Understanding Probiotics: Health Benefits, Types of Probiotics
Every day inside our bodies, a battle wages that many aren’t even aware exists, one that can have major implications on your health.
And even fewer people know that they can have a major impact on the outcome.
We’re talking about the delicate balance between bad bacteria – which infiltrates our bodies each and every day – and the good bacteria designed to help keep our bodies healthy and strong. These good bacteria are known as probiotics, and they live primarily in our digestive system, which is home to more than 500 different types of these little warriors.
By definition, probiotics are microorganisms that offer some form of health benefit to their hosts. Among the primary benefits of probiotics within humans is their ability to keep the intestines healthy, assist in digesting food, and help strengthen and support the immune system.
According to researchers, some digestive disorders happen when the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestines becomes disturbed through infection or after taking antibiotics. Intestinal problems can also arise when the lining of the intestines is damaged.
A healthy balance of probiotics has been found to benefit numerous areas of health, including:
* The treatment of diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
* Prevention and treatment of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
* Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
* Reduction of bladder cancer recurrence
* Speeding the treatment of certain intestinal infections
* Prevention and treatment of eczema in children
* Prevention or reduction of the severity of colds and flu
There are numerous types of probiotics, many of which work synergistically to support your health. Here are some of the different types of probiotics found in your body, and the specific jobs each does to help improve your health:
Lactobacillus plantarum is able to help reduce unhealthy bacteria (naturally present in the body) while preserving vital nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins. One of the most noteable talents of Lactobacillus plantarum is its ability to synthesize L-lysine, an essential amino acid which is required for countless functions in the body. Lactobacillus plantarum competes for nutrients which the unhealthy bacteria live on. By doing so, unhealthy bacteria pass harmlessly through the body.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most highly studied and widely used probiotic organisms. It is a strain of lactic acid, producing rod-shaped microbes that have numerous benefits for digestive health. Lactobacillus acidophilus produces vitamin K, lactase and acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin and bacteriocin. Due to the multiple functions of this microorganism, scientists have discovered that administering Lactobacillus acidophilus orally helps maintain the proper balance of bacteria within the digestive tract. Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to promote digestive functions and support the immune system. The lactase that Lactobacillus acidophilus creates is an enzyme that supports the normal breakdown of lactose into simple sugars.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a strain of probiotics that aids in balancing the gastrointestinal microflora. It is one of the most intensely studied bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. One of the remarkable things about Lactobacillus rhamnosus is its ability to tolerate and even thrive in the harsh acidic conditions normally found in the stomach. Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been shown to support immune function and promote a healthy urinary tract system (acidic condition). Research has shown that Lactobacillus rhamnosus helps maintain the integrity of the stomach lining.
Lactobacillus salivarius resides in the mouth and small intestine. It has been shown effective in assisting in dental health. Researchers noticed the particular role of Lactobacillus salivarius in striving to support homeostasis within the intestines. Therefore, Lactobacillus salivarius may be related to the immune response.
Lactobacillus casei is a rod-shaped species of Lactobacillus found in milk, cheese and dairy. It is a lactic acid producer like other species within the Lactobacillus genus and has been found to assist in the colonization of beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus casei is active in a broad temperature and pH range, and can be found naturally in the mouth and intestine of humans. It is a lactase producer which aids in the optimal digestion of lactose, promoting optimal digestive health.
Lactobacillus helveticus has been well studied for many years and is commonly used in the production of Swiss-type cheeses to enhance flavor. Several beneficial probiotic effects are reported such as the ability to survive in the stomach and to reach the intestine alive, promoting balanced bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and promoting the normal digestion of lactose. A number of studies have been conducted in regard to the myriad of potential health benefits offered by Lactobacillus helveticus. These studies have focused on health topics, such as bone mineral density and bone mineral content, calcium and bone metabolism, arterial health and blood pressure.
Bifidobacterium bifidum are rod-shaped microbes that have been identified as the most important organisms in the intestine for providing barrier protection. Like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium are lactic acid producing microbes found in fermented foods such as yogurt and cheese. Despite the fact that when we are born Bifidobacterium makes up approximately 95 percent of the total gut population, the Bifidobacterium population decreases in our intestines as adults and declines further as we advance in age. Bifidobacterium bifidum is the predominant bacteria strain found in the microflora of breast-fed infants. It is believed that Bifidobacterium bifidum contributes to the gastrointestinal health of breast-fed infants. In addition to barrier protection, research has shown that Bifidobacterium help to support the immune system by promoting normal lymphocyte and phagocyte activity.
Bifidobacterium longum is a branched, rod-shaped bacterium that competes for attachment sites on the intestinal mucosal membrane, promoting the balanced colonization of bacteria. It has a high resistance to gastric acid and shares similar functions as Bifidobacterium bifidum, such as supporting a healthy immune system and providing barrier protection.
Bifidobacterium breve is another branched, rod-shaped bacterium. The job of Bifidobacterium breve in the digestive tract is to ferment sugars and produce lactic acid, as well as acetic acid. Bifidobacterium breve is like a champion among probiotic bacteria due to its superior ability to metabolize many types of food.
Bifidobacterium infantis is a probiotic bacterium which inhabits the intestine of both infants and adults. According to a study sponsored by P&G Health Sciences Institute and published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Bifidobacterium infantis may be beneficial to promote stomach health. Bifidobacterium infantis plays an important role in basic digestion, proper metabolism and overall well-being.