The Function of Multi Strain Probiotics in the Human Body

Probiotics are well known for their presence in our small and large intestine, but there are actually human microbiota in our oral cavity, respiratory tract, genito-urinary tract and skin too!  There are 100,000 billion microbes in the intestine and only 1,000 billion on our skin, and this colonization begins at birth, assuming the mother has a vaginal birth.

As the baby travels through the birth canal she/he is coated in the mother’s bacteria and begins to colonize these as her own.  In the case of a c-section birth a baby is robbed of this “gift” from her mother and comes from a sterile environment (the uterus) into a hospital setting, where her first exposure is to hospital bacteria such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus, which increases the incidence of gastroenteritis, allergies and IBS.  In breast milk, this inoculation continues for the baby in numbers that are significant for the neonatal gut status.  By the age of 2, the intestinal microbiota takes on adult characteristics, driven largely by the baby’s intake of major food groups.

Let’s look at the two strains of bacteria found in the body:

Resident Strains:

These are referred to as “human strain” bacteria, as they re-establish and adhere to the intestinal tract to repair the body’s intestinal flora.  They are naturally found in the human intestine and have a high tolerance to stomach acid and bile salts.

Examples of Resident Strains

Name Functions
Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Disturbances in gut flora + peristalsis disorders + liver problems are usually related to the restriction or disappearance of B. bifidum.
  • It can protect the body from devastating effects of rotavirus diarrhea and it modifies the gut flora and is supportive therapy for intestinal infections or disturbances.
  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports its immune strengthening capabilities especially in relation to colon health, plus its suppressive effect on tumors.
  • It reduces the inflammatory response of the colon and stimulates the body’s fluid immunity.
Bifidobacterium breve
  • Helps decrease intestinal permeability, improve intestinal microflora, and has a positive effect on the intestinal immune system.
Bifidobacterium infantis
  • A main inhabitant in the intestines of children, infantis also has benefits into adulthood.
  • It has been shown to be helpful in reducing the symptoms of IBS.
Bifidobacterium longum
  • Helps in formation of lactic acid along with small amounts of formic acid.  These acids lower the pH of the intestines, thereby making an undesirable terrain for harmful bacteria.
  • Is also a substantial producer of B vitamins.
Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • This is the predominant friendly bacteria in the upper intestinal tract.  It helps reduce levels of harmful bacteria and yeasts in the small intestine and also produces lactase.
  • Acidophilus is involved in the production of niacin, folic acid and pyridoxine during the digestive process.
  • This is most prevalent strain in the body.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Bulgaricus is a lactic acid producing bacteria found in yogurt that is helpful for lactose intolerance, diarrhea and immunity.
  • Helps to promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria and therefore improve immune function.
  • It may also help in the metabolizing of lipids and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
  • It has antibiotic properties and can help prevent infections and prevent the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms in the gut.
Lactobacillus casei
  • Inhibits the growth of E.coli as well as being effective against Candida overgrowth and urinary tract infections.
Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Expands the natural killer cell population, therefore may enhance immune defence against viral infections or tumours.
  • Also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Is useful for the inhibition of vaginal and urinary tract infections.  It helps the body resist pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and prevents rotoviral or Clostridium difficile induced diarrhea.
Lactobacillus salivarius
  • This is useful in helping impair the growth and activity of harmful pathogenic bacteria, including H.pylori and salmonella.
  • Also helps break down undigested protein and disengage the toxins produced by protein putrefaction.

Transient Strains:

Transient strains are found outside the human intestinal tract, but are still very helpful in promotion and maintenance of its optimal health.  These bacteria can be found living on many vegetables (if organic; spraying with pesticides/herbicides can destroy them).  These transient strains do not re-establish in the gut so we must obtain them through our diet or supplementation.

Examples of Transient Strains

Name Functions
Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Is capable of releasing glutathione and has been shown to prevent colonic inflammation such as colitis, in animal studies.
Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Is an excellent alternative to antibiotics, and makes use of its potential to block receptor sites for gram-negative bacteria.
  • Is capable of metabolizing semi-resistant plant fibres, such as onion, garlic, artichoke, wheat, oat, rye, bananas and yeast.
  • Is also an important tool in antimicrobial defense and its effect both against extra and intercellular pathogens.
Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Classed as a probiotic, it is a non-colonizing yeast species, non-pathogenic and not related to the yeast group of which Candida Albicans belongs.
  • It helps treat serious bacterial infections such as C. difficile, suppressing bacterial infections by: inhibiting adhesion and/or overgrowth of bad bacteria, producing a serine protease that cleaves C. difficile toxin A, and by stimulating antibody production against this toxin.
  • It increases the eradication of H. Pylori which causes heartburn, nausea, bloating, belching and in serious cases, peptic ulcers.  It is an effective addition to H. Pylori treatment.
  • It also helps to prevent diarrhea from antibiotics used in standard H.Pylori treatment, which is a common side effect.
  • It also helps in reducing inflammation in the bowel.

In comparing animals with healthy microbiota against those who are “germ free” it was found that healthy gut flora:

  • is crucial for normal anatomy and physiology.
  • can provide protection against infection.
  • influences the immune system from birth throughout life.
  • affects many metabolic functions to the host.
  • offers some protection from hyper-permeability.

Our intestines are our largest immune “organ” and the upper intestinal tract is responsible for 70-80% of our immune function in the body.  But it is also, depending on diet/supplementation, a place of possible inflammation which then contributes to systemic inflammation.

Clearly, from the above tables, we can see the importance of a multi strain probiotic, especially during our “cold and flu” season.  A multi-strain formula works synergistically to protect us from many of the assaults that we face in our everyday lives, promoting optimal functioning of our gut based immune function and offering non-immunological protection against infection.

“If we did not have any good bacteria we would die within 5 years!” Dr N Plummer

When you are looking for probiotics always look for one that has human clinical trials for the condition you are working with not just the strains.

Dr Nigel Plummer did report on the “Lab4 Consortium”, specifically Genestra’s HMF Intensive, which refers to:

Lactobacillus acidophilus – strain 1

Lactobacillus acidophilus – strain 2

Bifidobacterium bifidum

Bifidobacterium animalis (var lactis)

as having gone through clinical trials for its effectiveness in IBS, C Difficile, antibiotic resistance, autism, allergy, eczema, coughs, colds, anxiety, cognitive function, stress reactivity, obesity, liver disease and kidney disease.  Through human clinical trials we are assured that the professional line formulation, not just the ingredients has proven their efficacy in these health issues.

Sue Skillins, CNP, CHCP, NNC

Live Cell Microscopist

Edison Institute Faculty

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