You may know that the Amazon rainforest ecosystem has the greatest diversity and number of living organism anywhere on Earth. But, did you know that your gut is the tropical rainforest of your body. Your gut ecosystem, called the microbiome, has thousands of different bacterial species and over 10 trillion beneficial organisms all working together to help your body maintain gut and body wide health.
However, when consumers look at all the different probiotics available there is very little information about what each species does. Do they do different things? And is a mix of probiotics better than any single one?
These are great questions. Understanding the benefits of different probiotic strains is vital to determining which probiotic supplement is best for you.
There are many strains that come from four main species of probiotic available in supplements and in fermented foods like yogurt, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacter, and Bacillus Streptococcus. There aren’t many probiotic bacteria available to consumers because most of our gut bacteria are so specialized to living in our gut that they cannot be commercially cultured and grown.
Let’s take a look at their relative benefits.
Lactobacillus species are one of the most important gut bacteria species that reside in the small intestine. Lactobacilli produce lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (sugar in milk). They also break down fiber and carbohydratesin the gut, producing lactic acid, which helps to create an acidic environment in the digestive tract.
The various strains of Lactobacillus all have many of the same advantages, and as a group help in general gut health by maintaining a healthy gut lining. A healthy gut lining prevents the leakage of toxins from the gut, but at the same time allows nutrients to be absorbed. The lactic acid they produce increases absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron. The lower pH also discourages many unwanted microorganisms that thrive in a more alkaline environment. This is particularly useful when travelling as you are more likely to encounter different foods and contaminants that can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.
Unlike Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium live in the large intestine but like Lactobacillus strains, Bifidobacterium produce lactic acid, which can provide up to 70% of the energy required by the cell lining. This helps keep the gut lining healthy and enhances the gastrointestinal immune system. As with the Lactobacilli in the small intestine, Bifidobacter-derived lactic acid also helps keep the pH of the large intestine acidic to discourage the growth of pathogenic or “bad” gut bacteria. In addition to improving gut health and digestion, Bifidobacterium also produces vitamins B and K which we absorb and use as building blocks for our own health.
Research has shown that, unlike lactobacilli, as we age, the Bifidobacterium population found in the large intestinal wall naturally decline. This means that taking a probiotic to replenish dwindling populations of “good” gut bacteria is an important part of a healthy life style as we age.
Bacillus species, which are different from lactobacillus, are rod-shaped, spore-bearing bacteria that reside in the small intestine. If gut bacteria form spores, this species is highly resistant to environmental hazards and are also highly resistant to stomach acid. Therefore, bacillus species can reside longer in the body compared to Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. Bacillus species are also lactic acid producers but lactic acid and compounds that will assist in gastric motility or your body’s ability to move food along the digestive tract in a normal fashion. Improving gastric moblity helps to prevent food sitting undigested in the gut which can lead to constipation, extreme discomfort, or infection.
Probiotic Streptococcus species are primarily oral probiotics and are found in the teeth, gums, and mouth. Unlike the gut related probiotics, Streptococcus species do not produce lactic acid or lactase. They do, however, produce BLIS (bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances), which discourages the growth of “bad” oral bacteria that can cause cavities and bad breath.
Research has shown that up to 10% of the population naturally carry BLIS-producing strains of oral bacteria, and these people have significantly fewer sore throats. Studies have also associated oral Streptococcus species with better health in children, reduced plaque, enhanced oral immunity, and reduction of sulphur compounds that cause bad breath.
Each probiotic species has a set of similar and unique health benefits. That’s why, at SuperBio, our belief – as well as many physicians and nutritionists – is that consuming a blend of probiotics rather than just one species or strain will result in the best results. That is why we developed SuperBio to contain two species and seven different strains of probiotic so it can provide the best possible level of protection and health benefits.