you. L. rhamnosus can be taken with or without food, but it should never be consumed in quantities larger than recommended. 

This probiotic is typically taken in capsule form, but you can open the capsule and sprinkle the powder into food if that is easier for you. You can even find L. rhamnosus in certain dairy foods such as yogurt.

Side Effects and Warnings

Research has found L. rhamnosus to be safe and well-tolerated. There are few side effects that have been reported in some individuals, such as bloating and excessive gas. These are common reactions to probiotics of any strain, but they typically fade after a week. 

Should you notice additional or worse side effects, you may need to consider a lower CFU dose and should speak with your doctor about right away.

Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer or HIV should avoid probiotics completely. A weakened immune system is more susceptible to infection regardless of whether or not the bacteria are supposed to be helpful. 

Individuals taking immunosuppressive drugs such as cancer medications, drugs for organ transplants, and steroid drugs, should also avoid L. rhamnosus probiotics. 

In rare cases of L. rhamnosus therapy, cases of sepsis been developed. It is important to note that these cases only occurred in individuals with a compromised immune system. As a result, the natural response for fighting infections is altered, which can cause damage to several different organ systems, which can lead to them shutting down.  

Although allergic reactions to L. rhamnosus are rare, you need to seek immediate medical attention should you notice any signs of an allergic reaction. Hives, swelling of the lips, face, or tongue, and difficulty breathing could all indicate a serious allergy. 

Report any and all side effects to your doctor or pharmacist in case you need to stop taking the probiotic, or switch to a lower dose.

The Bottom Line

L. rhamnosus is a beneficial bacterium that is found naturally in the human gut. It protects the intestines from overgrowth of harmful bacteria and produces beneficial compounds the intestinal tract requires.

There are a number of health benefits L. rhamnosus supplements can provide when taken as part of your daily diet, and you can add this bacteria through food like yogurt or as a supplement. Just be sure to talk with your doctor first, and only consume the recommended dosage.

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