If you take a daily probiotic supplement, you’re likely well-acquainted with the Lactobacillus species, whether you know it or not. That’s because the many different strains that make up the Lactobacillus family are among the most common and effective probiotic bacteria, bestowing a wide range of health benefits to those who get enough of these beneficial bacteria in their diet or with a dietary supplement. Let’s take a second to pay tribute to these heavy-hitting good bacteria strains and breakdown their many scientifically-proven beneficial effects.
The Six Main Lactobacillus Strains and Their Beneficial Effects
All of the strains of the Lactobacillus genus are part of a type of bacteria that are characterized by the fact that they convert sugars to lactic acid. As such, strains in this group can help control glucose levels, making it particularly important as the standard American diet is high in sugar.
There are dozens and dozens of different Lactobacillus species, but six in particular are especially effective probiotic strains and offer a number of positive health side effects.
One of the most common forms of probiotics, L. acidophilus’ frequent inclusion in probiotic supplements is for good reason. From helping to control high cholesterol and alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome to promoting weight loss and treating bacterial vaginosis, the positive effects of this strain of bacteria are broad.
For example, one clinical study found that L. acidophilus was more effective than other probiotic strains at lowering bad cholesterol. (1) The effects of this probiotic strain have also been demonstrated in the realm of immune system health. Researchers have demonstrated that L. acidophilus can cut the cold and flu symptoms dramatically in children, resulting in shorter colds, fewer symptoms and less time spent out-of-school. (2) Moreover, L. acidophilus may be able to help lower the severity of symptoms in asthma sufferers.
In the realm of digestive health, one double-blind study found that L. acidophilus helped reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, while other research studies have found that this strain is effective in preventing and treating diarrhea (whether due to acute infection, antibiotic use or radiotherapy treatment in cancer patients). (3) (4)
Women’s health issues can also be treated with L. acidophilus supplementation; researchers have shown that this strain can help treat and prevent vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis. (5) It’s also been shown to effectively combat Candida albicans, the microorganism responsible for yeast infections.
The potential effects of L. acidophilus don’t stop at physical health, either. Through a review and meta-analysis of related trials, researchers have demonstrated the potential of this live bacteria strain at significantly decreasing the symptoms of depression and boosting overall mental health. (6)
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
First discovered in 1983, L. rhamnosus GG is a naturally-occurring strain that has been the subject of numerous clinical studies, and the range of health benefits it can offer for digestive and immune system health is enormous.
Through research, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been shown to effectively prevent and alleviating antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), including Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. (7) This effect has been replicated when studying children experiencing acute infectious diarrhea. (8)
This single strain also has effects outside of the digestive tract: those who are genetically prone to developing eczema can have their risk of developing the condition reduced through L. rhamnosus supplementation. (9)
As with its close relative L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus has also been shown to help in the treatment of many mental health conditions, from anxiety and depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder and memory issues. (10).
The use of probiotic L. casei has been effective in treating a wide range of digestive health issues and conditions, from colic in newborns to lactose intolerance, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease in adults.
Clinical studies have shown that—like many other Lactobacillus strains—L. casei can be effective at treating diarrhea caused by antibiotic use of C. diff. (11) At the same time, research also demonstrates that this strain can help treat chronic constipation, and it has been shown to be particularly effective at improving bowel movements in Parkinson’s disease patients. (12) (13)
L. casei’s use has also been indicated for preventing and alleviating certain immune system conditions, from allergies, dermatitis, and eczema to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and respiratory tract infections. For example, one study found that women with rheumatoid arthritis who used this strain had lower disease activity and inflammation than those who didn’t. (14)
Moreover, research suggests that L. casei may be able to withstand a wider range of pH levels than other Lactobacillus strains, making it particularly helpful for keep your gut’s pH levels healthy. (15)
Like many other Lactobacillus strains, L. plantarum can help improve digestive function and alleviate many common yet debilitating digestive tract issues. For example, multiple studies have found that this strain can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and reduce bloating and pain. (16)
For postmenopausal women, L. plantarum can also help aid in cardiovascular health. A clinical study conducted in 2014 found that postmenopausal women experiencing metabolic syndrome who consumed fermented milk with L. plantarum for 90 days showed significantly more improvement in cardiovascular risk levels (including blood sugar levels) compared to the control group. (17)
On the other end of the spectrum, L. plantarum has also proven beneficial in treating atopic dermatitis—the most common type of eczema—in children between 12 months and 13 years. (18)
As with L. casei, L. plantarum also has several unique properties which may boost its effectiveness in supporting overall health. For example, this strain is believed to be able to bind to the intestinal mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract particularly well, enabling it to help increase the beneficial bacteria populations of your gut. L. plantarum is also believed to be especially effective in warding off inflammation and lowering the risk of developing inflammation-related health issues. (19)
This species of Lactobacillus can do it all, from improving skin and hair and lowering cholesterol to improving gut health and helping to fight infections. One key role that L. reuteri may play in promoting overall health: studies suggest that it may reduce inflammation throughout the body and help prevent the development of inflammatory diseases. (20)
As with other Lactobacillus strains, L. reuteri can also improve stress and mental health, with one study suggesting that it can positively affect pain perception. (21)
Much of the research into the full range of effects of L. bulgaricus is still in its early stages, but there’s evidence that this strain may help to manage a range of health conditions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) believes that L. bulgaricus might help control liver disease, periodontal disease, tooth decay, colic, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema) and even the common cold. (22)
What Probiotic Products Has These Lactobacillus Strains?
Choosing to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet is one of the best ways to boost your nutrition and support your health, and many of the foods that are known for their probiotic effects naturally include the above Lactobacillus strains. For example, L. acidophilus can be found in many fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles, and some cottage cheese; dairy manufacturers (including Chobani, Stonyfield, Dannon, Fage, and Yoplait) also commonly add this strain into their yogurt and other dairy products thanks to its huge health benefits.
In general, certain strains are more commonly found in dairy products while others are more often found in fermented plant products. For example, L. rhamnosus and L. casei are often found in yogurt and dairy drinks, while L. plantarum (as the name may suggest) can be sourced from plant foods like pickles and sauerkraut. (23)
Of course, the most effective way to ensure that you’re getting enough of these Lactobacillus strains to fully reap the positive effects of probiotics is to take a daily probiotic supplement that has such cultures. Keep in mind, however, that not all probiotic supplements are created equally. As common as it is to use Lactobacillus in probiotic supplements, many brands don’t incorporate multiple strains—and if you take one of these supplements, you may be losing out on some of the key benefits that this probiotic family can provide.
That’s why when we formulate our supplements, LoveBug Probiotics is careful to include multiple species of Lactobacillus, including L. fermentum, L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus GG, L. gasseri, L. brevis, and L. salivarius. We make sure you’re getting all the Lactobacillus strains you need to support whole body health—without needing to scour the nutritional labels of multiple dietary supplements.
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