Lactobacillus - The Strain To Amazing Gut Health
By Sara Novak
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, you know that the gut is made up of good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria keep the ships moving—meaning that they are one of the most important aspects of keeping your body functioning optimally. They aid in digestion and immune health and have even been called the body’s second brain. Lactobacillus is considered one of the most important strains of good bacteria and with good reason. Here is everything you need to know about protecting your gut health with ample lactobacillus.
Table Of Contents:
- What Is Lactobacillus
- Why Are Lactobacillus Important For Gut Health?
- Foods That Contain lLactobacillus
- The Connection Between But And Brain Health
- 10 Health Benefits Of Lactobacillus
What Is lactobacillus?:
They look like microscopic worms, but lactobacillus are really tiny bacteria living in the vaginal and gut microbiome. These gram positive, rod-shaped bacteria make up the majority of the human microbiome and are some of the most important components of positive gut health. Lactobacillus have what is known as a “mutualistic” relationship with the human body, meaning that they survive by protecting the body’s health from pathogens and other bacteria that seek to cause destruction in the human body. They normally have large populations in the body and are often found in a host of probiotic foods.
Why are lactobacillus important for gut health?
When the amount of lactobacillus in the gut is too low, it can cause any number of health conditions from diarrhea to vaginal and skin infections. There are many species of lactobacillus but they are widely known as “good bacteria”. They can treat the following conditions:
- Irritable bowl syndrome (IBS)
- Vaginal infections
- Inflammation (especially of the colon)
- Weight gain
Foods that contain lactobacillus
Lactobacillus are found in a wide range of fermented foods. In fact, if you have not already, make sure you add them to your grocery list.
- Cottage cheese (some, not all)
The connection between gut and brain health
The gut has been called the body’s second brain and it makes good sense. When you are having digestive problems, it can be upsetting to mental health and the opposite is also true. When you are anxious, stressed, or depressed, it can also cause digestive issues like IBS and diarrhea.
Additionally, there is a part of the nervous system called the enteric nervous system that is actually located in the gut. If you have ever been nervous and had butterflies in your stomach, then you know what I mean. That is where the term “second brain” comes from in the first place. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “the enteric nervous system relies on the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system. The “second brain” in our gut, in communication with the brain in our head, plays a key role in certain diseases in our bodies and in our overall mental health."
10 Health Benefits Of Lactobacillus:
We know that lactobacillus is extraordinarily important to overall health. But how? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and look at the research.
Lactobacillus is shown to have a beneficial impact on lowering cholesterol. A study published in the journal Current Microbiology identified numerous methods by which lactobacillus removed cholesterol from the body. The authors write, “numerous pathways for the removal of cholesterol by Lactobacillus strains have been hypothesized which include assimilating cholesterol inside growing cells, attachment of cholesterol to cell surface, incorporating cholesterol inside cell membranes, etc.” Another study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that rats fed lactobacillus were more likely to enjoy lowered cholesterol when their cholesterol was elevated to start off.
Good bacteria in the gut, especially lactobacillus, have been shown to treat diarrhea or loose stools. A review published in the journal Pharmacological Research found that probiotics may be effective at treating children who have diarrhea as a side effect of taking antibiotics. Another study published in the journal Revista Española de Quimioterapia found that lactobacillus “demonstrated its beneficial effect on antibiotic associated diarrhea by delaying the onset of diarrhea and showed a tendency to decrease the number of daily stools versus placebo.” Another study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology found that taking probiotics containing lactobacillus reduced the duration of diarrhea by a day.
