What if there was a magic pill that could help reduce your symptoms and improve your digestion? And what if this pill also made you generally feel healthier, happier and more energetic than ever before?
If only, right?
Well, I don’t have a miracle cure for you (and neither does anyone else) but I’ve got something that when used correctly, comes pretty close: quality probiotics.
In this article, you’ll learn how to choose the best probiotic source for you, and which ones you should avoid (and when).
Probiotics From the Bottom Up
Universally useful bacteria for everyone’s gut look a little like this:
They don’t seem particularly complicated right? Well looks are definitely deceiving.
Probiotics are tiny superheroes of the gut microbiome world. While they are literally microscopically tiny, their plethora of reported benefits have wooed the scientific community and general population.
The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defines probiotics as:
“Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
The ISAPP further explains that only strains which have been scientifically proven to have positive health effects should be named a ‘probiotic’.
So in a strict sense the live microorganisms found live in microbe-rich fermented foods and beverages aren’t typically ‘probiotics’ – but what’s in a name – science seems to always catch up with traditional wisdom.
It’s only a matter of time.
What Types of Bacteria are in Probiotics?
Probiotic supplements often contain many different microorganisms. The most common probiotic bacteria are from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
There are other types too like the yeast Saccharomycesboulardii and Bacilluscoagulans – we take a closer look at these all later.
In general different probiotics offer different benefits and you’ll always find these listed by their scientific names – a genus, species and strain.
For example, we’ll use the famous Lactobacillus acidophilus ABC as an example. We write L.acidophilus for short.
The genus is like a surname and holds all the different genetically, and biochemically similar species under an umbrella.
The species are further groupings with similar characteristics.
And the strain represents even more specific groups within a species. Different strains within a species can have different health effects.
And in some cases can even prefer different prebiotics – food sources.
What’s the difference between a probiotic and prebiotics?
Scientists love to name things and in the microbiome world there are a LOT of -biotic terms.
So let’s clear a few of these up!
Where probiotics refer to the live organism – the bacteria or yeast – prebiotics refers to their food.
Think pre- meaning before. Food comes first.
Which feeds the bacteria and allows them to eat and multiply.
We cover this in depth in our prebiotic article – which you can read here.
But in brief, prebiotics are specific food components (often complex carbohydrates) that resist our human digestive processes and end up in the lower regions of our intestines intact.
Here they provide energy (or food) for beneficial bacteria – our resident probiotics. And their very beneficial by-products – like renowned short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) – called….
…wait for it….
P O S T B I O T I C S.
Because they come after. There is definitely ‘method’ to the madness!
So What’s a Synbiotic …?
But wait ….there’s more!
Just to recap..
- Prebiotic = non-digestible fibre, starch and carbohydrates etc.
- Probiotic = researched beneficial live microbes
- Postbiotics = beneficial by-products of the probiotic > prebiotic food chain
And there is yet another -biotic term. SYNBIOTIC.
Synbiotics were described in 2011, and refer to products that contain “a mixture of live microorganisms and substrate(s) selectively utilizsed by host microorganisms that confers a health benefit on the host.”
In essence this definition describes probiotics AND prebiotics – but the wording was intentionally left open by the ISAPP to allow for future discoveries and innovation.
Nutshell takeaway … synbiotics are currently mixtures that include a specific PREbiotic to feed the PRObiotics in the formulation which offer POSTbiotics !
The term is derived from the synergistic action of this beneficial little food chain…
… PREbiotics + PRObiotics >>> POSTbiotics
So the term SYNbiotic is used to promote a product that *in theory* offers these components.
How may probiotics work?
Now you might have noticed I added a little *in theory* condition in the phrase above…
I mention this, not because I don’t believe all the studies that are published…
…admittedly some probiotic research studies are in fact funded by companies with commercial interests in particular outcomes…
I mention this because there is currently no way to precisely trace the mechanism of action of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics as they happen, in real time, inside the body.
And because the community dynamics within your gut are extremely complex and absolutely unique – what may work for you likely may not have the same effect on someone else.
Remember the microbiome is a unique fingerprint.
