With the rising popularity of probiotics comes misinformation and a misunderstanding on what constitutes a probiotic and how they function. If you take a probiotic or have considered it, have you ever researched the strains or what they are doing inside your body? If you don't know where to start, we've done the work for you.
You may be surprised to learn that probiotics are a lot more diverse than you imagined. By definition, probiotics are living microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host. They can even benefit multiple body systems at once, no matter the distance from the gut. Like many of the most impactful technologies, probiotics trace back to ancient Egypt, where the microorganisms are essential in their food fermentation process.
Thousands of years later, in the 1900s, researchers observed the lactobacillus strains in yogurt. Around the same time, researchers began hypothesizing Bifidobacterium's anti-pathogenic effect. It wasn't until the 1960s when the term "probiotic" was first coined, and in 2001, the WHO defined probiotics as live microorganisms that "confer a health benefit on the host."
Two decades later, there are so many different strains on the market it's become challenging to keep up and understand their many benefits. Let's explore the most popular probiotic strains on the market.
This is the first of several Bifidobacterium taking over the probiotic market. B. bifidum is one of the more commonly found probiotic bacteria in mammals. You can find it in various commercial dairy products, and it has shown a promising ability to modulate the immune response in your gut. B. bifidum has also been researched as a strain that can reduce the risk of stomach infections and diarrhea.
B. breve is one of the more diversely researched probiotic strains, with research ranging from general gut health to infant development. Mice studies show that immune cells in the gut can be stimulated by B. breve and other studies show how B. breve interacts with the gut-brain axis. Mice treated with B. breve had improved brain function via the modulation of the gut microbiome. Researchers speculate these results can lead to developing new therapeutics for the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, studies show that this probiotic strain is a potential candidate for promoting infant health, including the vulnerable preterm population.
In 2002, B. infantis, B. longum, and B. suis were unified as subspecies of B. longum. Our personal favorite of the three Bifidobacterium infantis. B. infantis has exemplified benefits to healthy and preterm infants, but studies also show B. infantis may reduce mortality and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Other research found B. infantis also has anti-inflammatory properties that benefit the infant microbiome. Still, plenty of data indicates the strain can benefit adults as well. A clinical study on B. infantis' impact on women with irritable bowel syndrome found (IBS) found that it relieves many of the symptoms associated with the condition. Research also indicates it modulates anti-inflammatory responses beyond the gut.
The next Bifidobacterium to talk about is B. lactis. Similar to the story of B. infantis, this strain is considered a subspecies of Bifidobacterium animalis. This can be confusing as it is often used interchangeably with Bifidobacterium animalis, but it's distinct from the Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies. Many published papers indicate B. lactis supports the growth and development of infants (including preterm, low birth weight, and newborn infants). Clinical studies in this field exemplify that B. lactis can enhance an infant's intestinal antibody response, prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and support development. Although many studies have been infant-focused, B. lactis can impact all ages, for one study showed it modulates the microbiome of elderly humans.
Last but not least, the final Bifidobacterium to talk about is the versatile B. longum. A lot of work shows that B. longum can support your gastrointestinal system. Similar to some other Bifidobacterium strains, clinical trials with B. longum showcase beneficial properties in infant and pediatric patients. A clinical trial showed young children treated with B. longum have a shortened period of diarrhea compared to a placebo group. Research also demonstrates B. longum has a significant antioxidative effect.
Probably the most controversial pick of the list of strains is Enterococcus faecium. It lives innocuously within our gastrointestinal tract but can also be quite dangerous. The most cited probiotic benefit of E. faecium is its ability to ward off harmful bacteria. That being said, E. faecium can infect people and can cause serious harm.
Who doesn't love the lactic acid-producing probiotic L. acidophilus? This probiotic strain has been of interest for therapeutic application, and it's shown to benefit gut health, among other health benefits. A pre-clinical study of L. acidophilus found that the pigs which consumed the strain had lower cholesterol serum levels.
Another perhaps less talked about the benefit of L. acidophilus is its impact on the gut-lung axis. The crosstalk between the immune cells in your gut and your lungs is known as the gut-lung axis. The microbiome of your gut can impact how your lung functions, and one such bacteria that can play a role in this phenomenon is L. acidophilus.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus commonly plays a crucial role in the fermentation of cheeses and yogurts. However, it is also considered a probiotic, as it is found in your digestive tract. In general, L. bulgaricus can be beneficial to your gut health, and it provides antibacterial properties that protect your gut.
Similarly, L. casei is commonly used in dairy production, but researchers look at its therapeutic potential. Several clinical studies have shown that L. casei has the potential to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea. There is also evidence that L. casei, in combination with other Lactobacillus strains, can play a role in preventing Clostridium difficile.
Another Lactobacillus strain worth mentioning is L. gasseri because it has been extensively observed for several health-related applications. The strain has been marked as a potential treatment of colitis. In a murine (mouse) model of obesity, L. gasseri showed it could be an alternative to prescription weight loss medication.
One of the more common lactobacillus strains is L. plantarum. It has shown a broad therapeutic potential for multiple indications. It's also easy to grow, safe, found in various food products, and is relatively abundant, which is why it has been a target of plenty of research. One study showed that L. plantarum could benefit patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Beyond the gastrointestinal benefits you would expect from probiotics, critical research elucidates how this strain impacts the gut-brain and the gut-lung axis. L. plantarum decreases the expression of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9), associated with human depression.
Within your gastrointestinal tract, you might also find L. reuteri. This is a common probiotic with some health benefits, but it's not found in all humans. Such benefits include the growing evidence that suggests L. reuteri can suppress Helicobacter pylori infections in your gut. Evidence also suggests that L. reuteri can also help your oral microbiome and reduce the risk of gingivitis.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG)
Probably one of the most well-studied strains on this list, L. rhamnosus, has been a focus of research ranging from gastrointestinal issues to modulating the gut-lung axis. L. rhamnosus can likely treat many forms of diarrhea in both adults and children. A growing amount of research suggests L. rhamnosus could reduce the symptoms of chronic respiratory diseases through the gut-lung axis. Similar to L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus has anti-inflammatory mechanisms with the potential to benefit multiple body systems.
Saccharomyces boulardii is the only tropical yeast included on this list of probiotics. This strain has a fascinating history and therapeutic properties. S. boulardii was first isolated from mangosteen fruit in 1923 and, since then, has undergone serious scientific inquiry. S.boulardii can modify the intestinal microbial flora and possibly prevent harmful pathogens from interfering.
As you can see, probiotics can be a powerful tool in your health arsenal, with varying functions across different strains. Hopefully, if you have never tried probiotics before, this serves as a starter guide to some common stains. It is important to note that none of the strains listed above are FDA-approved for any indication, and the quality of the product you are taking can be just as impactful as the strains used. resB Lung Support is a doctor-developed and science-backed option. You can learn more at www.resbiotic.com. And as always, you should talk to a health practitioner before making serious changes to your diet.