3. Vaginal Health
As mentioned above, lactobacillus has been shown to be present in the vaginal microbiome as well. Maintaining a balance of good bacteria in the vagina is important for the overall health of the reproductive system. According to a study published in the journal Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics “the administration of probiotics that colonize the vaginal tract can be important in maintaining a normal urogenital health and also to prevent or treat infections.” Another study published in the journal of Research in Microbiology found that probiotics that contain lactobacillus produce lactic acid. The authors write that “Several clinical trials show a positive signal for the ability of lactic acid to re-establish vaginal eubiosis and relieve symptoms in women.” For women that suffer from yeast infections as a result of an imbalance of bad bacteria in the vaginal microbiome, a high quality probiotic may be just what the doctor ordered to repopulate the vaginal microbiome.
4. Weight Loss
If you are looking to lose a few pounds and you need a boost, you might want to consider lactobacillus. A number of studies have shown that it seems to help. One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition “shows that the lactobacillus rhamnosus formulation helps obese women to achieve sustainable weight loss.” Another study published in the journal Obesity Review found that “imbalances in the gut microbiota, the bacteria that inhabit the intestines, are central to the pathogenesis of obesity.” Probiotics reduce bloating and help to move waste through the system.
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5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome also known as IBS can be crippling. IBS is inflammation of the large intestines and it can cause serious cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Good bacteria have been shown to improve the symptoms of IBS. A study in the journal Nutrients showed that probiotics improved the mental symptoms in patients with IBS. “In conclusion, L. paracasei and B. longum may reduce gastrointestinal symptom severity and improve the psychological well-being of individuals with certain IBS subtypes,” the authors write. However, another study published in the American Family Physician found that a lack of consistency in the quality of such probiotic supplements makes it difficult for physicians to prescribe lactobacillus as a treatment for IBS.
Some research has shown that consumption of probiotics containing lactobacillus improved allergy symptoms. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a group of study participants that took probiotics showed marked improvements in the symptoms when pollen counts were highest. Another study published the journal Nature Reviews found that “[g]ut microorganisms can degrade or modify immunogenic food antigens or allergens, increasing or reducing their immunogenicity.” In other words, probiotics may have an impact on instances of food allergies. Finally, a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science “suggests that oral administration of L-92 can alleviate the symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis, however, statistically significant changes were not shown in blood parameters.”
Separate but still similar, lactobacillus has also been shown to reduce skin allergies like eczema. Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can cause dermatitis, rash, itchy scaly skin, and redness. Those with allergies are more likely to have eczema. A National Institutes of Health study found that children who suffered from eczema benefited from probiotics applied directly to the skin. “A child suffering from eczema, which can be itchy, painful and distracting for the child, also is very difficult for the entire family,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which led the study. “These early-stage findings suggest that R. mucosa therapy may help relieve some children of both the burden of eczema symptoms and the need for daily treatment.”
Earlier we talked about the gut being the second brain, which is part of the reason why gut health is important to mental health. Research that is largely in its infancy has shown that probiotics can improve symptoms of depression. Authors publishing in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility write that “the concept that gut microbiota may modulate brain chemistry and behavior is gaining traction and efforts are now turning to investigate the role of microbiota in animal models of psychopathology.” A review published in the journal Nutrients supported the use of probiotics for the treatment of depression.
9. Lactose Intolerance
If you are lactose intolerant your body is unable to break down the sugar lactose. It can be debilitating because lactose shows up in everything from milk to ice cream. However, some research has shown that probiotics containing lactobacillus may break down the lactose so that is easier for your body to digest. That is why some people who are lactose intolerant have no trouble eating yogurt, for example. A study published in Nutrition Journal found that “a strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus is safe to consume and improves abdominal symptom scores compared to placebo with respect to diarrhea, cramping, and vomiting during an acute lactose challenge.”
10. Gut Health
Your microbiome depends on an influx of good bacteria to function well. Consuming a wide variety of foods containing lactobacillus (listed above) as well as taking a high quality probiotic is important to maintaining positive gut health. If you have to take an antibiotic, you will need to be extra careful because they create an imbalance in the gut that can lead to infection. Lactobacillus are among the most common types of good bacteria found in the gut and luckily they are also among the easiest to find in fermented foods.
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