Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Probiotics

Studies show that increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut improves the immune system, helping your body regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin (for good mood) and melatonin (needed for sleep) while lowering inflammation through the body and brain. The result is that probiotics may play a role in the following:

  • Improving digestive functions
  • Limiting depression, anxiety, irritability
  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Boosting memory
  • Improving absorption of nutrients
  • Increasing cognitive function 

(State Change, 2022; Beauty Detox Diet, 2011)

Probiotics can significantly change the brain. There’s a reason some researchers are now using the term psychobiotics to describe the brain-altering effects that probiotics can have on the brain and one’s mood. One study from UCLA found that women who ate yogurt twice a day for a month had brain scans showing they were calmer than a control group of women who didn’t eat yogurt (State Change, 2022). Researchers were actually shocked by the results and attributed them to the idea that probiotics in yogurt produce compounds that can change brain chemistry.

Which Strains of Probiotics Should You Use?

Adults typically have around 400 different species and strains of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract. When we are balanced, we have 80-85% friendly bacteria; when there is an overbalance of unhealthy bacteria, this is known as dysbiosis.

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus (Immune, nutrient absorption, candida)
    1. Most common strain 
    2. Lives in the mouth, intestine, and vagina
    3. Helps with nutrient absorption
    4. Helps to synthesize vitamin K and many antimicrobial substances
    5. Often used to get candida under control
  2. Lactobacillus rhamnosus (Weight loss; gets antibiotic-associated diarrhea under control)
    1. Lives in the intestines
    2. Often used to combat antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea
    3. May help with lactose intolerance
  3. Lactobacillus casei (Diarrhea of all kinds, GI inflammation)
    1. Lives in the mouth and intestines
    2. Helps to control diarrhea
    3. Produces lactic acid to lower the pH of the gut
  4. Lactobacillus helveticus (GI, diarrhea, cholesterol, blood pressure, stress/anxiety)
    1. Lives in the intestines
    2. Antimicrobial 
    3. May help break down lactose
    4. May help to prevent diarrhea
    5. May increase calcium absorption
    6. May lower cholesterol and blood pressure
    7. May help with stress and anxiety 
  5. Lactobacillus plantarum (IBS help, may help with antibiotic-associated diarrhea)
    1. Reduces pain and bloating and improves constipation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Helps with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  6. Lactobacillus gasseri (weight loss)
    1. May help to reduce belly fat by as much as 8.5% in 12 weeks
  7. Bifidobacterium bifidum (Nutrient absorption)
    1. Predominantly lives in the large intestine and vagina
    2. Prevents bad bacteria from colonizing
    3. Enhances absorption of minerals
  8. Bifidobacterium breve (Immune, E. coli infection, candida)
    1. Present in the intestines and the vagina 
    2. Unique in its ability to compete against harmful bacteria due to the large variety of molecules it can digest (including plant fibers otherwise thought non-digestible)
    3. Inhibits E. coli 
    4. Inhibits growth of candida albicans
    5. Decreases occurrence of gas, diarrhea, and bowel irritations
  9. Bifidobacterium infantis (IBS, IBD/colitis/Crohn’s relief, traveler’s diarrhea relief)
    1. One of the first to colonize in the newborn’s digestive tract
    2. Helps to impede the growth of harmful bacteria
    3. May help with production of B vitamins
    4. Offers good results with IBS (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, urgency, and abdominal discomfort), IBD, ulcerative colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea
  10. Bifidobacterium longum (Immune, intestinal regularity)
    1. Among the first to colonize in the GI tract of a newborn infant
    2. May help boost immune response
    3. Helps with regularity
    4. May help with allergic reactions
    5. May help with symptoms of Crohn’s

Sources: Pharmca, Healthline

Which Brands of Probiotics Should You Use?

It is important to use probiotic supplements that contain live microbes.

Quantity matters less than quality, as there is not an ideal number of colony-forming units for optimal physical or mental health.

Also, not all probiotic brands contain the live strains in the amount they state on the label for a myriad of reasons, most relating to storage and transport and digestion. The harsh environment of the stomach kills a good portion of the live cells before they can reach the intestine and benefit our health.

A quality probiotic supplement has:

  • A variety of beneficial strains
  • A specialized delivery system designed to support the safe transport of live bacteria into the intestine

I personally use Solluna by Kimberly Snyder Feel Good SBO+ Probiotics. It contains 16 billion CFU of Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longus, Lactiobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Lactobacillus fermentum, plus humic acid and mushroom extract. Unlike a lot of specialty brand probiotics out there, it’s not just a white-labeled, mass-produced probiotic; it seems like a specialty blend that has probiotics for everything from immune support to improved B vitamin absorption to weight loss.

Is Food Better than Probiotics?

Research shows that fermented foods have a greater diversity of bacteria than supplements. They also contain enzymes that help the gut break down nutrients in other foods. (State Change, 2022). Food with prebiotics or probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut

Not all cultured dairy contains live probiotics, and heating or pasteurizing products like sauerkraut or kimchi can kill off the good stuff. Yogurt and kombucha can also be high in sugar, which undoes some of the advantages the products have. 

Bottom Line

Probiotics are like vitamins: We all know that it’s beneficial to take them, but just like different vitamins can do significantly different things for your system, so can different probiotics. And just like vitamins, the quality, quantity, and delivery system is also important.

A summary is below:

  • Immune support
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus
    • Bifidobacterium breve
    • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Weight loss
    • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
    • Lactobacillus gasseri 
  • Mood support (stress/anxiety)
    • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • Generalized GI support
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus
    • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • GI inflammation support
    • Lactobacillus casei
  • Increase nutrient absorption
    • Bifidobacterium bidifum
  • IBS support
    • Lactobacillus plantarum
    • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • IBD support
    • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • Candida infection control
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus
    • Bifidobacterium breve
  • To improve regularity/help with mild constipation
    • Bifidobacterium longum
  • To get antibiotic-associated diarrhea under control
    • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
    • Lactobacillus casei
    • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • To get diarrhea of all kinds under control
    • Lactobacillus casei
    • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • To help high LDL cholesterol get under control 
    • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • To help traveler’s diarrhea get under control
    • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • To help high blood pressure get under control
    • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • To help fight E.coli infection
    • Bifidobacterium breve

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