Letting your food go bad can be good for you, in certain cases! You have likely heard of some of the health benefits of fermented foods and the lovely probiotics found within, and today we will get to know the good guys in your gut a bit better. Probiotics are bacteria that colonize in your body and make substances that benefit you. Another term for probiotics is your “commensal flora,” or the organisms that eat at the same table. While these bountiful bacteria are found in breastmilk, food, and our inner ecosystem, supporting the wonderful world inside you can be a challenge in our modern, sterilized spaces.
Power up with Probiotics
Why do you care about probiotics? Because they go where you go and take care of you! Here are some health benefits:
- Improves Immune Health (1,2,3)
- Improves Mood and Mental Health (4,5,6)
- Boosts Energy Levels (7,8)
- Balances Blood Sugar (9,10)
- Supports a Healthy Weight (11,12,13)
- Improves Cholesterol Levels (14,15,16)
- Improves Oral Health (17)
- Regulates Hormone Levels (18,19)
- Improves Skin Health (20)
- Reduces yeast infections (including Candida) and urinary tract infections (21,22,23)
- Improves Digestion (24,25,26)
- Helps resolve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (27,28)
- Reduces risk of colon cancer (29,30)
- Reduces risk of diarrhea, especially due to antibiotic use, and constipation/irregularity (31,32,33)
- Uses Chemical Warfare to Eliminate Undesirable Bacteria (34,35,36,37)
- Builds Better Bones (38,39,40)
- Provides Important Nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, and Fats) (41,42,43)
- Promotes Nutrient Absorption (44,45,46,47)
Meet your Bacterial BFFs
A healthy gut relies on the right bacterial blend. While we usually address probiotics as one large group, let’s meet and greet some of our most beneficial groups of bacteria and a few individual strains as we highlight their documented health benefits.
Many of your gut bacteria produce lactic acid. This lactic acid both reduces the pH in your gut and provides a lot of the energy your gut cells use. Probiotics can produce short chain fatty acids, like butyrate, which both fuels intestinal cells and reduces inflammation. Power up with probiotics and empower your gut cells to do their jobs to reduce your risk of leaky gut and keep the local environment acidic enough that pathogenic bacteria cannot easily survive.
To Spore or Not to Spore?
Some bacteria that live in very harsh environments can form spores, hardening their membranes to the outside world when conditions won’t support life. Bacteria are essentially immortal, and can survive in spore form for as long as necessary to wait out an inhospitable environment. This is why we even find viable bacteria floating in space on asteroids.
Some gut bacteria form spores while others do not:
- Non-spore formers are easier to eliminate from your gut, tend to reside in your colon, and they are more often restored by their larger numbers in fermented foods.
- Spore-formers are harder to eliminate from your gut, tend to reside in your small intestine, and are more easily acquired from soil— they are also found in foods fermented over long periods of time. They halt spoilage and inhibit pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Shigella, and Yersinia.
The Bacillus bacteria are powerful rod-shaped, spore-forming bacteria that produce lactic acid and are resistant to light, heat, moisture, and stomach acid. They easily colonize your small intestine and live in your body longer than other bacteria as they are excreted very slowly. They are mainly found as spores in soil that germinate in animal guts far faster than they do in a laboratory! (1)
- Bacillus coagulans produces lactic acid, which boosts immunity and supports bacteria in your colon that produce butyrate.(2) Butyrate helps heal leaky gut, reduces blood sugar, and quells localized inflammation. B. coagulans also helps with symptoms of acute rotavirus diarrhea, occasional constipation, lactose intolerance, re-balancing flora after using antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, gas and bloating.(3,4) and dental cavities; this bacterium can also support pH balance in the vaginal tract, reducing pain.
