From the first day of school through to your well-deserved retirement, challenges can arise at every age; your health is no exception to this. More and more, research is showing that your microbiome (i.e. your gut bacteria) is foundational for good health (for more information, click here), especially when it comes to having a robust immune system. For example, the microbiome coordinates how active your immune system is (which is important for fighting off infections), while also ensuring your immune system doesn’t become over-active when exposed to things that are foreign to the body (e.g. allergies). The microbiome is also important for maintaining digestive health. As such, when the balance of healthy species within our gut bacteria is lost (due to the effects of a low fibre diet or antibiotics), gut symptoms such as excessive bloating and gas can result.
When the microbiome becomes imbalanced, it requires repair, which is where probiotics can help to restore what has been lost. However, it is not just a case of adding in any kind of bacteria; the right ‘type’ of probiotic needs to be used for the right purpose. Whilst you can’t always avoid factors that can reduce microbiome health, restoring its bacterial balance with probiotics is achievable for everyone throughout their lifespan.
The Key is to Be Specific
Probiotics are bacterial organisms that are categorised into families, and just like humans, they have their own family tree:
- The genus name (i.e. their extended family)
- The species name (i.e. their immediate family)
- The strain (i.e. them as an individual)
When using probiotics, it is important to know the type, or strain, you are using (explained further here). For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® is a well-researched probiotic for immune support, but if you use another Lactobacillus rhamnosus that is not the LGG® strain, the effects may not be the same, despite being the same genus (Lactobacillus) and species (rhamnosus).
Further, specific strains have the ability to preserve and enhance microbiome health, while others provide relief from various symptoms, such as infections, allergy and digestive pain.
Let’s look at some different probiotic strains, what to use them for, and when they may be useful across the lifespan.
Probiotics in Pregnancy Do Double Duty
The health of a mother’s microbiome helps determine the health of her baby’s microbiome, and their subsequent immune and digestive health. Several probiotic strains have been shown to improve the mother’s microbiome, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (BB-12®), which support healthy blood sugar levels in pregnancy,1 and also lowers the chance of infant eczema2,3 and infections.4 Additionally, Bifidobacterium breve (M-16v) and Bifidobacterium longum (BB563) may help to reduce the risk of allergy in infants.5 Choosing the right probiotics in pregnancy is therefore important to support the health of both mother and baby.
Microbial Building Blocks for Babies and Toddlers
After birth, a baby’s microbiome is influenced by the microbes it comes into contact with during delivery, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. The microbiome continues to change rapidly up until around three years of age, where it stabilises, resembling an adult’s microbiome.6
In the early days however, the baby’s microbiome plays an important role in immune system development, in to order to cope with exposure to germs from the outside world.
However, when antibiotics are introduced to treat infections (such as ear or throat infections), this can imbalance the microbiome, leading to children developing more infections as a result of compromised immune function.
Several probiotic strains have been shown to support microbiome development7 and the immune system, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®), Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (BB-12®), Bifidobacterium breve (M-16v) and Bifidobacterium longum (BB563). Research tells us that a combination of these strains can reduce a sore throat,8 as well as ear, nose and chest infections,9,10,11 which can lower the need for antibiotics,12 helping reduce illness in babies and toddlers.
Probiotics for the Bigger Kids
Moving into childhood, the microbiome continues to influence immune and gut health, and helps protect against common infections in the schoolyard. Key probiotic strains including Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®), Bifidobacterium lactis (Bi-07) and Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM®) can be used to promote microbiome health,13 reduce the risk of respiratory infections,14 prevent the need for antibiotics,15 and reduce digestive discomfort;16 meaning fewer days off school and more time for your kids to do the things they love.
Better Gut Bacteria for Busy Adults
As an adult, a combination of several strains can offer many health benefits, including:
- Improving reflux symptoms and constipation17 with Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (HN019™);
- Supporting healthy immune function18 with Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001™);
- Reducing the risk of gastrointestinal infections and traveller’s diarrhoea with Saccharomyces cerevisiae (boulardii) 19; and
- Reducing abdominal bloating20 with the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM®) and Bifidobacterium lactis (Bi-07)
A Word on Weight Loss
A difficult battle for many people, weight loss is one of the most frequent recommendations when it comes to improving health, as it can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce pressure on joints and improve mobility. Interestingly, key probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis B-420™ and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis HN019™ have been shown to support weight management by lowering body fat21 and BMI,22 helping you on your weight loss journey.
Probiotics for the Win
The health of your microbiome can significantly influence your health from infancy to adulthood. Strain-specific probiotics can help reduce time taken off school or work due to infection, as well as reduce the incidence of digestive symptoms; helping improve the overall wellbeing of the whole family. For advice on the best probiotic strains for you, talk to a natural healthcare Practitioner today.
