Probiotic Species and Strains: What Are Their Differences?

How Supplements Can Improve Your Overall Health

Probiotics has been a health buzzword for years. You’ve likely come across it while looking into digestive health or just in your everyday life through ads for yogurt and other cultured foods.

Probiotics are the good bacteria and good yeast that live inside our bodies. The human body is host to over 500 different probiotic strains.

Bacteria and yeast living in your body might gross you out, but these particular bacteria and yeast are essential to good health.  So imbalance or lack of probiotics can have negative effects on our bodies.

Of course, simply taking probiotics, especially probiotic supplements, will only work if you have the right type of bacteria present within them.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the different species and strains of probiotics.

Lactobacillus Species

Lactobacillus is most prominent species of probiotic in the body. Members of this species produce lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down the sugar in milk (lactose). They also ferment carbohydrates to produce lactic acid, which helps keep unwanted microorganisms out of your digestive tract.

L. Acidophilus

Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most-researched strain of probiotic and is essential to good health. It’s probably the most commonly used in the best probiotic supplements.

Health benefits of L. acidophilus include:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Improves digestive issues, like IBS, diarrhea, and ulcerative colitis
  • Prevents urinary tract infection
  • Fights infection
  • Improves nutrient absorption
  • Reduces allergy symptoms
  • Lowers chance of kidney stones

L. Rhamnosus (L. gg)

Lactobacillus rhamnosus is another well-researched strain of probiotic. It can survive passage through your digestive system and has good intestinal wall adhesion.

Health benefits of L. rhamnosus (L. gg) include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Lowers risk of traveler’s diarrhea
  • Improves vaginal and urinary health
  • Reduces allergies and inflammation
  • Decreases colic and fights diarrhea in infants
  • Alleviates IBS symptoms and constipation

L. Plantarum

Lactobacillus plantarum also survives the trip through the digestive system and is used in many fermented foods like sourdough, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Health benefits of L. plantarum include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves digestive health
  • Reduces IBS symptoms
  • Lowers risk of kidney stones

L. Salivarius

Lactobacillus salivarius is found in the colon, mouth, small intestines, and vagina. It’s fast-growing and is another very hardy strain of probiotic.

Health benefits of L. salivarius include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces cavities and gingivitis
  • Reduces IBS symptoms
  • Improves digestive health

Bifidobacterium Species

Bifidobacterium lines the walls of the large intestine and also produces lactic acid. It helps keep the intestines healthy, produces B-complex and K vitamins, and aids in the absorption of minerals.

B. Bifidum

Bifidobacterium bifidum is found mostly in the large intestine, but also the small intestine and vagina. It directly competes with unwanted bacteria, molds, and yeasts in the intestines.

Health benefits of B. bifidum include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Enhances nutrient absorption
  • Decreases allergies and inflammation
  • Alleviates diarrhea, especially while traveling

B. Lactis

Bifidobacterium lactis lives in the intestines and colon and is used as a starter culture for cheese, cottage cheese, and buttermilk.

Health benefits of B. lactis include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Fights cancerous tumors
  • Reduces cavities and dental caries
  • Improves digestive system
  • Reduces allergies and inflammation
  • Lowers total cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol

Choosing a Probiotic Supplement

While you can get probiotics through fermented and cultured food like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, if you need a boost of probiotics, a supplement can come in handy.

There are a huge number of options when it comes to choosing a probiotic supplement. Do a bit of research on which strains of probiotic will benefit you the most, and look for a supplement that includes that strain. It’s best to have a mixture of probiotic strains in a supplement.

Make sure that the probiotics that you are buying are alive and will reach your gut alive. This includes checking the expiration date and ensuring that the probiotic is delivered in a way that will make it to your gut, like a controlled-release capsule.

The Why: Health Benefits of Probiotics

Restoring a healthy and thriving probiotic community in your body can help your body to function at its best and alleviate many health conditions.

Here are a just a few of the benefits that have been or are being researched:

Digestive Health: Studies have shown that probiotics are beneficial in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal disease, such as IBS and antibiotic-related diarrhea.

Immune Function: There is evidence that probiotics can boost immune function and shorten the duration of illness such as the common cold.

Cardiovascular Health: Probiotics can help lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

Weight Loss: Weight loss can be a complicated process with many different factors, but probiotics may help in reducing belly fat and treating obesity.

The Bottom Line

Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that live in our bodies and are essential for good health. They boost our immune system, promote digestive health, and improve oral health, to name just a few of the numerous benefits of probiotics.

Probiotics can be found in fermented and cultured foods as well as supplemental form like liquids, capsules, and tablets.

Understanding and utilizing the right strains of bacteria in your probiotic regimen are essential to enjoying the myriad benefits that can be had with these friendly microorganisms.

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