But, in general probiotics *may*:
- Maintain balance. Beneficial gut microbe balance has been shown to be enhanced by the presence of probiotic strains. Additionally, probiotics may also help unbalanced guts or those with dysbiosis return to a healthy balance.
- Increase postbiotics. Availability of beneficial substances like postbiotic SCFAs have commonly been shown to increase with probiotic supplementation.
- Boost immune response. Many probiotics can offer a helpful boost to immune function either directly or indirectly via various mechanisms.
Ultimately, these effects are the broad-stroke benefits as specific benefits vary between species and as we mentioned even between strains of the same species.
What conditions may benefit from probiotic use?
This brings us to the important point – which conditions are they effective against?
Despite the huge volume of research done on probiotics, there is still much to be learned about safety and efficacy of use with many specific conditions.
In general terms the most studied conditions with probiotic use include:
- Antibiotic associated diarrhoea
- Prevention of NEC (necrotising enterocolitis) and sepsis in premature babies
- Infant colic
- Periodontal disease
- Ulcerative colitis
But even within these study areas researchers are often quick to point out the need for further research. For things like specific probiotic levels of benefit, probiotic interactions and more.
There is still much we don’t know.
Specifically about the exact usage and timing surrounding the best application of probiotics.
This is something that I have strong beliefs around (and extensive experience) as I have seen it first hand with countless clients…
…The order, timing and dosage of supplementation matters. Particularly with the timing of the probiotic coliform E.coli ‘Nissle 1917’ or Mutaflor supplementation.
In some cases healing can be slowed by the incorrect supplementation of probiotics. Just as it can be enhanced in other cases.
Probiotics can really be that powerful.
Can probiotics be harmful?
And ultimately this comes down to the need to heal the gut lining BEFORE supplementing with some strong probiotics.
AND highlights the immeasurable benefits of working with an experienced and qualified health practitioner.
Because as much as the science says a particular strain is effective against XYZ in the lab, or in a particular group of patients…
…First-hand clinical observations of thousands of clients and their microbiome profiles is experience and knowledge you can’t include in a study.
And the truth is, that although probiotics have an extensive history of *apparently* safe use – particularly in healthy people – very few studies have looked at safety in the detail needed.
There’s basically a lack of solid information surrounding side effects.
And it’s thought, these effects are greater in those with severe illness and reduced immune systems. As with any medication or supplement BOTH the benefits and risks should be considered.
This is why I’m so passionate about encouraging people to work with a health professional. One who can test your baseline levels, monitor your symptoms and reevaluate if needed.
It’s very important.
Potential Side Effects of Probiotics
That said, some possible harmful effects of probiotics (usually in compromised people) include:
- Production of non-beneficial by-products
- Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes
What’s more, contamination of other microorganisms not listed on the label and missing strains are additional risks, especially in lower-quality products. And why I always prescribe a high-quality, true practitioner only range.
Another important consideration that has been widely investigated is the production of D-lactate by some probiotic species – a condition called D-lactic acidosis spurred the investigations.
There are claims that an excess of this particular molecular arrangement of lactate is linked to chronic health conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and associated oxidative stress.
While the scientific community doesn’t yet agree whether this is a common concern, it remains that additional research is required. As many of the common probiotic species are in fact D-lactate producers including Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and E.coli.
Yet another reason to work with a knowledgeable and attentive practitioner.
How do I choose the BEST probiotic supplement for me?
Our number one recommendation – find a practitioner who tests first.
Many of our clients have supplemented with probiotics before coming to see Amanda. And often they have a thriving community of a particular strain – sometimes to excess and without balance.
It’s important to know what you start with so you can start building your gut microbiome back to health.
That said, if you are generally healthy without underlying gut health concerns and have determined that a probiotic could benefit you – look for the highest quality, multistrain supplement you can find.
And especially look for inclusion of these 8 key species:
Next, we are going to look at each of these (and many more) in further detail.
So you can get a better idea of the benefits of individual species – and make more informed decisions surrounding supplementing with probiotics.
Alight, let’s get into it!
