What are Probiotics?
What are the Benefits?
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Diarrhea caused by antibiotics
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
How Do They Work?
- When you lose "good "bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them.
- They can help balance your "good "and "bad "bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.
What Type Of Probiotics Are There?
Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups. Ask your doctor about which might best help you.
Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It's the one you'll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Common species of probiotics
The most commonly consumed probiotics are strains of two main species. These species are also the most studied of probiotics:
Bifidobacteria: This species of bacteria is commonly used in foods and supplements. They’re thought to:
- support the immune system
- limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine
- help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use
Lactobacillus: This species of bacteria produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar. These bacteria also produce lactic acid. Lactic acid helps control the population of bad bacteria. It also serves as muscle fuel and increases the body’s absorption of minerals. Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the:
- small intestine
Common strains of probiotics
Probiotic strains are genetic subtypes of species. Each probiotic strain has a different effect in the body. You will see the probiotic strain names on food or supplement labels, combined with the species name. For example, the Bifidobacteria or Lactobacillus species are often abbreviated as B. or L. and combined with the individual strain name, such as acidophilus. This gives you the probiotic L. acidophilus. This is how the name will appear on food or supplement labels.
Here are six common strains of probiotics that you’ll find on food and supplement labels.
B. animalis: This strain is an ingredient in Dannon yogurt’s Activia product. It’s helpful in aiding digestion and fighting food-borne bacteria. It’s also thought to boost your immune system.
B. breve: This strain lives in your digestive tract and in the vagina. In both places, it fights off infection-causing bacteria, or yeast. It helps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugars. It also breaks down plant fiber to make it digestible.
B. lactis: This is derived from raw milk. It’s an ingredient in Nestle’s probiotic infant formula, called Good Start Natural Cultures. It also serves as a starter for:
- cottage cheese
- other cheeses
B. longum: This strain lives in your gastrointestinal tract. It helps break down carbohydrates and also can be an antioxidant.
L. acidophilus: This strain is found in the small intestine and in the vagina. It helps digestion and may help fight off vaginal bacteria. You can find it in yogurt and fermented soy products, such as miso.
L. reuteri: This strain is found in the intestine and mouth. One study showed that it decreased the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. It’s also thought to help the digestive system.