Ever find yourself wondering why people take probiotics? In short, probiotics are the healthy bacteria, or healthy army, within your GI tract that arm your body to defend against bacteria and fully digest food, so your nutrients can be used as fuel for a healthy gut. Probiotics come from both food and supplementation. While food sources are preferred, consuming dairy products and fermented foods isn’t always as easy as it sounds – this is why people take probiotic supplements. With that being said, there are many different types of probiotics strains that are important to know when you’re looking to both improve your dietary intake and when choosing a probiotic supplement.
What Are The Best Strains Of Probiotics?
There are 5 main types of probiotics categorized by it’s genus and within that genus there are multiple species and within those species there are a multitude of strains. In short, understanding probiotic strains and what to look for can be confusing. Just like probiotics, a little can go a long way, and so can your base understanding of the different types of probiotics to look for in a probiotic supplement.
A couple of quick definitions for you1:
What Is A Probiotic: Live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts
What Is A Prebiotic: Dietary substances that nurture specific changes in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota (favoring beneficial bacteria), thus conferring benefit(s) upon host health
What Is A Symbiotic: Products that contain both probiotics and prebiotics
What is the Best Type of Probiotic?
According to Harvard Medicine, trying to get probiotics from food sources alone can be tricky. “Food manufacturers are not required to show a specific dose of a specific probiotic, so they don’t”, says Dr. Patricia Hibberd, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. She recommends, in addition to your nutritious diet, to implement a consistent dose of probiotics via supplementation.7
What to Look for When Choosing a Probiotic Supplement?
While food manufacturers aren’t required to list the amount and of which probiotics are in the food product, neither are supplement companies. It’s important that while the number of probiotics and amount of strains can seem beneficial, more isn’t necessarily better in this case. The strains of probiotics that are best are and that we recommend looking for (at the top of the list) of your probiotic supplement are: lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and some strains of streptococcus and bacillus.
What Are the Different Strains of Probiotics?
Here we’ll go into more detail about what probiotic genus and species to look for in a probiotic supplement and your food choices to include in your regular dietary lifestyle.
Lactobacillus can greatly benefit your gut health and is one of the best strains of probiotics. Why is lactobacillus good for you? It’s found in the vagina and gastrointestinal tract most often as bacteria that has been extensively studied and proven to improve overall health and wellness. Lactobacillus has at least 13 commonly recognized species that are used in probiotic supplements. What are the benefits of lactobacillus? Major health benefits of lactobacillus include improvement of gastrointestinal micro flora, enhancement of immune system, positive vaginal and reproductive health, and reduced serum cholesterol.2 Keep an eye out for lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus bulgarius, and lactobacillus reuteri.
How does bifidobacterium help human health? This type of probiotic accounts for more than 80% of microorganisms within the intestine and bifidobacterium bifidum is the second most prominent species found in breast-fed infants.8 Unfortunatley, as we age, this percentage and presence within the human gut flora decreases significantly, increasing the importance of taking a probiotic supplement. What does the bifidobacterium do? It’s a dominant microbe in the GI tract and in breast milk.
Bifidobacterium is one of the more common prevalent species residing in the oral cavities and are significant for proper oral ecological balance. This strain also helps fight dental caries and cavities.3 When looking for bifidobacterium in a supplement, it can be present in at least seven recognizable species, with the best one being bifidobacterium bifidum
This strain has two main species that are probiotics while the others act either neutrally or pathogenically within humans. The two species are streptococcus thermophiles and streptococcus salivarius. While yogurt is a very common source of probiotics in Western Diets, the best source of probiotics can be consumed through fermented milk, aka Kefir. What does kefir do for your health? Kefir, or fermented milk, contains thermophiles influences gut-brain communication in humans resulting in a better overall control of emotion and sensation.4
Salivarius on the other hand plays an important role in developing and maintaining a healthy mouth and resides within the oral cavity. It’s been proven to suppress the growth of periodontal pathogens and degradation of healthy teeth.5 If you’re not up for consuming fermented mik, we recommend looking for a supplement that includes the two main species, thermophiles and salivarius, in your supplement.
While most all Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera are usually regarded as safe for long-term human use, not all species of the bacillus genus can be used as probiotics.6 We recommend looking for these five strains of Bacillus in a probiotic supplement: bacillus subtilis, bacillus clausii, bacillus coagulans, bacillus indicus, and bacillus licheniformis. If you’re looking for a supplement that has the healthy probiotics derived from Bacillus, we recommend this one.
What are the Side Effects of Too Much Probiotics?
Overdoing any supplement or consuming too much of one food can cause adverse effects within the body, regardless of how good the food is for you. With that being said, there are a few risks and side effects associated with consuming too many probiotics. It’s important to choose a probiotic supplement that is rich in the strains listed above and not plumped or filled with the lesser effective probiotics. Just because it may have more doesn’t always mean it’s better for you. Additionally, there are many different types of probiotics on the market. If you overload your system with too many at once, you can cause adverse effects of your good-intentions. Probiotics also are not meant to replace good nutrition or be used as drugs. They’re supplements – they’re meant to bridge the gaps in your nutrition to improve your overall health and wellness.
The Best Probiotic Foods
So now you know the different strains of probiotics to look for and their benefits. You may be asking yourself at this point, well what are the best probiotic foods?
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- Raw Cheese
We recommend looking for a probiotic supplement that has 1-10 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU) and to stay away from products that do not contain high amounts of quality probiotics, such as the ones we talked about above. By supplementing probiotics into our daily routine, in addition to your nutrient-rich diet, you’re giving your immune system an extra boost, improving your gut health, all while helping to improve your brain function. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
If you’re looking for a high quality, affordable and effective probiotic supplement, we recommend this one by SWOLVERINE.
- Guarner F, Khan AG, Garisch J, et al. Probiotics and prebiotics: World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines. 2011 Available at: http://www.worldgastroenterology.org/probiotics-prebiotics.html.
- Saarela M, Mogensen G, Fondén R, Mättö J, Mattila-Sandholm T. Probiotic bacteria: Safety, functional and technological properties. Journal of Biotechnology. 2000;84(3):197–215.org/10.1016/S0168-1656(00)00375-8.
- Koll-Klais P, Mandar R, Leibur E, Marcotte H, Hammarstrom L, Mikelsaar M. Oral lactobacilli in chronic periodontitis and periodontal health: Species composition and antimicrobial activity. Oral Microbiology and Immunology. 2005;20(6):354–361. doi.org/10.1111/j.1399-302X.2005.00239.x.[PubMed]
- Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, Jiang ZG, Stains J, Ebrat B, Guyonnet D, et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(7):1394–1401. org/10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043.
- Ishikawa H, Aiba Y, Nakanishi M, Oh-Hashi Y, Koga Y. Suppression of periodontal pathogenic bacteria in the saliva of human by the administration of Lactobacillus salivarius T12711. Journal of the Japanese Society of Periodontology. 2003;45(1):105–112. doi.org/10.2329/perio.45.105.
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Opinion of the scientific committee on introduction of a qualified presumption of safety (QPS) approach for assessment of selected microorganisms referred to EFSA. The EFSA Journal. 2007;5(12):1–16.