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Probiotic supplementation has been proven to be beneficial for a range of symptoms including constipation (and its opposite, diarrhea), gas and more.
But, which probiotic strain is the best for your situation and health?
There are two main categories of probiotics, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Under these categories, there are many strains that can be beneficial as supplements.
Bifidobacterium strains are thought to support your immune system, help break down lactose and ensure that harmful bacteria doesn’t get out of hand in your intestine.
On the other hand, Lactobacillus primarily helps you break down lactose, controls bad bacteria through lactic acid, helps your body absorb minerals and fuels your muscles.
Now that you have a bit of background about the two types of probiotics, let’s dive further into the best probiotic strains.
Bifidobacterium animalis, in particular BB-12®, is a well-studied bifido strain with a range of health benefits. In fact, BB-12® is such a trusted probiotic source that it’s been used in many products including baby formula, supplements and certain milk products.
While many probiotics fail to survive the journey through the gastrointestinal tract, BB-12’s high acid and bile tolerance ensure survival for this strain. Besides simply surviving, bifidobacterium lactis also helps support your gastrointestinal tract’s microbiota.
Some of BB-12’s major benefits include:
Improvements in bowel function
Helps to ease diarrhea symptoms
Reduce side effects of and improve recovery after antibiotic treatment
Increased resistance to general respiratory infections
Reduces the likelihood of acute respiratory tract infections
Another Bifido strain, Bifidobacterium breve is thought to have positive anti-obesity effects. A stringent Bifidobacterium study found that, in pre-obese adults, body fat mass and body fat percentages were significantly lower when they received this probiotic.
While there were no major differences between parameters measured during blood tests, B. breve did slightly reduce triglyceride levels while improving HDL (good) cholesterol.
Besides its anti-obesity potential, B. breve has been shown to improve constipation in children. This probiotic also shows promise for reducing abdominal pain associated with constipation.
Other potential health benefits of bifidobacterium breve include:
Improvements in skin elasticity and UV damage reduction
Prevents skin dryness
Improvements in your immune system
B. longum is thought to be an early coloniser of infant gastrointestinal tracts. However, this bifidobacterium strain isn’t present in significant quantities in adults. In saying that, B. longum is still considered an important part of adult gut microbiota.
Bifidobacterium longum is thought to be an effective alleviator of diseases. In particular, gastrointestinal, immunological and infectious diseases. Besides fighting diseases, this probiotic’s lactic acid production is thought to fight pathogenic organisms in the gut.
B. longum’s infection-fighting was captured in a study in the Clinical Nutrition Journal. These researchers found that at least three months of probiotic supplementation led to a common cold bout being reduced by almost two days with less severe symptoms than usual.
Other B. longum benefits include:
Relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Potential to improve cholesterol levels
Improvements in liver and kidney function
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the more popular probiotic strains. Acidophilus works by producing lactase—an enzyme that breaks down lactose which is a sugar found in milk. Once lactose is broken down it turns into lactic acid, which has the potential to fight pathogens and other bad bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract.
Even if you haven’t supplemented with Acidophilus, you may have gotten some from other whole food sources. These sources include sauerkraut, miso, some cottages cheeses.
Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation is known for a range of benefits. Like most probiotics, Acidophilus supports digestion, improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome and reduces and prevents diarrhea.
Other potential benefits that require further study include:
Anti-obesity and weightloss
Prevention and the reduction of colds and flu
Reduction and prevention of allergy symptoms
May reduce eczema in sufferers
One interesting effect that isn’t common in other probiotics is the potential to treat and prevent vaginal infections. However, you should always consult your doctor before starting a probiotic course as a treatment for a particular disease or infection.
Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) is another well-studied probiotic that is common in a wide range of mammals. This particular probiotic is also quite abundant in the human body found not just in the gastrointestinal tract but on the skin, in breast milk and a number of other places.
Some benefits of Lactobacillus reuteri include:
Improves the production of antimicrobial molecules. For example, ethanol, organic acids and reuterin.
Prevents pathogens and bad bacteria from taking over the gut
Immune system benefits such as reducing pro-inflammatory factors while improving regulatory cell development.
Strengthening of the intestinal barrier, which prevents microbes from travelling to areas that they’re not supposed to.
May quell inflammatory diseases in the gut and elsewhere in the body.
Unfortunately, L. reuteri levels have been decreasing in humans over the last few decades which correlates to higher inflammatory disease levels. This correlation has some researchers promoting direct supplementation as a way to prevent or reduce inflammation issues.
While the Streptococcus category has what we call “bad bacteria”, the Thermophilus strain is one of the more beneficial ones. Unlike its nasty counterparts, S. Thermophilus lives within our bodies without causing disease and can actually help us with lactose digestion.
Like Acidophilus, S. Thermophilus is an important factor in the production of lactase, making it a suitable supplement for those with digestive issues.
Besides improving digestion and lactose breakdown, S. Thermophilus can be beneficial for those with a weak immune system.
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