What You Need To Know About Probiotic Strains?

Probiotics are important: The fulcrum of the science of probiotic is strain-dependent. It is interesting to note that the strain of bacteria used as probiotics are crucial for the efficacy in the management of the diseases. According to NCCAM, the two most commonly used probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus acidphilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus.  In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the interest of yeasts as probiotics such as Saccharomyces boulardii, probably because it is supposedly having the right balance of good and bad micro-organisms. There has been strong evidence as of late that probiotics are effective against several disease conditions ranging from autism to gastro-intestinal disorders. Regular use of some probiotics has shown signs of preventing cancer. Thus, probiotics have found a place in management of the diseases.

Importance of strain: According to FAO/WHO guidelines, the significance of the use of specific strains is crucial in establishing its significance. Each living organism is scientifically named by combining the genus and species. In bacteria, we also need to know the strain for example: strains of ”Bacillus coagulans” GBI-30, 6086 or ”Bifidobacterium LAFTI® B94”. In the science of probiotics, this nomenclature is extremely important. In the following table, we will see how strain can play a defining role in managing different medical conditions.

Bacteria Genus Species Strain Effects on humans
Lactobacillus acidophilus LAFTI® L10 Induces immune response and clears Candida albicans. Reduces allergic reactions and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria. Helps to utilize the prebiotics for colonization.In animal studies, showed reduction in the incidents of tumor formation, and protects against Listeriamonocytogenes
Lactobacillus rhamnosus LB21 Helps to improve digestive health and immune stimulation. It has shown to reduce diarrhea associated with antibiotic use.
Lactobacillus reuteri ATTC 55730 Eradicates infection caused by H. pylori and gingivitis
Lactobacillus casei LAFTI® L26 Reduces inflammation caused during IBS.Inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as (H. pylori; List. monocytogenes; E. coli; Salmonella typhimurium
Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 Improvement in the bowel movement, abdominal discomfort and bloating.

 

This small tabulated form of the different bacteria and their strain is an interesting anecdotal reference of how strain specific probiotics are. While one bacterial strain works actively in managing IBS, the other one works for gingivitis or diarrhea. Therefore, concluding that the activity of probiotics are strain specific.

Multi-strain effect: Recent studies in the field of probiotics have led to a conclusion that the combination of the different strains may have benefits when we compare the same with single strain. The reason for these benefits is still being investigated. Hence, you may sometime see a combination of some of the strains in probiotic therapy. For example, a combination of bacteria: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 (and) Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 helps to prevent vaginitis in women. Another combination is Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM with Bifidobacterium bifidum BB-12, which has shown to reduce the diseases associated with C. difficile.  Thus, sometimes using multiple strains can yield good results.

Summing up, strains in probiotic therapy play a significant role, in-fact the efficacy of probiotics is largely governed by the strain and the number of viable cells. Thus, it is wise to diagnose the disease first and then select the suitable strain that can help fight that condition.

References:

  1. Oral Probiotics. Available at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm. Accessed on 2 July 2013.
  2. Guidelines for the evaluation of probiotics in food. Available at ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/wgreport2.pdf. Accessed on 2 July 2013.

What to Look For When Buying Good Probiotics?

binocularsIt has now been recognized that probiotics are “good bacteria” the constant supply of which can help the host to lead a healthy life. In the absence of tighter regulations of the FDA, the market is now flooded with many probiotics which makes it difficult for patients to select the most effective one. This article answers these queries and what you should be looking in the probiotics. Joint FAO/WHO has compiled guidelines to ensure the correct evaluation of probiotics. Below are the listed points of the recommendations one must look out for:

1. Genus/species/strain
2. In-vitro study results
3. Labeling

Genus/species/strain: It is important to know the strain of the probiotic to know its efficacy. Not all strains of bacteria yield beneficial results. It is therefore crucial to understand the specificity of the strain before buying. One of the exceptions to this rule (corroborated by substantial studies) is Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbruecki ssp. bulgaricus in managing lactose intolerance.