- Bacillus subtilis is known to help resolve gastrointestinal infections, upper respiratory infections, and diarrhea caused by antibiotic therapy. B.subtilis creates a healthy biofilm and supports digestion by helping to break down fats, proteins, and starches we eat while it releases enzymes to break down proteins that can set off the immune system (like gluten, lactose, cellulose, fungal toxins, anti-nutrients, phenols, and tannins; it also makes antibiotics and enzymes to break down harmful molds, yeasts, and bacteria.(5,6,7)
Neither the Lactobacillus bacteria nor the Bifidobacteria form spores, but they are both important colony-forming strains. They both produce lactic acid that fuels your gut cells and are more likely to reside in your colon and be eliminated in stool, so replenishing them periodically through your diet is essential. Both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria convert fats you eat into fat-burning antioxidants called conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) that support more lean body mass and less body fat.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus is well-known because it is a main strain in fermented foods, from sauerkraut to yogurt. It improves overall digestion and nutrient absorption, produces short chain fatty acids and can protect the intestinal lining from aspirin damage, relieves occasional cramping/gas/diarrhea, improves lactose absorption, helps break down gluten, and, with B. bifidum, can help restore your microflora after you take antibiotics.(8, 9, 10,11, 12) Wow! L. Acidophilus also reduces risk of UTIs and yeast infections, may reduce cholesterol levels, boosts immune health, and supports oral health including helping patients recover from gingivitis and periodontitis. (13,14)
- Lactobacillus plantarum is a very well researched bacterium because it is one of the most commonly consumed probiotic in fermented foods. In your mouth, heat-treated L. plantarum boosts oral immune function, reduces inflammation, promotes healing, and helps to reduce periodontitis.(15) In the rest of your gut, L. plantarum produces peroxides that help kill harmful gut microbes (such as E.Coli, Enterobacter, and Pseudomonas), reduces gas, bloating, and other digestive distress while resisting leaky gut, breaking down gluten, lactose, and bile, and producing nutrients like B12, folate, riboflavin, and antioxidants.(16,17,18,19,20,21,22) It also lowers heart disease risk, according to a recent review of about 1000 subjects in 15 trials in which L. plantarum was found to significantly reduce both total and LDL cholesterol! (23)
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus is closely related genetically to L. casei and L. paracasei, with a few key differences. L. rhamnosus plays a critical role in women’s health. For women with recurrent urinary tract infections, both L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri reduce the rate of recurrence and the likelihood that invasive bacteria will reduce antimicrobial resistance.(24) In addition, researchers have shown that with high enough doses, orally administered L. rhamnosus can take less than two weeks to colonise the vagina! With L. casei and L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus can boost immune health by increasing T lymphocytes.(25) Finally, L. rhamnosus is a very effective treatment for antibiotic-induced diarrhea, as is S. boulardii; L. rhamnosus not only produces butyrate and supports your intestinal lining, it also makes more protein-cutting enzymes than any other Lactobacillus.(26,27) Like its relatives, it may help manage the stuffiness of seasonal allergies. (28)
- Lactobacillus casei helps break down casein, a primary milk protein (“curds” as opposed to the whey), and is known for improving milk digestion and reducing diarrhea and constipation. (29,30) This mighty microbe has also been shown to inhibit E. coli infection and H. Pylori infection (the stomach ulcer bug), help break down gluten, reduce symptoms of IBS, support the gut lining and reduce inflammation, improve immune function in ulcerative colitis, and prevent stomach, peritoneal, bladder, and colorectal cancer growth. (31,32,33,34,35,36,37) Sniffly in the spring? L. casei may help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.(38) Moreover, supplementing during pregnancy has been shown to produce newborns with less risk of caesarean birth, less risk of jaundice, and increased antioxidant levels! (39) L. casei has also been shown to inhibit bacterial, viral, and yeast infections. (40) This biotic BFF that can reduce obesity in rats also may reduce liver damage and support heart health by producing thiamin and riboflavin, reducing triglycerides, increasing HDL, and reducing risk of hypertension. (41,42,43,44,45) From everyday eating to exceptional emergencies, L. casei has got you covered.
- Lactobacillus paracasei has 90% similar genetics to L. casei and L. rhamnosus but needs different nutritional and environmental conditions. L. paracasei is somewhat heat resistant, grows well in ripening cheese, and breaks down proteins easily. (46) Like L. casei, it makes compounds that can kill pathogenic bacteria (hence the role of fermentation in safely extending the shelf-life of foods). (47) L. paracasei has been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation, produce riboflavin, and help balance the probiotics we desire, supporting healthy bowel movements.(48,49) It is a robust strain that can support liver health, vaginal health, and may reduce grass pollen allergies. (50,51,52)
- Lactobacillus salivarius can grow in high salt conditions and is particularly good at settling into the mouth, intestines, and vagina while producing peroxides and other compounds to prevent pathogens from colonizing your tissues. (53) L. salivarius is so named for its role in dental health- shown to reduce bad breath, facilitate calcium absorption, reduce pathogenic bacteria in dental plaque, and reduce gum erosion due to gingivitis. (54,55,56) It also produces B vitamins and butyrate, protects the gut wall, and has been effective in treating asthma, cancer, and atopic dermatitis. (57,58,59,60
- Lactobacillus brevis is a short (brevis) rod-shaped (bacilli) bacterium known, like L. salivarius, to support oral health, antagonize bad bacteria with hydrogen peroxide production, and support vaginal health. (61) L. brevis has other intriguing health benefits such as discouraging H. pylori infection, potentially reducing your risk of ulcer and potentially reducing oxalate levels in urine and therefore kidney stone risk! (62,63,64)
