The Top Probiotic Strains (Benefits & Side Effects) 

Probiotics help to improve your gut microbiome. This is the good bacteria that live in your gut and help your digestive system function normally. The healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a number of potential health benefits. At the same time, increasing your intake of probiotics does come with some potential adverse effects. 

While it is possible to get probiotics from food sources, many people prefer to opt for supplements that can give their body an adequate amount of these beneficial bacterium species. There are many supplements to choose from when you prefer to get your probiotics from a pill. The significant variety of these products can make it hard to know which one to choose. 

We take a closer look at the variety of probiotic strains that may be included in these supplements. We also consider what the benefits and potential side-effects of these strains are. This will help you determine which strains are the most important for you, and ensure you know what to expect when taking these supplements. 

What Are The Best Probiotic Strains?

There are more than 500 species of bacteria found in your gastrointestinal tract. Even though the diversity may seem limited, consider the fact that there may be billions of each bacterium species living in your digestive system. Each of the good bacterium species provides specific benefits for your gut or the rest of your body. 

We will take a closer look at the primary strains that you should look for when buying a probiotic supplement. We will also look at the benefits that these offer you and the potential side-effects that you could experience.

Bifidobacterium

When you look at these products, Bifidobacterium is often one of the bacterium strains that you are going to find mentioned on the ingredient list. This is because this particular strain of bacteria tends to have several potential health benefits. 

There are actually quite a few different bacterium species that fall within the Bifidobacterium family. The most popular of this family would be Bifidobacterium bifidum. This probiotic strain is often referred to as B. bifidum as well. There are several health benefits that have been associated with the consumption of this particular strain, in fact. 

The use of a supplement that contains the B. bifidum bacteria strain may provide the following benefits:

  • Treatment for constipation
  • May help to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Could assist in the treatment of ulcerative colitis
  • May also be helpful in relieving some types of diarrhea
  • Could help to improve intestinal bacteria balance following chemotherapy

B. bifidum may also be helpful in a condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis. This is an infection that affects the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. It is caused by bacteria that are considered harmful. The good bacteria may help to improve the control over the bad bacteria in your gut. 

Individuals with an infection caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, also called H. pylori, might also benefit from using a probiotic supplement that contains B. bifidum in particular. 

Scientific Studies About The Benefits Of Bifidobacterium

It is always useful to consider scientific studies and research conducted on a probiotic strain before making a decision regarding the specific supplement to buy. There are several studies that have been conducted in order to show the potential benefits that Bifidobacterium species could potentially offer the human body. 

Researchers at the Akdeniz University School of Medicine conducted a study to determine the efficacy of Bifidobacterium species in people with irritable bowel syndrome. The study utilized a specific strain of this bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium lactis B94. 

The participants in the study were divided into three groups. Each group received a specific supplement or combination of supplements. The following supplements were provided:

  • Group 1: Daily supplement with inulin and Bifidobacterium lactis B94
  • Group 2: Daily probiotic supplement with Bifidobacterium lactis B94
  • Group 3: Daily supplement with the prebiotic inulin

All participants in the study had previously been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms of IBS was active in all participants at the time of the study. A total of 71 patients participated in this study. 

The use of the probiotic supplement yielded the following results:

  • Participants experienced an improvement in belching-abdominal fullness
  • There was a reduction in bloating following the consumption of a meal

When probiotics and prebiotics were combined, additional improvements were identified. Participants also experienced a reduction in mucus present in their feces. There was also an improvement in constipation symptoms among these participants. 

In one review paper, researchers also found several Bifidobacterium strains that could potentially be useful in improving brain function. The review looked at 38 studies that were previously conducted. This included studies performed on both human and animal subjects. 

Subjects of these studies reported signs of these conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Poor memory function
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

It was found that several species within the Bifidobacterium family may help to improve symptoms associated with these particular conditions. The specific Bifidobacterium strains mentioned in the study included the following:

  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium infantis

Bifidobacterium Side-Effects

The use of supplements that contain Bifidobacterium may also lead to certain side-effects. It is important to realize what to expect and the specific side-effects that could develop when you turn to these supplements. 

Potential side-effects that you could experience if you take Bifidobacterium supplements include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating

Lactobacillus

Another popular strain of probiotics found in supplements would be Lactobacillus. Similar to Bifidobacterium, this is also an entire family of good bacteria. There are several bacterium species that fall within the Lactobacillus family, and they can provide your body with several potential benefits. 

This is a gram-positive type of bacteria that is part of the lactic acid group of bacteria. 

