Our previous blog briefly discussed the role of good bacteria in improving gut health. We also looked at some common bacterial strains used in probiotics. In this blog entry, we will examine more in-depth the types of probiotics and their health benefits. So, if you are looking for probiotics and are not sure what type will suit you better, continue reading.
How are Probiotic Strains Named?
Probiotic names may seem like a jumble of letters and numbers, but behind these labels lie fascinating stories. Let's unravel the mystery of their names:
A genus refers to a rank or category that groups together closely related organisms. It is one level above the species classification. Within a genus, different species share common characteristics and traits.
As an example, let's look at the Lactobacillus genus. Lactobacillus encompasses various species of bacteria that are known for their probiotic properties, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Species is a fundamental unit of biological classification, representing a group of organisms that share common characteristics and have the potential to interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Each species is distinct and unique within its genus.
Using the example of Lactobacillus, let's consider Lactobacillus acidophilus. The species belongs to the Lactobacillus genus and is known for its acidophilic nature and ability to thrive in acidic environments.
These are subdivisions within a species. A strain is a subset of a species that exhibits distinct genetic or phenotypic characteristics that enable it to perform specific functions or exhibit unique characteristics. Alphanumeric designations are frequently used to identify and differentiate strains.
For instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 are two different strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus, each with different characteristics.
Common Probiotic Groups
Though there are several types of probiotics, most supplements are based on 3 genera. These are:
- Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
- Soil-Based Blends
While some species improve IBS, others offer immune support. Moreover, each species populate a specific niche of the gut. Single probiotic species won’t be enough to outcompete bad bacteria in the gut. You will need a blend of probiotic strains to maintain the balance and improve gut health.
Probiotic Types: Most Common Species
We have characterized the probiotic species based on their genera.
1- Lactobacillus-based Probiotics
Lactobacillus genus produce lactase—an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar. Additionally, these bacteria form lactic acid, which can effectively reduce the population of bad bacteria.
These gram-positive bacteria only account for 0.01% of the total gut bacteria but still play a significant role in improving digestion and overall gut health.
Here are some common Lactobacillus species found in most probiotics:
Lactobacillus acidophilus: Derived from fermented milk products, this bacteria species is an integral part of many probiotic supplements, including Probiotics 50Billion. It commonly resides in the mouth, small intestine, and vagina. Health benefits include: strengthening immunity and the digestive system.
Lactobacillus casei: This strain has been linked to promoting regularity and alleviating occasional digestive discomfort, providing much-needed relief. Various studies have pointed out its role in reducing the likelihood of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, colon cancer, and acute infectious diarrhea.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Renowned for its role in supporting a healthy gut, L. rhamnosus has shown promise in maintaining overall well-being. This probiotic species is used in the fermentation of dairy products.
Found in the GI tract, it is responsible for carrying out many functions. It’s effective in controlling bad bacteria and fungi. Other benefits include the role in weight loss and lowering the incidence of eczema in children.
Lactobacillus plantarum: Known for its robustness, L. plantarum is a versatile probiotic strain that can survive the harsh conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. It has been shown to relieve gastric discomforts like IBS. Reducing cholesterol levels and improving iron absorption are some of the other health benefits that this amazing bacterial species can provide.
Lactobacillus paracasei: This good bacteria has gained attention for its potential benefits in supporting digestive health and immune function. It can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fend off bad gut bacteria. These are found in fermented dairy products. Because of the many health benefits that this bacteria species offers, it is part of several probiotic supplements.
Lactobacillus fermentum: With its ability to produce antimicrobial substances, L. fermentum is believed to enhance immunological responses. By incorporating it in your gut, you can prevent gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
Lactobacillus salivarius: As the name suggests, L. salivarius is naturally found in the oral cavity, but it also colonizes the gastrointestinal tract. The inclusion of these good bacteria in the gut enhances digestion as well as immunity. It has been found to prevent and treat a wide array of diseases like asthma, cancer, dermatitis, and halitosis.
Lactobacillus gasseri: This strain has garnered interest for its potential to support weight management and metabolic health. It has been studied for its impact on fat metabolism and its ability to influence gut hormone levels.
2- Bifidobacterium-based Probiotics
Let's shift our focus to another powerhouse of probiotics: Bifidobacterium. These beneficial bacteria contribute significantly to our gut health.
Bifidobacterium breve: Known for its versatility, B. breve aids in nutrient absorption and plays a vital role in maintaining a balanced gut ecosystem.
Bifidobacterium longum: This probiotic powerhouse has garnered attention for its potential to support a robust immune system and promote bowel regularity.
Bifidobacterium infantis: As the name suggests, B. infantis is an essential companion during infancy, supporting the development of a healthy gut microbiome.
Bifidobacterium bifidum: This strain is commonly found in the human gut, especially in breastfed infants. B. bifidum has been associated with promoting healthy digestion, supporting immune function, and maintaining a balanced gut microbiota.
Bifidobacterium lactis: Known for its versatility, B. lactis is a popular probiotic strain used in various dairy products and dietary supplements. It may support digestive health, ease occasional gastrointestinal discomfort, and improve immunity.
Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis: Often referred to as B. lactis, this strain has gained recognition for its wide-ranging benefits. Research indicates that it supports gut health, maintains a balanced immune response, and improves bowel regularity.
3- Saccharomyces boulardii
Among the vast probiotic landscape, Saccharomyces boulardii stands tall as a unique and valuable ally.
A true survivor: S. boulardii is a resilient yeast that can withstand the harsh acidic environment of the stomach, making it a remarkable probiotic companion.
Supporting gut health: This exceptional probiotic has shown promise in maintaining intestinal balance during challenges, such as antibiotic use or traveler's diarrhea.
Soil-Based Probiotics (Bacillus Strains)
As the name suggests, these are soil-borne gut bacteria. Species like Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis show a variety of health benefits, including improved abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and IBS.
Streptococcus thermophilus and Other Strains
While some probiotic strains take the spotlight, it's worth exploring the lesser-known heroes that contribute to our well-being.
Streptococcus thermophilus: Often found in fermented dairy products, S. thermophilus assists in lactose digestion and supports overall digestive comfort.
Unveiling the hidden gems: Lesser-known probiotic strains, such as Lactococcus lactis and Enterococcus faecium, boast their unique contributions to gut health, highlighting the rich diversity within the probiotic realm.
In the realm of probiotics, synergy reigns supreme. Combination probiotics bring together different strains to unleash a powerful collective force.
The strength of unity: Combining complementary probiotic strains can enhance their individual benefits, creating a harmonious environment within our gut.
Examples of synergy: Probiotic formulations like "ABC Probiotic Blend" or "Gut Harmony Duo" harness the collective power of diverse strains to maximize their impact on our overall well-being.
As we bid adieu to this captivating journey through the myriad types of probiotics, it's essential to remember that personalized advice from a healthcare professional is invaluable. So, embark on this probiotic adventure with confidence, incorporating these remarkable microorganisms into your healthy lifestyle. Let the power of probiotics unlock a world of gut harmony and vibrant well-being!