Bifidobacteria line large intestinal walls while discouraging bad bacteria and yeasts from taking up residence, while others live in your saliva. Like Lactobacilli, they make lactic acid, which energizes your gut cells and lowers pH, helping you absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc! Bifidobacterium also produces energizing and anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids, B vitamins thiamin and folate, and vitamin K. (65)
- Bifidobacterium infantis, a longum subspecies, makes up the largest group of good gut bacteria in babies. Providing relief from bloating, constipation, IBS symptoms, and acute diarrhea, B. infantis may boost calcium absorption, is critical in supporting an infant’s developing gut, and has even been shown to fight rotavirus infections, improve immunity and overall survival in low birth weight infants. (66,67,68,69) In adults, B. infantis protects not only the vaginal canal but also can reduce your risk of kidney stones. (70)
- Bifidobacterium bifidum is your highly researched good gut guardian, reducing your risk of infection with pathogenic bacteria and viruses from infancy to adulthood. (71,72) It is resistant to bile but easily killed by antibiotics and must be intentionally restored after their use. (73) B. bifidum can boost immunity, and when combined with Lactobacilli, B. bifidum can help restore normal flora after antibiotic use. (74,75) This strain has been shown to improve cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity in gestational diabetics, and even reduce weight! (76,77) Like other bacterial besties, this strain makes short chain fatty acids, helps break down milk proteins and sugars, and reduces cramping, gas, and diarrhea associated with acute colon inflammation or “flare ups,” while supporting vaginal and urinary tract health. (78,79,80)
- Bifidobacterium longum has garnered recent attention for its apparent role in improving mood disorders- talk about gut feelings! This colonic bacterium produces short chain fatty acids, riboflavin, and some antibiotics, supports the growth of other gut-health-good-guys, and can improve ulcerative colitis symptoms. 81,82,83) B. longum has been shown, with L. helveticus, to reduce depression and anxiety (improving anger, OCD, phobias, and sleep) both by subjective measurements and stress hormone levels! (84)
- Bifidobacterium breve is also a primary colonizer of the colons of breastfed babies. Resistant to bile, oxygen, and acid, it is critical because it helps other probiotics settle into your gut. (85) Low in babies born by caesarean section, B. breve boosts general immunity, reduces diarrhea, constipation, allergic reactions, gas, bloating, cramping, E. coli growth, and infections. With strong anti-inflammatory properies, it supports lung, skin and vaginal health and has been shown to reduce asthmatic symptoms. It has also been found to decrease the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF~a in children with Celiac disease on a gluten-free diet. (86,117,118,119,120,121) Find this bacterial bestie in yogurt and other fermented dairy products as well as sauerkraut, fermented olives, and traditional pickles.
- Bifidobacterium lactis sounds like lactose because it is used as a starter culture for buttermilk and cheese. Because it tolerates oxygen and bile, it can live in your mouth, small, and large intestine, where it helps you prevent cavities, fight bad breath, break down waste, absorb nutrients, prevent ulcers, reduce inflammation and ease digestive discomfort in chronic colitis, and may reduce risk of colon cancer. (87,88,89,90) Shown to inhibit tumor growth, B. lactis improves immune cell function, reduces risk of infection in the elderly, and reduces grass pollen allergy symptoms. (91,92,93) Like other strains mentioned above, it has been shown to support blood sugar control while decreasing weight, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol; it may even reduce the damage of a heart attack through unknown mechanisms. (94.95)
Usually associated with illness, these tiny round bacteria have a long history of helping make delicious fermented foods.
- Streptococcus thermophilus, true to its name, has a high tolerance for heat, and is useful in making fermented foods. It improves digestion by protecting against H. pylori, reducing gas associated with IBS, improving leaky gut, supporting lactose digestion, and helping to resolve ulcerative colitis symptoms. (96,97,98,99) Not only does S. thermophilus boost immunity and prevent ulcers, it also may decrease your risk of kidney stones, has shown promising anti-tumor activity, makes riboflavin, may reduce LDL cholesterol and boost HDL (desirable) cholesterol! (100,101,102,103) This strain may even help your skin glow as it has been shown to increase ceramides, which hold in moisture! (104)
Despite our common discussion of “yeast infections,” not all yeasts are bad. Some support a balanced flora and reduce diarrhea risk while surviving extreme conditions to do it!
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a hardy, acid-resistant yeast known for its anti-diarrheal properties that are on par with L. rhamnosus, and has been used in France since the 1950s for digestive support. (105,106) It is now known to be a potent defender against Candida (that tends to overpopulate if left unchecked and cause a classic “yeast infection”), C. difficile, M. pneumoniae, pathogenic E. coli, and other bacteria and amoebae. (107,108,109,110,111) Used to preserve your gut’s good guys while you take antibiotics, S. boulardii has been shown to treat gastroenteritis in both children and adults and improve inflammatory bowel symptoms. (112) In your small intestine, S. boulardii increases digestive enzyme action; in your colon, it produces anti-inflammatory chemicals including short chain fatty acids and increases reabsorption of water and salt. 113,114,115) S. boulardii may also protect your liver from damage! (116)
More Microbe than Man
While it may seem hard to believe, your bacterial BFFs far outnumber your own cells- but as we continue to discover, we should be so lucky to be more microbe than man! Consider that without ideal bacterial balance, you may have difficulty both acquiring and absorbing certain vitamins and minerals- like folate, biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron! Enjoy fermented foods or supplement wisely with both probiotics and our Nutreince daily multivitamin to power up your probiotics and let your best friends pay the rent by supporting your immunity, digestion, and overall wellness.
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STUDIES ON BENEFITS:
Studies on individual strands of probiotics