Intentionally ingesting billions of bacteria might have seemed certifiably crazy a decade ago, but today it’s what the more “enlightened” are doing. If you’re a believer, you already know there are some distinct advantages to adding probiotics to your daily diet. But for the unversed, let me start from the beginning. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are microorganisms that confer health benefits to the host if administered in adequate amounts.
Much is happening in the world of probiotics. As tiny as these little critters are, they are triggering an explosive response in scientific circles. In an interview with NutraIngredients, Christian Barker, chairman of Chr. Hansen, says that peer-reviewed research on probiotics is “mind blowing”prompting him to create an advisory board consisting of internationally recognized thought leaders from around the world to investigate fresh opportunities for using probiotics to improve gut health.
According to Gregor Reid, professor at the University of Western Ontario and Chairman of Human Microbiology and Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute, Canada, everyone carries 3 to 5 pounds of microbes in their systems. Bacteria, he says, is as essential to our existence as water, air, and food. Speaking to 200 global industry leaders in Amsterdam at Probiota 2014 in early February, Reid encouraged those present to begin business ventures in areas around the world where probiotic supplements would lead to an impactful and beneficial change. Particularly in parts of Africa, treating necrotizing enterocolitis with probiotics, he claims, is more effective than drugs.
There are many strains of probiotics and experts believe that different strains have different health benefits for the human host – different strains for different gains, if you please. So, what are these different types of probiotic strains? Here’s a look at a few of them:
This includesLactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius. Scientific research has shown this particular strain of probiotic having certain benefits in the treatment and/or prevention of conditions like urinary tract infections, antibiotic-related diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, and a few other diseases.2
This includesBifidobacteriumlactis, Bifidobacteriuminfantis, Bifodbacterium bifidu, Bifodbacterium longu. As with the lactobacillus strain, further research is needed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the efficacy of this bacterium in treating and/or preventing disorders, but experts believe that it can help alleviate problems like irritable bowel syndrome,dental cavities, and glucose intolerance among other conditions.3
More Strains of Probiotics
The probiotic strain Streptococcus thermophilus is believed to reduce the recurrence of bacterial vaginosis,whereas some studies have shown that the combination of probiotic strains S. thermophilus and Enterococcus faecium could reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL)or “bad” cholesterol level by as much as 8 percent.4Research is underway to test whether these tiny microorganisms may be used instead of statin, to lower cholesterol.
Another probiotic strain, known as Saccharomyces boulardii, has been shown to help prevent and treat diarrhea associated with antibiotics, as well as traveler’s diarrhea. Additional benefits include treating and reducing the side effects associated with acne, increasing the rate of eradication, and improving the efficacy of antibiotic therapy for the bacteria Helicobacter pylori that is the main cause of ulcers in the stomach and duodenum.5
According to USA Today, 60 percent of Americans suffer from lactose intolerance. Probiotics such as Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus may improve lactose digestion and reduce symptoms related to lactose intolerance.6
The future of probiotics is absolutely jaw dropping
Scientists now even believe the way gut microbiota interact with each other may play a role in autoimmune disease including type 1 diabetes. Research funded by the Bill and Melinda Foundation is looking for a new solution to Vitamin A deficiency by modifying, you guessed it, gut bacteria! The aim is to produce a human-friendly probiotic strain that will help the body naturally produce beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A.
In a revolutionary step ahead, recent research shows the role of complex microbiotain the gut may help scientists develop treatment for infectious diseases using a combination of antibiotics and immunomodulatorymicrobial molecules.7
The study of probiotics is fascinating and more phase 3 studies will reveal how strategically we can develop various strains of probiotics to replace or even complement traditional medicine which often comes with a number of side effects. There may come a time in the future when doctors will address the specific health needs of their patients by prescribing a specific strain or a combination of probiotics strains to treat a variety of illnesses.
Your Friendly Bacteria in Convenient Delivery Forms
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), probiotics in our country is available in the form of dietary supplements including capsules, pills, and powders but as technology develops we’ll see more innovative delivery formats. For now, however, to make sure they are getting the right amount of live bacteria in their probiotics supplements, consumers can rely on products that have been third-party tested. Although the FDA has not approved any health claims for these good bacteria, there is a rapidly growing consumer market for probiotics, which incidentally means “for life.”