These days, there’s a lot of talk about probiotic supplements and what they can do for your body.
Unfortunately, much of this ‘marketing’ doesn’t provide much detail about the many different strains of probiotics, and which strains can treat which conditions.
A quick overview: probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that live in and on your body, mainly in your gut. These bacteria carry out many different functions every day, from digestion and elimination to energy production and nutrient absorption. Up to 70 percent of your immune system cells reside in the walls of your gut, supporting your immune defences by producing bacteria-killing substances such as bacteriocins and short-chain fatty acids. Probiotics also help to ‘crowd out’ harmful bacteria while lowering your gut pH, so bacteria can’t survive.
There are hundreds of broad-spectrum probiotic supplements out there. And while some of these can be effective, it’s often more effective to use the specific strains shown to treat specific conditions.
Here’s a breakdown of the probiotic strains that are best for gut-related conditions.
Best probiotics for colic, reflux, and GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
GORD occurs when stomach acid ‘splashes’ up in your oesophagus, causing acid reflux. Over time, this can seriously damage the lining of the oesophagus.
Babies suffering from colic have been successfully treated with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938. This strain has been shown to reduce gastric distension and speed up gastric emptying, which means food spends less time sitting in the stomach. It also seems to reduce the frequency of regurgitation.
Best probiotics for gastritis
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining, which typically occurs after damage from bacterial infection.
One of the most valuable strains for treating gastritis is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, which has been shown to help regenerate cells lining the gut following damage from a stomach ulcer.
Bifidobacterium animalis also helps to protect the gut mucosa by increasing the amount of mucus produced in the gut, which can reduce epithelial degradation. A combination of these Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains may be most helpful for improving the integrity of tight junctions.
Best probiotics for treating H. pylori
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that lives in the digestive tract, causing ulcers in the stomach lining or the upper part of your small intestine.
A study involving children with H. pylori infection found that the beneficial yeast Saccharomyces boulardii helped to significantly reduce levels of H. pylori. It even helped to eradicate the bacteria in as many as 12% of the children.
Further research has found that combining S. boulardii with the Lactobacillus strain L. johnsonni La1 can help to reduce the bacteria causing the infection.
Best for IBS symptoms
Diarrhoea (IBS-D): As well as treating H. pylori, Saccharomyces boulardii is one of the best-known strains for treating diarrhoea. It’s even recommended in many hospitals throughout Europe. S. boulardii is also found to be beneficial for diarrhoea caused by antibiotic treatment, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and traveller’s diarrhoea.
Constipation (IBS-C): Bifidobacterium lactis is one of the most researched strains in the Bifidobacteria genus. Clinical trials have shown it helps to improve bowel regularity, making stools easier to pass, which is highly beneficial to those who regularly suffer from constipation.
Best probiotics for restoring the gut barrier
Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when the cells lining the gut became separated, or ‘leaky’, causing foreign matter to pass through the gut walls into the bloodstream.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) is one of the most effective strains for treating and/or preventing several intestinal disorders that can lead to Leaky Gut. LGG can help block the oxidative stress that causes Leaky Gut as well as reducing intestinal mucosal permeability.
Best probiotics for improving digestion
When food passes through your small intestine and into the colon, probiotics work to break down the food matter and absorb the nutrients within it.
Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 has been shown to readily adhere to the intestinal walls and can survive the harsh acid and bile of the stomach. It’s also effective in breaking down lactose (milk sugar) and reducing gastrointestinal issues such as gas and bloating.
How to choose the best probiotic
It’s important to choose a probiotic that has been designed to tolerate the harsh environment of your stomach, such as those with an enteric coating. An enteric coating is a special polymer barrier that can remain stable in highly acidic environments (like the stomach) but will quickly dissolve in the more alkaline environment of the intestines. This means the bacteria are more likely to get to your gut without being killed off first.
Also look out for unwanted additives such as ‘fillers’ and binding agents, which are used to maintain the shelf life and shape of the capsule or tablet. Not all fillers and excipients are harmful, but they’re not helpful, either. Check the ingredients list on your product (under ‘excipients’ or ‘other ingredients’) and go with one that has the safest and fewest ingredients.
If reading this makes you realise that you need to speak to a gut health expert to understand what this all means for you and your family, please get in touch with me.