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11 Probiotic Strains for Health

Bacteria are everywhere. Not only are they all around us, they live in every part of our bodies, especially the gut. In fact, bacteria outnumber human cells in our bodies. There are 10 times as many single-celled microbes as human DNA cells in the human body (1). So don’t be a germaphobe, be a germa-friend! Read on to learn how.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are often explained as good bacteria. In contrast to pathogenic bacteria, that can cause infections, illness, or imbalances in your system, good bacteria are the friendly flora that help your body function. Bacteria help us digest food, produce vitamins necessary for metabolism, and help fight off bad bacteria in a number of ways. Having plenty of friendly flora crowds out the bad bacteria, prevents them from attaching to your gut lining, and can even prevent toxins from making you sick!

Why you should have a variety of probiotic strains

Throughout our life a number of bacterial strains take hold in our gut, some of which live there for the rest of our lives. Having a variety of bacterial strains is good because they all have different functions, and a diverse population of friendly bacteria prevents any single pathogenic strain from taking over.

What do the different strains do?

STRAIN:Bifidobacterium lactis

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (post-antibiotic and traveler’s)
  • ACTION: Restores gut microflora
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 to 3 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions. Start before antibiotic use and continue afterwards for as many days as the antibiotics were used or start a few days before a trip and continue daily during travel. Do not take supplements at the same time as antibiotics, the antibiotics will kill the friendly bacteria. Space out probiotics and antibiotics at least a few hours apart.

STRAIN:Lactobacillus acidophilus

  • USED FOR: Strengthening immune system and fighting yeast infection
  • ACTION: Creates acidic environment to discourage growth of harmful microorganisms and produces natural antibiotics
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN:Lactobacillus acidophilus CL 1285

  • USED FOR: General digestion aid
  • ACTION: Contributes healthy bacteria to the gut; inhibits reproduction of harmful bacteria
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1

  • USED FOR: Lactose intolerance
  • ACTION: Produces lactase to digest lactose (milk sugar)
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus casei

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (post-antibiotic and traveler’s)
  • ACTION: Replenishes healthy gut flora
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 to 3 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions. Start before antibiotic use and continue afterwards for as many days as the antibiotics were used or start a few days before a trip and continue daily during travel.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus GG

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (infectious, post-antibiotic, and traveler’s), irritable bowel syndrome, strengthening immune system, and prevention of tooth decay
  • ACTION: Replenishes gut flora; blocks growth of harmful bacteria
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 to 3 billion live organisms per day for adults or follow label directions; kids age 6 to 12 can take one-half of the adult dose and for under age 6 years old, take one-fourth of the adult dose. Start before antibiotic use and continue afterwards for as many days as the antibiotics were used or start a few days before a trip and continue daily during travel.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus plantarum 299v

  • USED FOR: Irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive upset leading to pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea
  • ACTION: Balances gut flora and inhibits growth of unhealthy bacteria
  • HOW TO TAKE: 10 to 20 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus reuteri

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (infectious)
  • ACTION: Produces natural antibiotic to inhibit growth of harmful bacteria
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN: Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and L. rhamnosus GR-1

  • USED FOR: Yeast infection (especially to prevent recurrence)
  • ACTION: Inhibits growth of harmful bacteria and yeast
  • HOW TO TAKE: 5 to 10 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions.

STRAIN: Saccharomyces boulardii

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (Crohn’s disease-related, post-antibiotic, and traveler’s)
  • ACTION: Promotes healthy gut flora
  • HOW TO TAKE: 5 to 10 billion live organisms one to four times a day.

STRAIN: Streptococcus thermophilus

  • USED FOR: Diarrhea (infectious, post-antibiotic, and traveler’s)
  • ACTION: Restores gut flora and inhibits growth of harmful bacteria
  • HOW TO TAKE: 1 to 3 billion live organisms per day or follow label directions. Start before antibiotic use and continue afterwards for as many days as the antibiotics were used or start a few days before a trip and continue daily during travel. (2)

Food sources of probiotics

Probiotics can be found in food, beverages, and supplements. It is best to get probiotics from different sources on a regular basis so that lots of different strains can thrive in your body. Yogurt, kefir, and some cheeses contain good bacteria. If you do not usually tolerate dairy well, you may find that you do better with fermented dairy, since it contains bacteria that help digest it. However, if you strictly avoid animal products, there are also coconut-based kefirs and yogurts that are great sources of probiotics.

 

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has become popular for helping digestion, providing energy, and its taste. Kombucha is delicious, but it is an acquired taste for many people. Since the bacteria feed on sugars in the tea, it tastes slightly like vinegar. If you haven’t yet, be adventurous and give it a shot!

Fermented vegetables come in many varieties. Sauerkraut and kimchi are both examples of probiotic-containing fermented vegetable products. There are also other cultured veggies and fermented pickles on the market. Shop around or try making your own at home!

What to look for in a probiotic supplement

The number of organisms will depend on your current health status. If you have digestive problems or have used antibiotics in the past, you should look for high numbers of live cultures (called CFUs on the label)- upwards of 80 billion. For to experience noticeable health improvements, get at least 10-15 billion cultures, ideally more. In addition to the number of CFUs, check out the strains in the supplement. A variety of strains is best, and you can use lists like the one above to see if the supplement has strains specific to your health needs. To get different strains, you can also switch which probiotic supplement you buy from time to time.

 

(1) http://www.livescience.com/3092-human-gut-loaded-bacteria-thought.html

(2) Collado MC, Isolauri E, Salminen S, et al. The impact of probiotic on gut health. Curr Drug Metab 2009;10:68–78.

(3) Heczko PB, Strus M, Kochan P. Critical evaluation of probiotic activity of lactic acid bacteria and their effects. J Physiol Pharm 2006;57(suppl 9):5–12.

(4) Hickson M, D’Souza AL, Muthu N, et al. Use of probiotic Lactobacillus preparation to prevent diarrhoea associated with antibiotics: randomised double blind placebo controlled trial. BMJ 2007;335:80.

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