The 21 Most Common Probiotic Species
Lactobacillus are one of the many bacterial groups that make up the Firmicutes phylum (. You may have heard of the Firmicutes in relation to weight loss, this which makes up the largest portion of our microbiome – roughly 50 to 70%! They are also a major part of the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) group which include Lactococcus, Enterococcus, Streptococcus and others too.
These bacteria convert sugars to lactic acid. Which produces a hostile acid environment that hinders the growth of several harmful or pathogenic bacterial types.
Additionally, here are more reasons why lactobacilli make good probiotics.
- Are tolerant to bile and acid and gastric juice
- Can adhere to the intestinal lining
- Resist antibiotics
- Produce beneficial EPS (exopolysaccharide sugar compounds) e.g., L.plantarum EPS has antioxidant, antibiofilm and antitumor actions!
- Remove cholesterol
All very favourable characteristics for probiotics to have.
Interestingly, Lactobacillus along with Bifidobacterium are the first live bacteria to colonise the infant gut during natural delivery.
And although lactobacilli have been extensively studied for their beneficial properties, something that isn’t widely advertised is their temporary (or transient) nature.
Most lactobacilli don’t form stable colonies in the gut and often disappear a few days after supplementation. Which tells us that short-term daily probiotic intake is insufficient to correct gut probiotic levels.
And confirms that gut healing is a marathon – not a sprint.
Now that the introductions are done, let’s take a closer look at a handful of the benefits for each of these important probiotic bacteria.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
L.acidophilus is one of the best known probiotics we’ll cover here – most likely due to its well publicised and common addition to commercial yoghurts.
Native to the vaginal microbiota along with many other species, L.acidophilus is also a familiar species in probiotic supplements.
L.acidophilus has been shown to:
> Actively inhibit growth of the yeast Candida albicans and help reduce biofilm formation
> Stimulate electrolyte balance mechanisms in the gut lining inhibiting diarrhoea
> Reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactobacillus plantarum
L.plantarum has recently undergone a name change and officially reclassified as Lactiplantibacillus plantarum subsp. plantarum. But for simplicity we will continue using its established name.
L.plantarum are thought to be the most flexible and adaptable lactobacilli to stressors. They have a unique and large gene sequence that researchers believe to contribute to its resilience.
This species can be found in a range of environments including saliva, the human gut, in dairy products, on vegetables, meat, fish and in silage (fermented and stored pasture for livestock).
Some gut specific properties of L.plantarum include:
> Prevent endotoxin production in the gut – toxins associated with dysbiosis liver inflammation and many other issues
> Reduce intestinal permeability – by maintaining tight junction integrity between gut cells
> Decrease pain and bloating in IBS sufferers
- Lactobacillus casei
You’ve probably heard of the Shirota strain belonging to L.casei as a common addition to dairy and yoghurt products. It’s a well studied species due to its wide potential in food, biopharmaceutical and medical applications.
L.casei is also the namesake for the well-studied Lactobacillus casei group (LCG) composed of the closely related L.casei, L.paracasei and L.rhamnosus species.
It is known for the effective management of diarrhoea in children. This is seen by its ability to influence the gut microbiota and calm inflammatory markers.
Other important benefits of L.casei include:
> Positive affect on biomarkers associated with obesity, can improve weight management
> Potential tumor reduction in colorectal cancer in combination with fibre
> Maintain gut diversity and prevent antibiotic associated diarrhoea.
- Lactobacillus paracasei
L.paracasei is commonly found in the human gut and in naturally fermented raw dairy and vegetables.
It has a wide range of probiotic applications and has been widely studied as part of the LCG.
The following handful of applications relating to L.paracasei highlight it’s positive contribution to gut health.
> Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection by reducing its ability to bind to the stomach lining and reducing inflammation
> Reduces bloating and abdominal pain associated with diverticular disease in combination with high-fibre diet
> Antimicrobial against some gut pathogens – e.g., Yersinia, Shigella, Listeria
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
L.rhamnosus GG (LGG) was the first Lactobacillus strain to be patented – way back in 1989. Over the last 30+ years it has emerged as probiotic royalty. It readily survives stomach acid and bile, it easily adheres to gut cells and it even produces a gut protective biofilm.
