Which is longer — your Thanksgiving grocery list or the nights you’ve spent awake, anxiously awaiting the digestive repercussions of unfettered feasting?
If it’s the latter, don’t worry, because you’re not alone! In fact, roughly 2 out of every 3 Americans struggle with some kind of stomach issue, which means this time of year is equal parts merry-making and gut-churning.
For wellness-seekers with stomach discomfort or digestive imbalance, the obvious answer is probiotic supplements. But how much can probiotics really help with gut health? Are all probiotics created equally? Why are there so many different strains, and with such strange names?
We brought these inquiries to our go-to gut health expert, Dr. Neal, for the inside scoop on probiotic supplements. Scroll on, fellow tummy ache survivor, to learn which probiotic strains are best for gut health according to the latest scientific research.
In This Article:
- The importance of choosing specific strains
- How to avoid useless probiotic supplements
- 4 best strains for gut health
Why Choose Specific Probiotic Strains?
If you’ve missed our recent probiotic-related topics, then you might be a little shocked to learn that the nooks and crannies of your digestive tract are filled to the brim with microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria.
It’s one of the weirder parts of being human, especially when you know how drastically the health of these tiny creatures can affect your overall well-being.
Once you get over the strangeness of hosting millions of creepy crawlies in your stomach, probiotic supplements and foods don’t seem so odd. It actually makes sense that probiotics can support our digestive health by filling the gut with loads of good bacteria — the more CFUs the merrier, right?
Well, it’s kind of right.
We do want more CFUs of clinically verified, highly beneficial probiotic strains, but we don’t want just any strain from any source. So the real issue with probiotic products lies in the fact that the natural health industry is like the Wild West.
Lazy standards and even lazier regulations are the hallmarks of the supplement sphere. As a result, health-conscious consumers have to be extraordinarily discerning when it comes to buying vitamins — especially probiotics.
Even a well-branded probiotic can, upon further scrutiny, turn out to be nothing more than highly profitable bunk.
Unethical supplement manufacturers can pull the wool over our probiotic-seeking eyes in a few key ways:
- By using cheap, ineffective strains without any scientific backing
- By sharing unclear information about which exact strains are included in their formulas
- Or by creating beefed-up formulas that lose almost all potency during the production and shipping process
But it is possible to avoid wasting money on a probiotic supplement that’s more placebo than panacea! To do so, your two central focuses should be on the precise strain names and the number of live CFUs, or the potency, of the supplement when it reaches you.
Before coughing over your cold, hard cash, do your research. Make sure you can identify the probiotic strains by first AND last name, and check those strains against the research you’ve done for your specific health concern.
Potency Pro-Tip Don’t buy probiotic supplements that require refrigeration unless you can verify a chain of cold storage from the supplier and all the way through the manufacturing, shipping, supplying, and selling process.
Otherwise, there’s a good chance your probiotic supplement has had some warm days in the box truck or the back of the grocery store.
4 Best Probiotic Strains for Gut Health
Probiotics have gained popularity recently because of the myriad of benefits they can offer the average person. From immune system support to UTI prevention, probiotics impact not one but multiple bodily functions.
But not every strain helps every little thing!
We’re highlighting these 4 probiotic strains because they have been shown to support GI health specifically by the latest scientific data. But a functional GI tract can, in turn, bolster the immune system, mental well-being, and brain health. So almost everyone will benefit from these 4 strains, but you might want to add on other, well-researched strains if you’re targeting a different body system.
1. Lactobacillus Acidophilus La-14
First formulated in 1900, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, or L. acidophilus for short(ish), is a species of bacteria with some of the most comprehensive scientific backing around. This species and its positive effect on things like lactose intolerance, cancer prevention, digestion, and immune system regulation have been studied for over 100 years — believe it or not!
A few key benefits of L. acidophilus strains:
- Improves gastrointestinal diseases
- Anti-diarrhea effects
- Reduces gut inflammation
- Supports proper digestion and assimilation
La-14 is a proprietary formulation of a Lactobacillus Acidophilus strain that comes with a whole host of secondary perks due to its ability to survive throughout the digestive tract. Like protecting and toning the liver, which can support functional digestion of fats, and improving the health of the vaginal microbiome.
2. Bifidobacterium Longum Bl-05
Bifidobacterium Longum snuck into modern history just one year before L. acidophilus — in 1899, this bacterial species was isolated from the feces of infants. While its origins might make you shudder, the data-backed benefits of this probiotic species are more than enough justification.
Considered by many to be the ultimate gut-healing powerhouse of all probiotic strains, B. longum has been linked to:
- Balanced gut microbiota
- Improved symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis
- Strengthened gut lining and intestinal barrier function
- Increased protection against infection
B. longum probiotic strains can help break down foods and absorb nutrients, so these positive effects of supplementation should come as no surprise. The trademarked form of B. longum known as Bl-05 is often used in leading-edge probiotic supplements because of its excellent tolerance of low pH environments and bile salts.
This unique feature allows the Bl-05 bacteria to survive longer in the GI tract and, therefore, spend more time combatting inflammation.
3. Lactobacillus Plantarum Lp-115
Not to be confused with its cousin, L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus Plantarum is a lactic acid bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt. As a fermentation aid, L. plantarum stands out for being one of the hardiest strains of probiotics as it can withstand a wide variety of temperatures, unlike other species.
Thanks in part to its high rate of survival and bioavailability, L. plantarum delivers positive effects on overall wellness and:
- General gut health
- Obesity and diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Intestinal barrier fortification
- Colon cancer prevention and treatment
Some key characteristics of Lactobacillus Plantarum Lp-115 that make L-115, specifically, an ideal option for supplementation are its resistance to acid and bile and its ability to adhere to intestinal surfaces. These features drive proper absorption and efficacy and may be why L-115 has shown such promising results on the gut-immune health axis.
4. Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019
Last, but certainly not least, is the research-dense gut support strain, Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019. Most often praised for its demonstrated ability to improve gut motility, B. Lactis is often found in common foods like cheese, buttermilk, and yogurt.
Gut motility, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to the movement of food compounds through the GI tract — from mouth to colon. This digestive process plays an integral role in overall gut health and nutrient assimilation, so it should come as no surprise that the patented strain from this species, Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019, is widely used for gut motility.
A few other advantages of using B. Lactis HN019 in particular are:
- A healthy gut lining
- Reduced diarrhea
- Proper bowel function
- Improved symptoms of upper and lower gastrointestinal issues
- Modulated immune system response
- Treatment support for oral health disorders
You’re a Probiotics Professional Now, Pal
The adventurous eats of Thanksgiving don’t pose a threat to those equipped with the 4 strains that have the biggest impact on gut health! Start your strategic probiotic supplement schedule today to start building up the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract and find relief from common digestive issues.
And if you want to nerd out about these 4 probiotic strains and their unique benefits for gut health, give us a call. Our supplement experts are available for direct guidance all day, (almost) every day via Counterside Consult.
Just don’t call us on Turkey Day, please — we’ll be busy gorging.