In Part 1 of our Picking a Probiotic Series, we explained Colony-Forming Units (CFU) – what they are, why they matter and how to apply information about them to selecting a probiotic product. Today, we’ll sink our teeth into Part 2 of the series!
Again drawing on the help of Activated Nutrients Chief Science Officer, Dr. JB, we’ll take a look at probiotic strains – in other words, the long, hard-to-pronounce bacteria names listed on the labels of probiotic products.
We’ll explore the common strains, why they’re considered “good” bacteria and how you can apply your newfound knowledge of probiotic strains to your next probiotic product purchase!
First of all, Dr. JB points out that many probiotic products contain more than one kind of bacteria and there’s a reason for that. He explains, “While a single strain can still have an impact, if it happens to be a strain that does not survive well in a specific person it may be of limited use. Multi-strain formulations have the advantage of significantly wider ranging functionality, higher likelihood of survival and development of a truly diverse microbiome, strains that colonize different areas of the gut and better ability for new growing ‘good’ strains to crowd out existing ‘bad’ bacteria.”
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two strains most commonly found in probiotic products. The reason is simple – they’ve been identified as the most beneficial for a balanced microbiodome in the human body!
Lactobacillus lives in the digestive, urinary, and genital tracts of the human body. This special bacterium produces lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose; this process is essential for optimal digestion. Lactobacillus also breaks down carbohydrates in the cut, kick-starting digestion and absorption as well as producing lactic acid. Lactic acid is crucial because it kills “bad” microorganisms that thrive in a gut that with out-of-whack acid levels.
That’s what Lactobacillus is generally good for, but each specific strain of the bacterium has its own special benefits. To name a few, there’s Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is great for digestive and immune function; Lactobacillus Lactis can reduce bowel inflammation; and Lactobacillus Plantarum, which naturally produces an antibiotic.
Bifidobacterium is just as remarkable. It lives in the gastrointestinal tract, female genitals and the mouth. It covers the wall of the colon to protect it from harmful bacteria and produces enough lactic acid to fuel the cells that live in your colon wall. This brilliant bug also produces Vitamin B-complex and Vitamin K, which provides great supplementation to the diet.
Like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium exists in many strains. Bifidobacterium Lactis, for example, supports healthy cholesterol and eases symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions such as Celiac and Ulcerative Colitis. Another strain, Bifidobacterium Breve, helps with bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation as well as suppressing yeast growth.
If you have specific health concerns you want to address with your probiotic use, we suggest doing some research to determine which strains will target your issues most directly. Or, if you’re simply interested in probiotics for general health, ensure you pick a product with multiple strains within the powerhouse Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families.