Probiotic supplements have become very popular and with good reason. A large percentage of your immune system is located in your gut. If your gut flora is out of balance it can wreak havoc on your health. The most obvious symptoms are constipation or diarrhea but the symptoms can range anywhere from skin issues to irritable bowel syndrome depending on the level of imbalance. You also need a health balance of bacteria in all your mucus membranes. Sinus, vaginal and even oral health can be affected by a depletion of healthy bacteria.
How do you choose the right probiotic supplement for you?
The first thing to look at is the company that makes it. The probiotics made by the large box stores or drug stores may be cheap but they may not have any viable bacteria in them. You often get what you pay for in the supplement world. Look for a high end company such as Metagenics, Klaire Labs, Metabolic Maintenance or any of the other great brands we carry at Blue Sky Vitamin. They are all top end companies and we make sure your products are shipped to you promptly with proper refrigeration.
There has been a lot of research in the last few years regarding the different strains of probiotics. Your body has trillions of bacteria of all different kinds so it’s helpful to know what strains of probiotics help what areas of your body. The two main categories of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each of those has many different strains and each of the strains has an area of the body that it will benefit the most. Here is a breakdown of some of the strains and what health issues they best treat.
In the Lactobacillus family:
- L. Acidophilus: This is probably the most recognized probiotic as it has been used since the 1920’s to treat diarrhea and constipation. It’s also beneficial in promoting vaginal health as well as helping people with acne. There have been studies done using L. Acidophilus along with L. Bulgaricus and B. Bifidum that showed improvement in acne including inflammatory acne.
- L. Ramnosus: This bacterium is mainly located in the gut and can be depleted when taking antibiotics, eating poorly or when under stress. It has been found to help relieve diarrhea but also has been studied and found beneficial in preventing atopic eczema in children of mothers who supplemented with it during pregnancy.
- L. Casei: A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that supplementing with 24 billion units of a strain of L. Casei called Shirota showed an increase in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium as well as a notable decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms. Because it increased the presence of healthy bacterium in general it also promotes digestive health and regulates diarrhea symptoms.
- L. Plantarum: This strain helps with lowering inflammation and boosting immunity in the intestinal tract. A study done in 2007 concluded that it provided relief from symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome such as bloating and abdominal pain.
In the Bifidobacterium family:
- B. Lactis and B. Bifidum: Both of these strains have been shown to boost the immune system. B. Lactis was shown in one study to have a greater increase in antibodies in the group taking the probiotic over the group taking a placebo. B. Bifidum has been shown to help digestion and immunity by preventing intestinal pathogens that disrupt the function of the GI tract. It also has shown promise in alleviating the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis.
- B. Longum: This strain is one of the first strains present from birth. It has been studied and found effective for inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and relieving constipation. It also has been found effective in supporting cognitive issues such as stress and memory loss.
Read the labels of the probiotic supplements to see what strains they offer and to make sure they are not past their expiration date. It can be difficult to remember which strains do what so it’s best to look for a probiotic that has several different strains to give you a balanced, across the board product. Your body’s microbiome needs a variety of good bacteria to keep it healthy and thriving.
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Dr. Ron Ledoux is a licensed Chiropractor from the midwest who has been practicing since 2001. He’s also certified in clinical nutrition and has extensive training in nutritional therapies and is enthusiastic about educating and offering natural health care to his patients and the community.