If that wasn’t enough it also promotes the survival of intestinal crypts (folds) and intestinal epithelial cell survival. It inhibits some pathogens like Salmonella, and even promotes immune-responses!
So it will come as no surprise that LGG is extensively researched. A few more of this wonder-probiotics benefits include:
> Positive effect on brain function – affecting GABA receptors decreasing anxiety and depressive behaviours
> Reduces severity of gastro virus Rotavirus
> Decreases pain associated with IBS in children and improves glucose tolerance in pregnancy
- Lactobacillus reuteri
Now we try not to have probiotic favourites but if we did, L.reuteri would certainly be a contender.
This powerful antimicrobial producing probiotic has undergone many name changes. From being wrongly labelled as L.fermentum in 1919 to then being recognised as L.fermentum biotype II in the 1960’s only to be called L.reuteri in 1980.
And now 40 years it has been reclassified yet again to Limosilactobacillus!
But this seeming identity crisis has not hampered it’s well deserved renown. L.reuteri gets it’s species name from its potent antimicrobial by-product reuterin.
We could chat all day about the amazing L.reuteri, some interesting facts include:
> Naturally found in breastmilk and passes to the child
> Produces B12 (cobalamin) and B9 (folate) – B12 is actually vital to B12 production!
> Increases bile production and modulates gut microbes
- Lactobacillus fermentum
Not surprisingly, (given it’s close relation to L.reuteri) L.fermentum also produces many antimicrobials. It also shares a renaming history! L.fermentum has now also been reclassified as Limosilactobacillus with some strains being moved to the L.reuteri category!
Name calling aside, L.fermentum strains are able to decrease blood stream cholesterol levels and help prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease among other benefits including:
> Inhibits the attachment of pathogens in the gut
> Reduces the incidence of gastrointestinal and upper respiratory infection in infants
> Effective against Staphylococcus aureus infections
- Lactobacillus gasseri
L.gasseri is a normal inhabitant of the vagina. It produces the antibiotic lactocillin and another called gassericin A making it an important player in vaginal and reproductive health.
In addition to reproductive benefits L.gasseri has been found to help in weight loss. Daily consumption of a strain called L.gasseri BNR17, which was isolated from breast milk, may reduce body fat in those struggling with obesity.
Other benefits include:
> L.gasseri is an important lactobacilli found in vaginas of healthy women along with L.crispatus, L.jensenii and L.iners
> Inhibits the STD (sexually transmitted disease) Trichomonas vaginalis
> Reduce yeast infection Candida albicans biofilm production
- Lactobacillus johnsonii
Another lactobacilli that makes up a healthy vaginal microbiome, L.johnsonii can help maintain healthy gut lining function.
It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes and also offer protection against obesity.
L.johnsonii has also been seen to:
> Have anti-inflammatory properties
> Reduce incidence of Staphylococcus aureus skin infection
> Positively affect the immune via tryptophan metabolism – an important neurotransmitter precursor for serotonin and melatonin
- Lactobacillus salivarius
A native gut microbe, L.salivarius has a large body of research behind it. It has been shown to suppress pathogenic bacteria, alleviate inflammation and reduce Group B Strep (Streptococcus agalactiae – GBS) risk in pregnant women and much more…
> Producing antibacterial compounds against the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocyogenes
> Protecting the kidneys from toxic accumulation by alleviating gut dysbiosis
> Inhibiting growth of the cavity forming oral bacteria Streptococcus mutans.
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Another lactobacilli that has been renamed, L.d.bulgaricus was known simply as L.bulgaricus until 2014. It was discovered in 1905 in Bulgaria from a yoghurt sample and named accordingly.
It is still the main bacterium to be used in yoghurt fermentation (along with Streptococcus thermophilus) and is also used to ripen some cheeses and other fermented products.
L.d.bulgaricus produces lactic and the aromatic compound acetaldehyde during yoghurt fermentation giving yoghurt it’s typical aroma. Some strains also produce antibiotic compounds.
