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When you consider your good health, what comes to mind immediately? Chances are, the word “bacteria” didn’t pop up. However, bacteria is actually one of the best things for you. It may sound like science fiction, but microscopic bacteria actually make up more of your body that living cells – by a ratio of about 10:1.1

Microbacteria (microbiota) are found on your skin, in your mouth, and also (at their highest concentrations) inside your gut. Research suggests this enormous ecosystem of living microbiota includes about 100 trillion bacteria. Scientists call it the microbiome, and keeping this ecosystem balanced and functioning well should be one of the top things that you consider when it comes to your health.2  Probiotics can help.

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the two most notable types of probiotics. Each of these categories of bacteria colonize in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract to perform specific duties. And each of these contain multiple different strains of microbiota.

  1. Lactobacillus. Taking residence in your small intestine and mouth, lactobacillus is a naturally-occurring bacterial species that is best known for helping to ease intestinal damage caused by the use of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical therapies.3,4

There are an estimated 180 different strains within the lactobacillus genus.5 Lactobacillus probiotics can be found in some of the most common probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt, miso broth, fermented vegetables – including sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi – as well as dark chocolate, green algae, and kombucha.

These types of probiotics may help to relieve irritable bowels, skin problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, stress, and even depression.6-10 Lactobacillus strains have also been associated with faster healing time in clinical trials with patients who suffered a bone fracture.11

As a species, lactobacillus is used to activate the production of lactase – an enzyme that breaks down lactose (milk sugar) in the body.12  Lactobacillus bacteria also helps to boost the body’s natural immune response by reducing the ability of harmful pathogens to stick to the delicate epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal system.13

Lactobacillus types of probiotics include Acidophilus, Acidophilus Bifidus, Acidophilus Lactobacillus, L. Acidophilus, L. Amylovorus, L. Brevis, L. Bulgaricus, and L. Casei.

  1. Bifidobacteria. Billions of bifidobacterium make their home in the lining of the large intestine and colon, helping to prevent pathogenic bacteria and other harmful organisms from penetrating the walls of your GI tract. However, as we age, the large numbers of live, active bifidobacterium tend to decline. As a result, the strength of the lining of your large intestinal wall may suffer. For this reason, adding strains from these types of probiotics to your diet may help to boost your immunity against common infections.14,15

One of the most notable abilities of bifidobacteria probiotics is their capacity to reduce gastrointestinal problems, such as slow transit and intestinal infections.16  Clinical research has shown that strains found in this type of probiotics have been linked to lower levels of stress, and improvements in working memory in study participants.17

Lactobacillus probiotics include B. Bifidum, B. Breve, B. Infantis, B. lactis, B. Longum, Bifido, Bifidobacterium Longum, to name a few.

How Can I Get More Probiotics into My Diet?

Countless probiotic foods are available. Add these into your everyday diet to help feed your body what it needs to stay balanced and healthy. Additionally, the types of probiotics mentioned here can also be found in comprehensive supplements. Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus strains are almost always included in probiotic supplements; they’re also able to withstand the acidic environment of the gastrointestinal system.

As with any health goal, it is important to know just what your body needs in order to get there. If you want to lose weight, boost your immunity, improve your regularity, and support your digestive system, these specific types of probiotics may help. However, there are many more types of microbacteria you can add to your gut to further increase the biodiversity in your microbiome. So, don’t just stop at these two main categories. Aim to consume as many different types of probiotic strains that you can find, as well as the foods they love to eat (known as prebiotics), in order to support their growth in numbers. Prebiotics can be found in foods like bananas, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions, chicory root, and dandelion greens.

Regardless of where you are in life, or how healthy you feel, a range of probiotics found in nature may help. So, try to add more of these two main types of probiotics to your diet through probiotic rich foods, supplementation, or both. It’s up to you, but when it comes to probiotics – they’re all good.

References:

1. Ron Sender, Shai Fuchs. Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biol. 2016 Aug; 14(8): e1002533.

2. Luke K Ursell, Jessica L Metcalf. Defining the Human Microbiome. Nutr Rev. 2012 Aug; 70(Suppl 1): S38–S44.

3. Blake Rodgers, MD, Kate Kirley, MD. Prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics. J Fam Pract. 2013 Mar; 62(3): 148–150.

4. Hiroki Endo, Takuma Higurashi. Efficacy of Lactobacillus casei treatment on small bowel injury in chronic low-dose aspirin users: a pilot randomized controlled study. J Gastroenterol. 2011 May 10. Epub 2011 May 10.

5. Fabien J. Cousin, Shónagh M. Lynch. Detection and Genomic Characterization of Motility in Lactobacillus curvatus: Confirmation of Motility in a Species outside the Lactobacillus salivarius Clade. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Feb; 81(4): 1297–1308.

6. Jacqueline S Barrett, Kim E K Canale. Lactobacillus casei has a beneficial effect on intestinal fermentation patterns in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Aug 28;14(32):5020-4.

7. Feriel Hacini-Rachinel, Hanane Gheit. Oral probiotic control skin inflammation by acting on both effector and regulatory T cells. Hypertens Pregnancy. 2007;26(1):89-100.

8. Matthew E Falagas, Gregoria I Betsi. Probiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a review of the evidence from microbiological and clinical studies. Drugs. 2006;66(9):1253-61.

9. M Takada, K Nishida, A Kataoka-Kato. Probiotic Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota relieves stress-associated symptoms by modulating the gut-brain interaction in human and animal models. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016 Feb 20. Epub 2016 Feb

10. Ghodarz Akkasheh, Zahra Kashani-Poor. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2015 Sep 28. Epub 2015 Sep 28.

11. M Lei, L-M Hua, D-W Wang. The effect of probiotic treatment on elderly patients with distal radius fracture: a prospective double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised clinical trial. Benef Microbes. 2016 Sep 16:1-8. Epub 2016 Sep 16.

12. Lactase Production from Lactobacillus acidophilus. October 2005.

13. Gregor Reid. The Scientific Basis for Probiotic Strains of Lactobacillus. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Sep; 65(9): 3763–3766.

14. Chiang BL, Sheih YH. Enhancing immunity by dietary consumption of a probiotic lactic acid bacterium (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019): optimization and definition of cellular immune responses. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;54(11):849-55.

15. Patricia López, Irene González-Rodríguez. Immune Response to Bifidobacterium bifidum Strains Support Treg/Th17 Plasticity. September 22, 201.

16. C. Pichard, J. Fioramonti. Review article: bifidobacteria as probiotic agents – physiological effects and clinical benefits. 13 September 2005.

17. A P Allen, W Hutch.  Bifidobacterium longum 1714 as a translational psychobiotic: modulation of stress, electrophysiology and neurocognition in healthy volunteers. Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Nov; 6(11): e939.