In vitro studies: Large research data is now available on the internet (pubmed.com) that can provide productive information about the many in-vitro studies results of probiotics. When you are buying probiotics you must go through these studies as they can be beneficial in selecting the best probiotics. There is a reference of \in-vitro studies that defines the efficacy and safety of probiotics. The in-vitro studies include resistance of the probiotics to gastric acidity, spermicides (vaginal probiotics for managing urogenital infections) and bile-acids, which is crucial for the effective working of “good bacteria” in the body. There are other studies that also test the adherence of these probiotics to mucus and/or human epithelial cells and cell lines as well as test its anti-microbial activity. These studies provide both qualitative and quantitative efficacy of probiotics.

Labeling: According to the FAO/WHO recommendations, the following aspect of labeling is crucial and need to be mentioned:

  • Contents: name of the genus, species and strain of the bacteria(for example: (Lactobacillus rhamnosus)
  • Minimum number of viable cells present at the end of the shelf life (effective doses may range from million live cells to trillion viable cells per dose)
  • Storage conditions
  • Recommended use: Backed by scientific studies
  • Corporate information details for consumer

Apart from the above mentioned recommendations, there are frequently asked questions that need to be answered such as which dosage form one must select and/or which probiotic will be effective. In the following paragraphs we shall deal with them.

Dosage form: Probiotics are effective in any form whether you are taking it as food such as yogurt or as capsule or powder. The efficacy of the probiotics is determined by the strain and the number of viable bacteria, and not on the form. So do not believe when someone says that a capsule is more effective than powder, this does not hold true.

Use of probiotic-mixture: According to a study published in Eur J Nutr. (2011), the use of the multi-strain probiotics was found to be more effective than a single strain. It is not clear if these enhanced benefits of multi-strain probiotics are due to synergistic activity, though it is an important factor in the selection of the probiotic. Thus, when choosing a probiotic, it is intelligent to select one that has several strains of bacteria rather than a single one.

Diagnosis of the disease: Though probiotics can prove effective in relieving the symptoms of most Gastro Intestinal disease, patients with Crohn’s disease may not respond well to probiotics. Hence diagnosis of the disease is important before taking the probiotics.

Which probiotic brand to choose? The market is full of several brands of probiotics that claim good efficacy in treating different medical conditions in the absence of tight regulations by FDA. However, FDA is working on defining stricter regulations on probiotic use. In the mean while, it is important that you choose a brand that is reliable.

Distinguish between foods and probiotics: Always remember that probiotics are not a food. Hence, you may or may not be taking these probiotics on a regular basis. However some foods are a rich source of probiotics such as yogurt and kefir. For centuries they have been providing “good bacteria” to the population. However, it is worth noting that though probiotics provide for healthy living, they cannot replace a healthy fiber-rich diet. The high fiber content of food is the fodder for the probiotics living in the gut.

Summing up, choice of a probiotic must be governed by the disease diagnosed and the strain of the probiotic that works on it.

References
1. Guidelines for the evaluation of probiotics in food. Available at ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/wgreport2.pdf. Accessed on 1 July 2013.
2. Chapman CM, Gibson GR, Rowland I. Health benefits of probiotics: are mixtures more effective than single strains? Eur J Nutr. 2011 Feb;50(1):1-17. Epub 2011 Jan 13.
Image Credit – Dana Beveridge @ Creative Commons – http://www.flickr.com/photos/scissorfighter/

Probiotics in NutShell

nutshellProbiotics- When it all started:

Our body is home to many bacteria, which constantly help maintain homeostasis. The intact gut flora is essential for the healthy working of the body and is defined as probiotics or good bacteria. Russian Nobel laureate Metchnikof is credited with the introduction of probiotic. In the early 20th century he brought out the concept of “Good Bacteria”. The recognition of the health benefits of probiotics was noted by The Joint Food and Culture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Strict guidelines have been laid out to ensure that these living micro-organisms are safe and effective. To be defined as probiotics, these good bacteria must be able to survive the gastric juices as well colonize and flourish there. Probiotics play a significant role in the health of the host. Important strains of bacteria such as lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and enterococcus are defined as “Good Bacteria”. In the article we discuss how and where these probiotics benefit the host.

