How To Choose A Probiotic (Part II)

Ensuring that the probiotic you’ve chosen contains strains that confer a health benefit for the condition you’re trying to treat (not whether it helped your neighbor or your yoga instructor, who may have had a completely different problem than you do), is important when considering which probiotic to buy. Here are some common strains and the ailments they have been scientifically proven to treat:


  • Lactobacillus acidophilus ferments sugars into lactic acid and produces amylase, which helps digest carbohydrates. It’s one of the most popular probiotics and is used commercially in many dairy products. It’s highly resistant to stomach acid and adheres well to intestinal cells, helping to prevent the proliferation of opportunistic species (essentially taking up all the bar stools so bad bacteria can’t get a drink). It’s especially helpful for restoring the natural flora in bacterial vaginosis.


  • Lactobacillus casei is found in the mouth and intestines, and also in fermented vegetables, milk, and meat. It seems to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori and has shown efficacy in combination with other strains in alleviating gastrointestinal (GI) conditions such as antibiotic-associated and infectious diarrhea. L. casei can complement the proliferation of L. acidophilus and can also be used in the fermentation of beans to reduce gas-producing, poorly digested carbohydrates.


  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus is very hardy and resistant to stomach acid and bile. It’s present in the mouth and in the GI tract, and also in the vagina and urinary tract of women, where it can prevent pathogens from gaining a foothold. L. rhamnosus has been used successfully to treat diarrhea caused by rotavirus, as well as some forms of atopic dermatitis (AD). Despite its many uses as a probiotic, it’s been associated with infection in people with a weakened immune system.


  • Lactobacillus salivarius suppresses pathogenic bacteria and reduces gas in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It may also be helpful in cases of pancreatitis by suppressing harmful bacteria in the GI tract that can contaminate the pancreas.


  • Streptococcus thermophilus is found in fermented milk products such as yogurt and can help digest lactose in the intestines.


  • Bifidobacterium bifidum is part of the normal flora of the large intestine and, like Lactobacillus acidophilus, is also one of the most common probiotics. It helps break down and absorb simple sugars and has been shown to increase immune function by decreasing severity of symptoms and length of illness from the common cold. It’s present in the vagina and helpful for treating candida and other forms of yeast overgrowth.


  • Bifidobacterium longum is one of the founding species in infants, and it thrives in the low-oxygen environment of the colon. It helps prevent the growth of pathogens by producing lactic acid, and can also improve lactose tolerance, prevent diarrhea, and ameliorate allergies. B. longum may play a role in cancer prevention through alteration of the pH of the colon, and it reduces the risk for atherosclerosis and stroke through scavenging free radicals. It’s a common addition to food products because of its beneficial effects.


  • Bifidobacterium lactis is also known as B. animalis. Its beneficial effects on abdominal discomfort and bloating in people with constipation-predominant IBS are well described, and in clinical trials it was shown to protect intestinal cells from damage by gluten in people with celiac disease. It’s commonly used in dairy products.


Looking for a probiotic? Check out the Gutbliss probiotic. If you missed it, read How To Choose A Probiotic (Part I) for information on colony forming units, delivery systems and more.

To stay abreast on the latest in probiotic research and sign up for Gutbliss Rx – Our weekly editorial that keeps you up to date on the latest scientific discoveries in the world of gut health. We review all the major medical journals (so you don’t have to!) and pick the most relevant articles to summarize and review.


By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan