• Anna Johnson

Personalize Your Probiotics!

Probiotics. They've been quite a "hot topic" for quite a few years now, being touted as "the answer to cancer," "the cure for colitis and Crohn's," and an easy way to overcome seasonal allergies, boost your immune system, and even lose weight. While most of these claims are a bit audacious (and totally unproven), one thing IS certain: probiotics are important...and irreplaceable in benefit! As Hippocrates himself (aka "The Father of Modern Medicine") said hundreds of years ago, "All disease begins in the gut." And while many of the claims about probiotics aren't yet scientifically validated (although we're making progress!), more and more research is proving the validity of Hippocrates' statement--all disease does, indeed, begin in the gut.

The Gut: Your REAL Immune System

When we talk about the "immune system," we usually think of it as just another organ system...but we miss the mark a bit when we think that way. See, while the immune system is composed of numerous immune ORGANS (think spleen, thymus, tonsils, etc.), it's also mainly composed of lymph fluid. Furthermore, a BIG part of our immune system is not actually part of "us" at all--arguably the most important part of our immune system are the friendly bacteria (aka probiotics, or "for life," translated literally) that live in our gut. Our immune system can become suppressed or weakened in a number of ways: by coagulation of our lymph fluid (typically from dehydration), a lack of beneficial bacteria, an overabundance of "bad" bacteria, or all of the above. To make this easier to understand, I'll use a personal example. Take me, for example. I have cystic fibrosis. Those of us with CF experience chronic immune suppression due to the thickened state of our lymph fluid (aka "immune juice" as I like to call it), making it a perfect breeding ground for bugs and bacteria. The thickening of this mucus is due to the chronic electrolyte imbalance caused by a mutation in the CFTR gene (this gets pretty technical, sorry guys...). To keep it simple (or, as simple as you can make CF...), this gene mutation throws off the electrolyte balance (sodium and chloride), leaving you with some super salty sweat, and some suuuuper nasty thick mucus. Pleasant, huh? Ok, back to probiotics and the gut. I just wanted to explain briefly why CF patients are so much more susceptible to infections--it's because of our thick mucus. This is why it's super important to stay hydrated, so YOU won't have to deal with "lymph jelly" like us CFers :)

So in the gut, we have out intestinal lining, also referred to as the GALT, or Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. When people talk about "leaky gut," they're referring to a weakening of this tissue--our intestinal barrier--that is there to literally shield our immune systems from toxic byproducts and metabolites from the digestion process. So how does one's GALT become permeable or "leaky"? Great question. There are many theories on this, but the one that seems to be backed by the most research and evidence is the one that holds that the root cause is a lack of beneficial bacteria. Think of it this way: the GALT is there to protect you and your immune system, but the BACTERIA in your gut is there to protect your GALT. It's like JENGA--when you take out one block, the whole tower falls down. (This is yet another amazing reminder of how truly miraculous our bodies are and the marvelous Creator we have!)

So probiotics are important...VERY important. In fact, new research is showing that up to 70% of our immune system is actually located in our gut--aka our gut bacteria (1). Probiotics are an essential part of ensuring our body is healthy; in fact, they are a non-negotiable for most of my clients and patients...and it's amazing the curious complaints that vanish when I recommend they start taking a probiotic! But just taking any old probiotic supplement is not enough. There are numerous strains, each one benefiting a different complaint or body system. So which ones are right for you?

Probiotic Strains for YOUR Needs

Probiotics for Histamine Intolerance

-Bifidobacterium infantis

-Lactobacillus rhamnosus

-Bifidobacterium longum

-Lactobacillus reuteri

Probiotics for Digestive Problems (Constipation, Diarrhea, Bloating, Abdominal Pain)

-L. Rhamnosus (constipation and diarrhea)

-L. Casei (constipation and diarrhea, infectious diarrhea prevention--helpful after antibiotic treatment)

-B. lactis (constipation)

-L. reuteri (especially in young children with diarrhea; can also help with slow transit constipation)

-B. breve

-B. infantis

-B. animalis (constipation)

-S. boulardii (actually a friendly yeast, not a bacteria! Extremely effective for C. difficile infection and other infectious diarrhea conditions, and helpful after antibiotic treatment, very strong immune supportive organism. NOTE: can cause "flairs" in those with autoimmune or weakened immune systems. Start slowly or avoid entirely until immunity is better through other probiotic supplementation)

-B. longum (constipation)

-L. Plantarum (constipation)

-L. reuteri protectis (infectious diarrhea and IBS)

-L. rhamnosus GG (infectious diarrhea, Crohn's disease, IBS)