Most research on L.d.bulgaricus is focused on food production and fermentation applications, however it has also been shown beneficial for the following:
> Enhance immunity in eldery
> Inhibit growth of increasingly drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae
> Potential cholesterol lowering effects in high cholesterol diets
- Lactobacillus brevis
The last lactobacilli on our list also has a new name, Levilactoabacillus brevis. L.brevis is found naturally in the gut and many fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles. It’s also a common beer spoilage offender.
Interestingly, kefir grains would not be possible without Levilactobacillus species. L.brevis and other levilactobacilli produce the polysaccharide compounds that form the tough jelly-like structural network that forms kefir grains!
Check out these amazing recipes to make with kefir…
Banana, Pineapple & Kefir Tropical Smoothie (Gut Healing)
Low Carb Salmon Patties w. Kefir & Dill Slaw (Without Potato)
Roasted Baby Rainbow Carrots w. Cumin Kefir Dressing (Plus Health Benefits)
In addition to making delicious probiotic rich recipes L.brevis also:
> Protects against bacterial vaginosis and E.coli urinary tract infections
> Inflammation reducing properties
> Potential to alleviate colitis
Bifidobacteria make up a dominant fraction of the gut microbiome (between 1 – 10%) and more so in infants (around 90%) . They are a large family of probiotic bacteria which are most numerous in the bowel, lower intestines and vagina/genital area.
The majority of Bifidobacterium species have been found exclusively in the human and animal gut. And it wasn’t until 1974 that Bifidobacterium became a group on their own.
Bifidobacterium species degrade various sugars for energy including monosaccharides, glacto-, manno-, and fructo-oligosaccharides and some species can ferment complex carbohydrates like arabinogalactan and araabic gum. You can read more about the importance of prebiotics for Bifidobacterium here.
Bifidobacterium are seen in lower than optimal numbers in the following conditions:
Interestingly, research done on the Hadza tribe in Tanzania showed that Hadza adults don’t carry Bifidobacterium – similar reduced numbers are seen in populations with reduced dairy intake e.g., vegans and Koreans.
That all said, let’s take a closer look at the most common Bifidobacterium species used as probiotics.
- Bifidobacterium animalis
In an opposite naming trend, B.animalis previously had two subspecies – which have once again been contracted under the single B.animalis banner.
Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. animalis are subspecies of the extremely common probiotic B.animalis. They are widely used and particular strains have been extensively trademarked.
As such a lot of information available is strain specific …
e.g., B.animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 supplementation decreases blood pressure and waist-lines significantly in women – with the added benefit of increasing Akkermansia levels.
But in general B.animalis has been shown to:
> Effectively treat diarrhoea in infants and children from the dreaded Rotavirus
> Improve constipation outcomes in adults
> Reduce IBS symptoms in constipation dominant sufferers
- Bifidobacterium longum
Now here is one we see quite commonly on our gut microbiome testing reports. Even when other Bifidobacterium species are absent B.longum often remains and sometimes even in high numbers.
This may be in part due to the 2002 name change which saw B.longum unifying 3 previously distinct species…
… These have now become subspecies of B.longum, however B.infantis deserves a special mention and we will talk about it next.
A few of the most notable benefits of B.longum include:
> B.longum supports the growth of the butyrate (SCFA) producer Eubacterium rectale
> Effective in treatments of ulcerative colitis
> Immune system regulation and decreasing severity of mild colds and flu
- Bifidobacterium infantis
As its name suggests B.infantis (now B.longum subsp. infantis) is an important species during infancy. In concert with B.bifidum (which we discuss next) these species are presumed to be crucial in establishing infant microbiome foundations – because they are genetically programmed to digest human milk.
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) in breast milk are babies’ first prebiotics designed to supply these remarkable and adaptable species. And begin the groundwork for a great gut start to life.
It has been shown to:
> Balance the infant immune system and reduce inflammation
> Accelerate infant immune system response to illness
> Improve the early gut lining barrier function and produce the SCFA acetate
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
B.bifidum was first isolated in 1900 – although it was only named B.bifidum in 1924. This adaptable infant gut forager can switch its metabolism from digesting HMOs to mucin (mucus) degradation. Meaning that after a child is weaned it persists with a different food source!
