If you’re new to probiotics, you’ve no doubt encountered a lot of Latin if you’re doing research on the products that might be the best for you. Why? Because you’re running across the different types of beneficial bacteria that are contained in the products you’re considering. And their scientific names are all Latin. For example, just about every quality probiotic capsule, drink, or powder will contain different strains of the Bifidobacterium family of beneficial bacteria. Here’s a look at this family and some of the benefits research shows it provides.
What it is
Both old and new probiotics products on the market should include Bifidobacterium strains. If you see one that doesn’t, scratch it off of your list. This family of bacteria typically resides in the large intestine, and it is largely responsible for producing the lactic acid that helps make the intestinal wall stronger. Here are a few of the more important strains, and the roles they play in helping to keep you healthy:
This is a very popular strain among probiotics manufacturers because there is substantial scientific evidence that shows it can aid proper functioning of the digestive system. B. bifidum helps break down fibers that we can’t digest and also help strengthen the intestinal wall, keeping out potentially harmful microbes. B. bifidum has also been shown to boost the immune system, which is key to helping to protect us from several different types of diseases.1
Most of the immune system resides in the “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract. When you are ill, most of your immune cells rush to the gut in order to fight whatever is making you sick. Studies show that B. bifidum helps in the fight by attaching to the intestine and keeping germs and toxins from entering. The strain also helps in the production of critically important vitamins such as K2 and B12.2
The B. bifidum strain is actually one of the first types of beneficial bacteria that developed in your gut when you were a baby. Not only has it helped protect you from toxins all these years, studies indicate that it can also help reduce the risk that you will contract the flu or a cold.3
lactis is another bacterium that is very important, whether you’re new to probiotics or you’ve been taking them for a long time. It is not only one of the hardest working strains in the body, it’s also one of the most versatile. B. lactis helps the body break down lactose, and, as a result, helps us digest milk, ice cream, and other dairy products. Research shows that it may also play an important role in reducing the effects of ulcerative colitis and helping us maintain healthy cholesterol levels.4
lactis is a key contributor to a healthy gut because it also helps us digest fibers, sugars, and several different nutrients. Studies indicate that the strain can help protect us against many types of respiratory illness and infections, as well as supporting regular bowel movements.5
This is another vital member of the Bifidobacterium family of beneficial bacteria. B. breve has been shown to play a very important role when it comes to helping you stay healthy. For example, research shows that B. breve can help reduce the presence of harmful bacteria in the mouth.6 Another study shows that it can inhibit the growth of the dangerous candida yeast, which has been linked to irritable bowel disease.7
As the name suggests, B. infantis is most prevalent during infancy, where it thrives in the intestines due to its ability to break down the lactic acid found in breast milk. However, research shows that it can provide substantial benefits to adults as well.
infantis has been associated with improved digestive functioning. One study involving women with irritable bowel syndrome who took supplements containing the bacterium found that they showed substantial improvement in symptoms after taking B. infantis for one month.8 Researchers conducting another study found that the B. infantis can also boost stomach health.9
longum is another powerhouse that new probiotics users need to make sure they get as much of as possible. It has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal problems such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea.10 This is a common complication of taking antibiotics, which are powerful medications that not only kill harmful bacteria, but beneficial ones as well.
The Takeaway for New Probiotics Users
If you are thinking of starting a new probiotics regimen, it’s very important that you make sure you only purchase products that are of high quality. One of the ways you can tell whether or not you’ll be getting your money’s worth is by taking a close look at the labeling.
First of all, if the product you’re considering doesn’t have a detailed list of the probiotic bacteria it contains, scratch it off your list immediately. No probiotic product of any quality will omit this vital information from its label. Next, make sure it has a good variety of probiotic bacteria, not just those in the Bifidobacterium family, but others as well. You want to make sure you get as many benefits as possible from the new probiotics you’re taking, and a wide range of beneficial microbes will help ensure that happens.
You should also look at the label for information regarding the viability of the bacteria inside. If the label says, “viable at the time of manufacture,” that won’t guarantee the microbes will still be alive when you take them. If, on the other hand, it says, “viable until expiration date,” that more than likely means the microbes will still be alive. You’ll need to look at the storage information as well. Some products need to be refrigerated, while others can be stored in a cool, dry place.
If you’re new to probiotics, you need to know they aren’t the be all end all of health perfection. While they can provide a wide range of health benefits, they won’t immediately cure any type of ailment. If you run into any advertising that claims otherwise, stay away from that product.