Deriving Health Benefits from Probiotics:

  1. Hyperlipidemia: Hyperlipidemia and heart disease are the leading cause of death. In these conditions, probiotics can serve as a rescuer as these fermented dairy products impact the serum cholesterol (main culprit of hyperlipidemia) by increasing the utilization of cholesterol, which is used for the synthesis of the bile acids. According to an in-vitro study published in Appl Environ Microbiol.(2002), the cholesterol reduction abilities of probiotics were studied. It was found that L. fermentum KC5b strain could remove the cholesterol (14.8 mg of cholesterol per gram (dry weight) of cells from the culture medium) and can be viable at pH 2 (bile acids) for two hours. Thus, probiotics yield benefits in the hyperlipidemia.
  2. Diabetes: Elevated blood glucose levels are the hallmark of diabetes. Probiotics line the gastro intestinal tract for patients with diabetes and feed on the excess glucose in the blood, preventing the absorption of this glucose through the intestines. Due to low glucose levels in the blood, the amount of glycogen formed is also reduced, thus reducing the storage of glucose. By lining the intestinal tube with good bacteria, you can also fight obesity as most of the glucose is used by the probiotics. Thus, in diabetes, probiotics have a greater role to play. Even in systemic inflammatory induced diabetes, probiotics can play a significant role. According to a study published in Eur. J. Clin. Nutr.(2000), it was found that consuming Lactobacillus lactis (1.5 x 1011 CFU) twice daily has shown improved immune response in patients with the age groups of 60-83 years.
  3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a condition of pain, distress and altered bowel movement. When there is an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, it manifests as IBS. Probiotics provide protection against this imbalance as they themselves provide antibiotics which kill the bad bacteria. They have shown to modulate the immune system and lower the pH of the gut, thereby maintaining the natural environment of the GIT. Good bacteria act as a physical barrier for the transfer of toxins from the gut to the whole body. Hence, in IBS patients can benefit from probiotics.
  4. Lactose intolerance: In patients with lactose intolerance, there is a reduced production of an enzyme, lactase. Flatulence, gassiness and diarrhea are some of the manifestations of lactose intolerance. The patients are rendered uncomfortable and unsociable which may lead to depression. Hence, lactose intolerance can have serious repercussions in the long run. Probiotics help by providing the beta-glactosidase (lactase) enzyme that aids in the digestion of lactose. It is a wise decision to incorporate yogurt in your platter which is a rich source of good bacteria.
  5. Urogenital Infections: Candida albicans is the most frequent infective agent that causes trouble to the urogenital system. Probiotics are useful in the management of urogenital infections by producing antibiotics locally and killing the pathogens. The probiotics also produce lactic acid that renders the region acidic thereby lowering the pH. The low pH proves lethal to the pathogens, though it has no impact on the good bacteria. Hence, probiotics are useful in combating the menace of yeast infections in the host.

In nutshell, probiotics are an excellent, inexpensive and widely available management modality in several diseases that impacts the healthy life of humans. Hence, its use in day-to-day life can only prove advantageous to the  population.

Reference:
1.Pereira DIA, Gibson GR. Cholesterol assimilation by lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacterial isolated from the human gut. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002;68(9):4689–93.
2.Arunachalam K, Gill HS, Chandra RK. Enhancement of natural immune function by dietary consumption of Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019) Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2000;54:263–67.
Image Credit – borkurdotnet @ creative commons – http://www.flickr.com/photos/borkurdotnet/