It is so far the only Bifidobacterium species capable of degrading both! And it’s for this important reason that B.bifidum is a key-player in healthy gut development.
Some key functions include:
> Maintaining the integrity of the gut lining and consequently reducing inflammation
> Reducing inflammation associated with psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome
> Effective in IBS treatment
- Bifidobacterium breve
Another beneficial Bifidobacterium in infants (and also adults) is B.breve. It is another dominant species in the gut of breast-fed infants. It has even been isolated from breast milk itself and has been shown to promote the development of a healthy microbiome.
It is often used together with other species for treatment of ulcerative colitis, Helicobacter pylori and IBS. But also for the treatment and prevention of many paediatric conditions including:
– Celiac disease
– Neurological disorders
It has also been linked to better adult weight-loss outcomes in the management of obesity and even in Alzhiemer’s disease.
Other benefits include:
> Improved skin health
> Reduced risk of asthma and atopic dermatitis
> Potential to outcome coliforms or other non beneficial gut microbes.
Now let’s explore the non-lacto and non-bifido probiotic regulars. These organisms are common additions to probiotic supplements and/or foods that don’t fall into either of the lactobacilli or bifidobacteria categories.
Let’s look at the benefits and research associated with each of these organisms.
- Saccharomyces boulardii
S.boulardii is the only non-bacterial probiotic on our list – it’s a yeast. Saccharomyces is the genus responsible for much of the world’s fermentation – think bread and beer – thanks to S.cerevisiae.
S.boulardii is infact a strain of S.cerevisiae – it’s proper name is S.cerevisiae var boulardii. And it’s closest genetically to the yeast used in wine making.
S.boulardii was first discovered in 1923 by French scientist Henri Boulard from lychees. He noted that in China cholera diarrhoea was treated with lychee extract – from this he isolated a yeast and named it S.boulardii.
S.boulardii is used to treat a number of diarrhoeal illnesses in both adults and children. There is also some evidence to suggest that S.boulardii inhibits pathogenic properties of Candida albicans – including biofilm formation, adhesion to the gut lining and filamentation (a biofilm promoting virulence mechanism where cells elongate but do not divide).
- Streptococcus thermophilus
Also known as Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus, this lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) is widely used in milk fermentation products. It’s most commonly seen with L.d.bulgaricus.
This Streptococcus is generally believed to be safe (compared with other Streptococcus species) due to its lack of a gene for attaching to the gut surface. However, it’s always important to work with a qualified health practitioner to assess your personal gut microbiome inhabitants and their levels.
S.thermophilus is mostly studied in combination with other species of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and may provide improved symptoms to gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and diarrhoea.
- Enterococcus faecium
Another LAB, E.faecium is a known gut coloniser – but can also act as a pathogen. They break down proteins and ferment carbohydrates and are a common addition to probiotic formulations.
It’s important to note that E.faecium is not to be confused with E.faecalis (formerly known as Streptococcus faecalis) and that E.faecium is most commonly pathogenic in hospital patients – and is thought to carry a low-risk to the wider community.
Probiotic studies have found E.faecium to assist in diarrhoeal treatment and prevent the growth of several virulent bacteria e.g., Staphylococcus and Listeria
- Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus are a group of bacteria that are often referred to as soil bacteria because they do not naturally colonise the human gut – they are most at home in the soil. These bacteria grow a little differently than the others as they produce small spores. The spores ensure they are not affected by stomach acid on the journey to the gut and have been found to offer probiotic benefits.
Although not all members of the Bacillus tribe are beneficial, some Bacillus species are thought to be effective with allergies and autoimmune conditions. They also can produce antibacterial agents and other helpful active compounds.
Some studies have shown B.coagulans to alleviate IBS symptoms in eldery patients and B.subtilis to even inhibit cancer cells.
- Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (E.coli)
And we may have just saved the best for last…the infamous E.coli.
Now before we get too far into it, I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions often spruiked by surface disinfectant companies.
