Bacillus is a broad genus of bacteria, and includes everything from healthy probiotics to ones that cause anthrax and food poisoning. As such, they’re useful in many different aspects, including the manufacture of detergents, DNA research, farming and agriculture, and more. In addition, bacillus bacteria are very hardy, and have a unique ability to reduce themselves into spore-like structures if they encounter stressful environmental conditions, which helps them remain dormant and survive for long periods of time.
B. cereus – Like most probiotics, cereus works to rid the digestive tract of potentially harmful bacteria.
B. coagulans – May help treat antibiotic-induced diarrhea and bacterial vaginosis, provide immune system support, and prevent caries in children.
B. subtilis – Another efficient probiotic, this strain can also treat diarrhea, eradicate H. pylori, and aid in the production of nitric oxide.
Perhaps the second most common bacterial “family” found in probiotic supplements is bifidobacterium, which, like lactobacillus, is also found in foods containing lactic acid.
Unlike lactobacillus though, there aren’t quite as many different probiotic strains among the bifidobacterium genus. In fact, although bifidobacterium was first discovered by French pediatrician Henry Tissier in 1899, they were all part of the same genus called lactobacillus bifidus until the 1960s.
B. animalis subsp. lactis – The heavy-hitter of the bifidobacterium genus, this strain can help reduce constipation in adults, reduce febrile urinary tract infections in children, modulate brain activity, reduce microbial counts in dental plaque, reduce total cholesterol, and reduce the risk of contracting an upper respiratory illness.
B. bifidum – Can help reduce total cholesterol, reduce the length of hospital stays for children with acute diarrhea, and reduce necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.
B. breve – Another strain that can treat and prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns and reduce cholesterol.
B. infantis – For some patients, this strain might help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as for reducing necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.
B. longum – For the most part, longum provides many of the same benefits as other bifidobacterium strains, including treating necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns and reducing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. However, it also seems to offer some unique benefits, such as the reduction of radiation induced diarrhea and treating some gastrointestinal diseases.
Yet another family of lactic acid bacteria, enterococcus are physically very similar to streptococcus. In fact, even scientists often can’t tell them apart based on physical characteristics, which is why some enterococcus bacteria were classified under the streptococcus genus until 1984.
Also like streptococcus, some enterococcus can cause serious diseases in humans, while two are commonly found in probiotic supplements.
E. durans – This enterococcus strain can provide antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
E. faecium – Although not quite as benefit-packed as e. durans, faecium can help treat antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
Named after Theodor Escherich, who discovered E. coli, many strains within the escherichia genus of bacteria are (obviously) harmful to humans, often causing diarrhea-like symptoms. The genus is also the most common cause of urinary tract infections and is closely associated with inflammation, while some strains provide warm-blooded mammals with vitamin K support.
E. coli Nissle 1917 – E. coli? What? Why in the world would you knowing put this in your body? Despite its close association with a very severe disease, Nissle 1917 can potentially provide a wide variety of benefits when taken as a probiotic supplement. This includes treating constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other gastrointestinal disorders, the prevention of some eye diseases, and reducing Salmonella enterica colonization in the intestines.
Although your digestive tract, or gut, contains roughly 400 different types of probiotics, the largest group of these is lactic acid bacteria, which are often found in dairy products like yogurt and cheese. And among lactic acid bacteria, the largest type (also known as genus—like an extended “family”) is lactobacillus.
Now, this extended lactobacillus family can be further subdivided into different species, which well talk about below. And like anything else that’s related, you’ll find some close similarities between them, as well as a few unique differences.
L. acidophilus – This strain may provide a reduction in several diarrhea-associated illness, reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), some types of urinary tract infections in children, certain kinds of vaginal bacteria infections, and some antifungal properties.
L. brevis – A strain that’s resistant to the bile salt in intestines (meaning it can survive and thrive in the intestinal environments) and may help reduce the buildup of dental plaque.
L. delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus – An antibiotic resistant strain that might boost immune system function, provide protection against E. coli, and help modulate brain activity.
