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Gut Health - Did you know there are various types of probiotics?

Probiotics are often referred to as one specific thing, but really there are various types of probiotics and the definition is starting to expand as more types of beneficial bacteria are being explored.

The major probiotics available today include:

1. Lactobacillus

2. Bifidobacterium

3. Soil based bacteria

4. Spore forming bacteria

In this blog we are going to take a look at what each of these does.

First, we’ll look at Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium together followed by soil based bacteria and spore forming bacteria since most of these duos have much in common.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium both produce lactic acid by eating lactose, sugar & carbohydrates. These are the bacteria in fermented foods that we’ve already been consuming for thousands of years.

Lactobacillus are found mostly in the small intestine in the upper GI tract. Bifidobacterium are present in larger amounts in children. Some foods naturally can be fermented with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium such as yogurt, milk and cod liver oil.

Bacteria that produce lactic acid inhibit the growth of pathogens because they lower pH. This is what creates that characteristic sour taste in fermented foods. Lactic acid bacteria feed and nourish the gut lining and stimulate the immune system.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are categorize as “Transient”. This means that they move through the digestive system when consumed but don’t colonize or make a home in the gut. Most of them don’t survive the harsh conditions of the gut but they make their presence known as they pass through.

Traditionally for a strain to be considered probiotic it was thought it had to be able to survive the harsh conditions of the stomach and the small intestine including the low pH, bile and everything else that goes on in that harsh environment. However, this definition is influx as we now recognize the abilities and benefits of transient bacteria.

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB):

· Promote regular bowel movements

· Produce antimicrobials that can ward off pathogenic bacteria

· Help the body absorb minerals and nutrients

· Support healthy levels of stomach acid

· Encourage production of digestive enzymes

LABS also aide in the detoxification process by consuming toxins. What’s really cool is that it appears they can do this even if they are not alive.

Soil based bacteria (SBO) are bacteria that are naturally found in the soil. They enrich the soil so that plants grow better. These bacteria should be on our food helping us to digest everything we eat. Many believe that a major reason our modern-day food is void of nutrients is due to the decline of these soil based microorganisms in our food supply because of the pesticides and sanitizing process that most of our foods go through before it hits the shelves.

Some SBO’s live in our gut while other strains are transient, just passing through. Both types enhance the immune system. Here is an important distinction to remember, some soil-based bacteria are spore forming bacteria but not all spores are soil based.

Spore forming bacteria are highly resistant meaning they can survive in just about any environment and grow rapidly. They can even survive antibiotics.

Bacillus Subtilis is an example of soil based bacteria that are also spore forming and can be found in probiotic formulas. Spore forming has been around in nature a long time. They are more likely to make a home in your digestive tract and they can remain dormant for a long time, reviving themselves when nutrients are present. When revived they make it their duty to clean up the gut like a gardener weeding out the pesky bacteria. If taking probiotics that contain spore forming bacteria its recommended to take them with food. This is because the amino acids and carbohydrates in food move the spores from the dormant to active state in the GI tract.

But even when SBO’s and spore formers colonize in the gut they don’t stay forever. Studies are showing that they stay just long enough until its advantageous to spread themselves around elsewhere in the environment.

Remember bacteria are smart and can communicate.

To summarize, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium eat lactic acid and are transient and soil based bacteria and spore forming bacteria live in the gut and help sweep out the bad bacteria.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the four major types of probiotics, I've included a handout: How to Choose a Probiotic. Remember always consult with your doctor before taking or trying a probiotic supplement to make sure they are right for you.

Handout_How to Choose a Probiotic - Modu
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