1 Laitinen K, Poussa T, Isolauri E; Nutrition, Allergy, Mucosal Immunology and Intestinal Microbiota Group. Probiotics and dietary counselling contribute to glucose regulation during and after pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun;101(11):1679-87.
2 Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Arvilommi H, Kero P, Koskinen P, Isolauri E. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2001 Apr 7;357(9262):1076-9.
3 Enomoto T, Sowa M, Nishimori K, Shimazu S, Yoshida A, Yamada K, et al. Effects of bifidobacterial supplementation to pregnant women and infants in the prevention of allergy development in infants and on fecal microbiota. Allergol Int. 2014 Dec;63(4):575-85.
4 Rautava S, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy-a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun;101(11):1722-6.
5 Enomoto T, Sowa M, Nishimori K, et al. Effects of bifidobacterial supplementation to pregnant women and infants in the prevention of allergy development in infants and on fecal microbiota. Allergol Int. 2014 Dec;63(4):575-85.
6 Arrieta MC, Stiemsma LT, Amenyogbe N, Brown EM, Finlay B. The intestinal microbiome in early life: health and disease. Front Immunol. 2014 Sep 5;5:427.
7 Korpela K, Salonen A, Virta LJ, Kumpu M, Kekkonen RA, de Vos WM. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG intake modifies preschool children’s intestinal microbiota, alleviates penicillin-associated changes, and reduces antibiotic use. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0154012.
8 Lau AS, Yanagisawa N, Hor YY, Lew LC, Ong JS, Chuah LO et al. Bifidobacterium longum BB536 alleviated upper respiratory illnesses and modulated gut microbiota profiles in Malaysian pre-school children. Benef Microbes. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):61-70. doi: 10.3920/BM2017.0063.
9 Lau AS, Yanagisawa N, Hor YY, Lew LC, Ong JS, Chuah LO et al. Bifidobacterium longum BB536 alleviated upper respiratory illnesses and modulated gut microbiota profiles in Malaysian pre-school children. Benef Microbes. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):61-70. doi: 10.3920/BM2017.0063.
10 Arvola T, Laiho K, Torkkeli S, Mykkanen H, Salminen S, Maunula L, et al. Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomized study. Pediatr. 1999;104(5):1-4.
11 Rautava S, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy-a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun;101(11):1722-6.
12 King S, Tancredi D, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Gould K, Vann H, Connors G, et al. Does probiotic consumption reduce antibiotic utilization for common acute infections? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Sep 14. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky185.
13 Korpela K, Salonen A, Virta LJ, Kumpu M, Kekkonen RA, de Vos WM. Lactobacillus rhamnosus gg intake modifies preschool children’s intestinal microbiota, alleviates penicillin-associated changes, and reduces antibiotic use. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0154012.
14 Hojsak I, Snovak N, Abdović S, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2010 Jun 30;29(3):312-6.
15 King S, Tancredi D, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Gould K, Vann H, Connors G, et al. Does probiotic consumption reduce antibiotic utilization for common acute infections? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Sep 14. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky185.
16 Lyra A, Hillilä M, Huttunen T, Männikkö S, Taalikka M, Tennilä J et al. Irritable bowel syndrome symptom severity improves equally with probiotic and placebo. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Dec 28;22(48):10631-10642.
17 Waller PA, Gopal PK, Leyer GJ, Ouwehand AC, Reifer C, Stewart ME et al. Dose-response effect of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on whole gut transit time and functional gastrointestinal symptoms in adults. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep;46(9):1057-64.
18 Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ. Probiotic supplementation to enhance natural immunity in the elderly: effects of a newly characterised immunostimulatory strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (DR20™) on leucocyte phagocytosis. Nutr Res 2001: 21; 183–189.
19 Kollaritsch H, Holst H, Grobara P, Wiedermann G. Prevention of traveler’s diarrhea with Saccharomyces boulardii. Results of a placebo controlled double-blind study. Fortschr Med. 1993 Mar 30;111(9):152-6.
20 Ringel Y, Ringel-Kulka T, Palsson OS, Maier D, Carroll I, Galanko JA, Leyer G,. Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 versus placebo for the symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders: a double-blind study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011Jul;45(6):518-25.
21 Stenman LK, Lehtinen MJ, Meland N, Christensen JE, Yeung N, Saarinen MT, et al. Probiotic with or without fiber controls body fat mass, associated with serum zonulin, in overweight and obese adults-randomized controlled trial. EBioMedicine. 2016 Nov;13:190-200.
22 Bernini LJ, Simão AN, Alfieri DF, Lozovoy MA, Mari NL, de Souza CH, et al. Beneficial effects of Bifidobacterium lactis on lipid profile and cytokines in patients with metabolic syndrome: A randomized trial. Effects of probiotics on metabolic syndrome. Nutrition. 2016 Jun;32(6):716-9. PMID: 27126957.