-Streptococcus thermophilus (IBS, Ulcerative Colitis)

Probiotics for Skin Ailments

-L. acidophilus (particularly acne)

-L. rhamnosus (particularly eczema)

Probiotics for Female Support

-L. acidophilus

-L. gasseri (particularly for staph infections)

Probiotics for Weight Management

-L. rhamnosus

-L. gasseri

-L. acidophilus

Probiotics for Mood Support and Neurological Health

-L. rhamnosus (anxiety)

-L. casei (anxiety and depression)

-B. longum (anxiety and memory)

Like with anything, there are some mixed opinions on the specific strains for specific conditions, but much of what I have listed here is the standard view of doctors, researchers, and natural health practitioners. For a comprehensive resource, check out this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424311/

Soil Based Organism Probiotics

A quick note on soil based organisms, or SBO probiotics. SBOs are pretty much what they sound like: organisms from the soil. However, SBOs are typically the probiotic recommended for individuals suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), as SBOs do not colonize in the small intestine as lactobacillus as bifidobacterium species do--which only adds "fuel to the fire" by adding MORE bacteria to a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth condition. Dr. Amy Myers notes that "Soil-based probiotics have a natural, seed-like structure that makes them hardier than lacto-based probiotics and therefore able to survive the harsh journey through the stomach with far fewer colony-forming units (CFUs) than lactobacillus based supplements. This is due to the formation of endospores, which can withstand stomach acid, bile salts, and pancreatic enzymes that would normally destroy the bacteria.3 What’s more, soil-based organisms know to stay in their spore state until their environment is safe. This makes them a great option for SIBO because they don’t populate the small intestine and contribute to bacterial overgrowth there, instead heading straight to the large intestine and colon where they can support vibrant health" (2). And just like other probiotics, there are certain noteworthy strains in SBOs, too, mainly the following:

1. Bacillus Clausii (B. Clausii):

  • Helps modulate your immune response

  • Assists in IgA synthesis

  • Antibiotic resistant for use with antibiotic treatment of SIBO

  • Produces bactarin, a weapon against pathogens

2. Bacillus Coagulans (B. Coagulans):

  • Helps the good bacteria successfully colonize in your gut

  • Potent immune stimulator

  • Long history of studied use in IBS, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis

3. Bacillus Subtilis (B. Subtilis)

  • Supports gut repair by increasing IgA and butyrate

  • Produces over 12 antibiotics

  • Ferments Vitamin K in your gut, which is essential for growth and repair

  • Has a positive impact on inflammatory and autoimmune markers

  • Widely used, safe, and effective(2)

Before I wrap this post up, I want to add one more thing. I get this question a lot: "Is taking a supplement better than eating yogurt or cultured foods?" In short, NO. Just like taking a multivitamin is not a replacement for eating your vegetables, taking a probiotic is not a replacement for eating cultured foods. In general, the body accepts and utilizes nutrients (including probiotics) from whole food sources MUCH better than when in supplement form (there are multiple reasons for this, but it's too complicated to go into here...but it should be pretty self-explanatory: we are created to EAT FOOD, not take pills!). A probiotic supplement is a helpful addition, and an easy way to ensure you're keeping your gut bacteria healthy, as we are bombarded by sterilization these days (NOT in a good way). However, like I said, a once daily probiotic pill is in NO WAY a replacement for cultured foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, well water pickles, and kimchi. Plus, all these foods are delicious, so why WOULDN'T you want to include them in your diet on a regular basis?! (Side note: cultured, "sour" foods are incredibly important for digestion...but not just because they have probiotics. Sour foods, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, are used to stimulate bile production, which is why in many ancient cultures people will begin each meal with a tablespoon of fermented veggies or juice!)

And for those who are wondering if there is a specific probiotic I personally recommend, like I said--it depends on what you've got going on. My best advice is to study the above list (or even write it down!) and try to find a probiotic that has most to all of the strains you know are recommended for your condition. That's the best way to go for sure. For me personally, I have used the following and love them both:

(The above is a soil based organism probiotic, so it's a-ok for SIBO)

Hope this was helpful and provides some insight into the often confusing world of probiotic buying. It can be confusing to know which promotions will be of benefit to you...and it's pretty expensive to just try different ones until you find one that does! Hopefully this post can serve as a basic guide so you'll know what strains will benefit YOU and your health. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out to me!

Until next time,

Anna Johnson






1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/

2. https://www.amymyersmd.com/2018/02/soil-based-probiotics-best-sibo/

#information #intestinalpermeability #supplement #leakygut #dehydration #wellness #dysbiosis #physicalhealth #digestion #bioindividuality #research

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