Our body normally has what we would call good or helpful bacteria and bad or harmful bacteria. Maintaining the correct balance between these bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Age, genetics, and diet may influence the composition of the bacteria in the body (microbiota). An imbalance is called dysbiosis, and this has possible links to diseases of the intestinal tract, including ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease, as well as more systemic diseases such as obesity and type 1 and type 2 diabetes. How do you know if you need probiotics? This article will help you decide.
Scientists are investigating probiotics, and their combined effects, by trying to classify the probiotic benefits of ingesting specific probiotic strains and understanding their role in the digestive tract. At present, the methodological and ethical limitations of human studies still make it difficult to fully understand the mechanisms of action of probiotics, but some explanations are available. Nevertheless, benefits linked to the consumption of probiotic strains have already been suggested (e.g. helping to support the immune system, help support digestive health), and others are still being investigated.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook says there’s no single best strain of bacteria, though some strains, like L. Acidophilus or B. Bacterium, have wide-reaching effects. They often act as a starting point from which to add other strains with more specific impacts. Already have probiotics on hand or want to arm yourself with raw knowledge before you shop? The table below shows the research- and expert-backed strains we looked for in each use case:
Caution needs to be taken by everyone who chooses to take these supplements, but this is especially true for children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems. For people with compromised immune systems due to disease or treatment for a disease (such as cancer chemotherapy), taking probiotics may actually increase one's chances of getting sick. It has been shown that the use of various probiotics for immunocompromised patients or patients with a leaky gut has resulted in infections and sepsis (infection of the bloodstream). One case of bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) was recently found when someone with active severe inflammatory bowel diseases with mucosal disruption was given Lactobacillus GG. Always speak with a doctor before taking any supplement under these circumstances.
In the small, new study, the researchers isolated 10 bacterial strains — five species of Lactobacillus bacteria, and five species of Enterococcus — in samples from 34 babies, identifying the strains as good candidates for crafting a probiotic cocktail of microbes that could survive in a human host's gut and stimulate SCFA production, according to the study.
If you are seeking non-dairy yogurt options, there are several that contain live probiotic cultures. Yogurts made from rice, soy and coconut milk are available on the market and also contain added probiotics that can provide the same benefits. Other alternative sources of probiotics include eating fermented foods like Brewer’s yeast, miso, sauerkraut, or micro algae. Whatever the source, always look for “live and active cultures” on the label.
Contrasting antibiotics, probiotics were defined as microbially derived factors that stimulate the growth of other microorganisms. In 1989 Roy Fuller suggested a definition of probiotics that has been widely used: "A live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance." Fuller's definition emphasizes the requirement of viability for probiotics and introduces the aspect of a beneficial effect on the host.
Escherichia coli 1917 Nissle Lactobacillus salivarius UCC4331 Lactobacillus reuteri Lactobacillus casei Lactobacillus plantarus 299v Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173010 Bifidobacterium longum Saccharomyces boulardii VSL #3: Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus Lacteol Fort: L.acidophilus, lactose monohydrate, anhydrous lactose
SCFA molecules are a subset of fatty acids that are churned out by some types of gut microbes during the fermentation of fiber. They're associated with maintaining gut health and protecting against disease, so a probiotic containing baby-poop microbes could provide health benefits by boosting SCFA production in a compromised digestive system, researchers reported in the new study. [5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health]
Previous studies have been contradictory, with some yielding more positive results about the benefits of probiotics, but most of them looked at probiotics in stool samples, not directly in the gut itself. In the new research, the scientists used more invasive methods to take samples of gut bacteria directly from different areas of the digestive system.