There are several reasons why people might want to turn to Lactobacillus supplements in order to benefit their health. Some of the conditions and benefits that may be experienced when you take a supplement with this family of bacterium species include:

  • It may help to treat and even sometimes prevent the development of diarrhea
  • The bacteria might be helpful in people with irritable bowel syndrome
  • Symptoms associated with colic in small children could be improved with this supplement
  • Inflammatory bowel disease could also benefit from Lactobacillus supplements
  • The product may also be useful for treating constipation and stomach pain
  • Lactobacillus may also be useful in preventing diarrhea when using antibiotics

Lactobacillus may be able to help the body absorb nutrients more effectively from the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, the use of these supplements could also potentially assist in the process of breaking down food. 

Scientific Studies About The Benefits Of Lactobacillus

There are various studies on Lactobacillus bacterium strains. Recognizing the evidence of the benefits that these products may bring you is important. This can help you realize when it would be appropriate to opt for a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus bacterium strains. 

Studies have noted that the Lactobacillus family is quite large. Since there are different species, it should be noted that they do not all provide the same benefits. We will consider a few studies below and mention the specific species of interest in each. 

The use of Lactobacillus supplements may help to increase HDL cholesterol in the body. At the same time, LDL cholesterol might be lowered. This means good cholesterol increase while there is a decline in bad cholesterol. Lactobacillus strains of good bacteria seem to be most effective with this particular benefit when compared to other strains of probiotics. 

Studies also show that Lactobacillus may help to reduce diarrhea that is caused by certain health conditions. The same applies to cases where a person is asked to take antibiotics as a treatment for a bacterial infection. 

The Lactobacillus acidophilus strain of bacterium may be very useful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms associated with this condition may be reduced with a supplement that contains this particular strain of the Lactobacillus family. 

Some evidence also suggests that Lactobacillus strains, particularly lactobacilli, may be helpful in women who frequently experience vaginal infections. 

Lactobacillus Side-Effects

There are also certain side-effects of Lactobacillus bacteria that you need to take note of. These side-effects can sometimes make you feel uncomfortable while taking the supplements. It should be noted, however, that the majority of these side-effects are temporary and should improve after taking the supplements for a couple of days. 

The most common side-effects people experience with Lactobacillus supplements include bloating and intestinal gas. It is also generally advised that people with a damaged heart valve should avoid taking Lactobacillus supplements. 

Saccharomyces

While this is not the most common probiotic strain, it is one that you should also consider. Saccharomyces is found in a variety of probiotic supplements due to the potential benefits that these microorganisms may offer your body. 

First of all, it should be noted that Saccharomyces are not bacteria. Instead, this is a healthy type of yeast that lives in your body.

Supplements that contain Saccharomyces are often used to assist in the treatment of these conditions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Chron’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Sometimes, these supplements are also used to assist in the treatment of:

  • Yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Canker sores
  • Acne

Scientific Studies About The Benefits Of Saccharomyces

There is a number of scientific studies that prove the usefulness of Saccharomyces probiotic supplements. 

A study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that Saccharomyces supplements may be highly effective at treating diarrhea caused by antibiotics. The same study found that these supplements are useful for treating and preventing traveler’s diarrhea. 

Another study found that Saccharomyces can also be useful in reducing the effects of ulcerative colitis in the body. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects also seem to help reduce the side-effects of inflammatory bowel disease. 

Saccharomyces Side-Effects

Saccharomyces supplements are generally considered safe. There are a few side-effects to take note of. In most cases, people tend to complain about constipation and bloating when they first take supplements that contain these probiotics. Gas may also develop during the first few days when you start taking Saccharomyces supplements. 

How Should You Choose The Right Probiotic Supplement?

We looked at some of the best probiotic strains that you should consider opting for if you want to use these supplements to improve your gut flora. Now that you have a better idea of the benefits and possible side-effects, you are likely looking for a supplement that can give you access to these strains. 

The first thing to consider when looking at probiotic supplements is what you expect from these products. There are different strains, and some of them work for specific functions. Consider which of these functions you wish to achieve with the use of a probiotic supplement:

  • Improve digestive health
  • Treat diarrhea
  • Lose weight
  • Improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

What you expect from a probiotic supplement should play a role in the process of deciding on a product to buy. 

You also need to consider factors like the brand that manufactures the supplement. Not all brands are equal – always take some time to research a brand. Find a product and brand that has appropriate evidence behind them that shows evidence that the supplements are effective. 

Do not overlook the importance of considering the price of the probiotic supplement too. Pricing can vary a lot. You do not want to overpay on these products. Instead, find one that gives you the right strains, an appropriate number of the bacterium, at an affordable price tag. 

Conclusion

Probiotic supplements help to increase the diversity of good bacteria that live in your gut. These supplements also add more of these beneficial bacteria to give you the health benefits associated with balanced gut flora. We looked at the top probiotic strains you should consider if you want to improve your gut health with these supplements. Consider the benefits and side-effects of each strain, and opt for a probiotic supplement that gives you the strains based on your own needs. 

References

Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Ahmed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

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