What is a Probiotic?
When I was a little girl, my mother taught me to always wash my hands before eating. We were taught that “germs” (Aka: bacteria) could make us sick and cause disease. No one told me that our whole body both inside and out are swarming with bacteria. The truth is your body is the natural home to trillions of microorganisms that are essential to your health and wellbeing.
It makes sense that if humans have been on earth for thousands of years, they must have picked up some bacteria along the way. Probiotics are bacteria that are beneficial to our health. Each species and strain has their own special function. Probiotics can help digest food, destroying harmful pathogens and producing vitamins.
Probiotics can be especially helpful after taking antibiotics, since these drugs kill both healthy and harmful bacteria. When healthy bacteria are killed off, the harmful bacteria flourish, often leading to diarrhea or other digestive troubles.
How to choose the right probiotic for you.
Probiotics may have a variety of effects in the body, and different probiotics may act in different ways.
Support a desired community of microorganisms
Maintain good GI health by stabilizing your digestive tract’s barriers against harmful microorganisms
Aid in restoring your gut bacteria’s community of organisms in the digestive tract after taking antibiotics or recovering from an illness.
Stimulate the immune response.
There is so much to learn about probiotics. In fact, researchers continue to find new ways our bodies work with probiotics. Research has shown that different bacterial strains have different effects on out body and prefer to live in certain areas. The Lactobacilli, for instance, live in our digestive, urinary and genital systems and can be found in some fermented foods like yogurt. Bifidobacteria normally live in the intestines as lactic acid bacteria, and are also found in fermented foods.
Below is a summary of how to choose the right probiotic.
Best For: Acne, Vaginal health, Diarrhea
Acidophilus is often talked about as a common probiotic in yogurt. These microbes survive stomach passage and are able to colonize in the intestine. There is good evidence looking at Acidophilus for treating vaginal infections. Other studies show that it has been demonstrated in humans to reduce problems associated with lactose intolerance.
Acidophilus has also had excellent results in decreasing acne. There are a few studies that have demonstrated some clinical improvement in acne while taking a probiotic mixture of L. acidophilus and L. Bulgaricus.
Best For: Eczema
Rhamnosus is a well studied probiotic. It is beneficial when our gut flora are altered through travel causing what is known as “travelers’ diarrhea.”Rhamnosus GG has been found beneficial specifically for treating diarrhea associated with these cases. Another benefit from L. Rhamnosus is its ability to decrease and even prevent eczema.
Best For: Inflammation
L. Plantarum can help normalize immunity and control inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Some studies have shown it can decrease overall inflammation in the gut. Most significant is its ability to provide symptom relief, especially of abdominal pain and bloating, in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Best For: GI support, Brain function
There are some studies that have promising results with L. Casei for digestive support and regulating diarrhea.
There was a study that noted L. Casei beneficial in relieving anxiety. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study found supplementation with 24 billion units of the L. Casei strain, Shirota, led to a rise in probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as well as a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression
Best For: Immunity
Some studies suggest that B. Lactis may help improve immune function.
Best For: Constipation, Brain Function
B. Longum is one of the first types of bacteria to colonize our bodies at birth. These important microorganisms ferment sugars into lactic acid, helping to stabilize the acidity of the GI tract and inhibit growth of harmful bacteria. For a group of adults prone to constipation, taking a mix of B. Longum BB536 for 2 weeks increased bowel movements. Studies have shown that B. Longum is one of the leading probiotic strains associated with cognitive enhancement. Subjects administered B. Longum 1714 showed subtle improvements in visuospatial memory as well as enhanced prefrontal cortex activity
Best For: Immunity, GI support
B. Bifidum has been shown regulate the innate immune response, your body’s first line of defense against infection. These helpful bacteria also prevents intestinal pathogens or “digestive disrupters” from overgrowth in our gut, essential in restoring the bacterial balance and optimizing digestion. Other clinical research studies indicate B. Bifidum can decrease symptoms of IBS.
Best for: Constipation and Anti-aging
A preliminary study found that B. Breve was effective in increasing stool frequency in children with functional constipation. These researchers also found a positive effect in stool consistency and relief in abdominal pain, making B. breve a promising addition for easing digestive woes like constipation.
Other studies believe consuming B. Breve gives some benefit from harmful UV rays of the sun. The strain, B. breve B3, could be used to prevent photo-aging induced by chronic UV irradiation.
Some species and strains of Streptococcus have promising research on the benefits for health and wellbeing. Do not confuse this with streptococcal infections or the bacteria that causes strep throat and other harmful diseases!
Best For: Skin support
Research shows that S. Thermophilus has the ability to repress harmful bacteria in the Gastrointestinal tract. One study demonstrated that S. Thermophilus in combination with L. Casei and L. Bulgaricus reduced incidence of Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea with supplementation.
There have been other studies that looked at S. Thermophilus benefit on the skin. The natural lipids, ceramides, that make up the surface of the skin can become depleted and create dry and damages skin. Typically, ceramide protects underlying tissue from infection, dehydration and chemicals. S. Thermophilus can act as a antioxidant, and trap reactive forms of oxygen that dry, damage and age the skin.