1. All E.coli strains are virulent, pathogenic and out to get me … myth
2. If I get E.coli ‘germs’ in my mouth I will get sick … myth
3. E.coli causes food poisoning so we shouldn’t have it … true AND false.
There are indeed particular strains that are harmful – but not all E.coli are bad…
…E.coli Nissle 1917 is actually a potent probiotic and I’ve covered the benefits extensively in our article The E.coli strain “Nissle 1917’ (Mutaflor) A Powerful Probiotic so will only touch on a few and a brief history here.
Mutaflor is the trade name for an E.coli strain that was isolated in World War 1 in 1917 by Alfred Nissle. He found that dysentery or debilitating diarrhoea didn’t occur in a particular soldier with this strain of E.coli and used it to treat those with symptoms.
Needless to say he was successful as all these years later we still use it.
It has been extensively researched and found to be effective in the following… IBD (which includes Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), leaky gut, IBS, constipation, diarrhoea, and increasing serotonin.
Using Mutaflor can be a powerful approach to gut healing but needs to be used with a targeted plan for best results.
Conditions + Probiotics Chart
Now just for reference … I’ve put together this handy Lactobacillus table for you.
It lists common conditions and some of the Lactobacillus probiotics (and combinations) that have been found to *in some way* support them (but is not an exhaustive list).
An important point to note is that many studies look at different species in combination rather than just singly. Where a plus sign (+) is shown between species it’s an indication of this type of combination.
No doubt this table will need frequent updating with all the research coming out everyday!
But what about Fermented Foods
Now I bet you’re wondering, well what about fermented foods…aren’t they probiotics too…
Do we know which probiotics are in those?
It’s a great question.
Fermented foods do certainly provide a plethora of beneficial microorganisms.
They are the traditional and original fridge solution – fermenting presumably originated as a method to store food over long periods after harvest to preserve their nutrition and availability.
The bacteria did the work!
Typical fermentation works based on the principle that native (or introduced) microorganisms produce acids that prevent the growth of spoilage organisms.
Generally from lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus – it’s name gives a clue!
These bacteria then eventually die off and others which enjoy the acidic conditions flourish.
And as with anything natural there is variation in the species present. Many studies have been conducted on different fermented foods.
There exists many variations within a single food type, sauerkraut for instance has a different microbe profile batch to batch when made at home. And even more variation is seen when made in different climates.
But the take home here is, YES fermented foods are a great natural alternative to commercial probiotic supplements.
Although I do caution against the excessive consumption of fermented beverages both due to:
- Their frequently high sugar content
- And often high yeast levels – kombucha SCOBYs for example are yeast dominant
Both of these are not helpful to healing in those suffering with leaky gut symptoms.
The best tips here are to introduce them slowly and watch for negative symptoms. These foods are truly medicinal in nature and should be respected as such.
And if buying fermented foods ALWAYS check that they haven’t been pastuerised or heat-treated. This processing intentionally kills all the live beneficial microbes!
If you are ready to try making your own here are a couple of recipes to get you started:
Using Probiotics as a Healing Tool
As we have seen, probiotics can be a powerful supporting tool for your gut and on your healing journey in general. There has been a significant amount of research into the strains we have mentioned here and no doubt the studies will continue to emerge.
I do however have a couple of points of caution.
Firstly, in excess, some probiotics may not be beneficial for your unique microbiome (or at this time), and the only way to know this is by testing your gut bacteria.
I know that it may seem so easy (and cost-effective) to self-diagnose and then pop out to the pharmacy (or even supermarket) and stock up on probiotics that you’ve read about here…
…BUT… this brings me to my second point ….
I cannot emphasize the importance of working with an experienced professional (who tests) enough.
It’s absolutely always a good idea when undertaking a supplement program to have the guidance, monitoring and support of a qualified holistic health professional. Especially if you have genuine intentions of truly improving your health concerns.
Trial and error is not a long-term solution to any health problem – but identifying (and resolving) the root cause is.
Are You Ready to Get Results!
I hope this post empowers you to make a more informed choice about probiotics. If you are ready to commit to your health and healing AND are looking for holistic support along the way, connect with us here or head to our programs page to learn more.