L. fermentum – Like acidophilus, fermentum might also fight against some bacteria-induced vaginal infections. It could also block harmful microorganisms on the vagina, protect against staphylococcal (staph) infections, and reduce insulin resistance and hypercholesterolemia.
L. johnsonii – This strain can help boost immune system function (especially related to the respiratory system), reduce the occurrence of gastritis and risk of H. pylori infection, and inhibit the activity of S. sonnei (a food borne illness). Also, together with levocetirizine, johnsonii might treat allergic rhinitis in children.
L. reuteri – In some studies, L. reuteri has been shown to reduce LDL (i.e. “bad”) cholesterol and treat acute gastroenteritis, while reducing diarrhea duration in children. Reuteri seems to be especially useful for infants, as it’s been show to help manage colic and reduce gastrointestinal disorders in infants, as well as decrease sepsis frequency, improve feeding intolerance, and decrease the length of hospital stays for preterm infants.
L. rhamnosus – L. rhamnosus is another benefit-packed probiotic strain. It’s been shown to help obese women lose weight, reduce rhinovirus infections in preterm infants, prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns, reduce viral-associated pulmonary damage, reduce (and even prevent) atopic dermatitis in children, and reduce the development of allergic disease.
Another lactic acid genus, there are nine different lactococcus species and four subspecies, although only one of these is commonly found in probiotic supplements—or at least, there’s only one with clinical evidence showing that it provides any benefits to humans.
Lactococcus are homofermentors, which means they only produce one product; lactic acid. As such, they’re commonly used to make products that require fermentation, such as cheese, within the biotechnology industry, and in the production of foreign proteins used within the food industry.
L. lactis subsp. lactis – This strain harbors both probiotic and antimocrobial properties, and can help treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea, improve nisin production, and modulate brain activity. In fact, L. lactis is regarded as the “first genetically modified organism to be used alive for the treatment of human disease.”
Although at least one member of the leuconostoc genus can provide health benefits to humans, they’re kind of gross. Why? Because they form slime as they grow, and are what cause the “stink” when making sourdough bread. But in addition to bread, leuconostoc bacteria can also help make cabbage and kefir.
It’s fairly uncommon for leuconostoc bacteria to cause infections in humans, although there are several different outbreaks that have occurred in various parts of the world over the years; some even resulting in death.
L. mesenteroides – Compared to many other species of probiotic bacteria, mesenteroides are hardy and can survive low pH environments, as well as exposure to bile salts and pepsin.
Unlike many of the other bacteria families within probiotics, pediococcus seems to provide a lot of benefits to humans, and very few drawbacks. As such, you’ll find this genus used in the production of sauerkraut, Belgian-style beers and some wines (for a buttery or butterscotch aroma), cheeses and yogurts, some types of livestock feed, and of course, in probiotic supplements.
P. acidilactici – With its antimicrobial and probiotic properties, acidilactici might help produce bacteriocin and get rid of H. pylori infections.
Instead of bacteria, saccharomyces (literally translated as sugar fungus) is actually a family of fungi and yeasts. In fact, everyday brewer’s or baker’s yeast is made of members of the saccharomyces family. Other members of the species can also help make wine and beer.
S. boulardi – The only strain in the saccharomyces family that has any medical uses in humans, it can help treat diarrhea and reduce its duration, treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, as well as acute gastroenteritis in children.
What’s the first thing you thought of when you read the word ‘streptococcus’? Did it have anything to do with strep throat? If you’re like most people, it probably did.
But the truth is that there are currently 50 recognized species within the streptococcus genus, and only two species (S. pyogenes, or group A and S. agalactiae or group B) can cause strep throat—along with a lot of other nasty things. In fact, except for one strain, the streptococcus family of bacteria can cause some nasty side effects, and are best if avoided.
S. thermophilus – The only strain in the streptococcus family shown to have any benefits (and in fact, the only one that won’t possibly make you sick), thermophilus can reduce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.
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