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What is a Human Strain Probiotic? Is It Superior?

There are so many different terms to consider when discussing probiotics that it can quickly become confusing. One term that tends to raise eyebrows is “human strain,” which is rather vague.

The common misconception is that a human strain probiotic is one that is derived from the human body. Instead, human strain probiotics are simply those that are naturally occurring in the human body—they are not sourced or “collected” from humans.

Where do “Human Strain” Probiotics Come From?

Human strain probiotics, while not sourced from people, are the same types of bacteria that naturally reside within the human gut and elsewhere throughout the body. While human strain bacteria have adapted particularly well to the GI tract, their source is removed by countless generations, meaning they’ve had absolutely no human contact (aside from handling) at any point in time.

Human strain bacteria can be collected from virtually any surface and is easily grown/isolated within laboratory settings. A great deal of the strains that are currently used in probiotics supplements were actually isolated decades ago. Bacteria in these supplements come not from the original source, but from swabs that are taken directly from a “bacteria bank” where strains are registered and then cultured.

What are the Requirements of a Real Probiotic?

As probiotics have gained a significant amount of popularity in recent years, this greater attention has brought the need for properly defining criteria for probiotic supplements. In order to be confirmed as probiotics, the following specifications must be met:

1. The primary organism must occur naturally within the human digestive tract.
2. The supplement must contain significantly higher concentrations of bacteria than what is naturally found occurring within the digestive tract.
3. Any organisms contained within a probiotics supplement must be capable of surviving a journey through the stomach and digestive tract, including the ability to withstand degrading bile and acid.

While the defining factors of probiotics may seem relatively clear, they are not officially recognized by the dietary supplement industry or any expert body that oversees probiotic manufacturing. In fact, only a handful of probiotics supplements available on the market today actually embody all three of these characteristics, which is why it’s so important to take a closer look at any supplement before making a purchase.

Types of Human Strain Probiotics

There are numerous different strains of probiotics commonly used in supplements that fit the description of “human strain,” many of which are considered to be among the most effective types of beneficial bacteria available. Here are just a few to take note of, each of which offers its own set of beneficial properties.

Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1

The DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus has a considerable amount of research behind it and is considered by many experts to be a “super strain” of sorts. That is, it adapts exceptionally well to the GI tract and qualifies as a human strain in the way the term is most often utilized. DDS-1 helps to support a healthy balance of bacteria in the microbiome, bolsters immune function, regulates cholesterol levels and can even produce vitamins such as B6 and B12 within the gut. It also naturally produces lactase—crucial for the effective digestion of dairy products.

Lactobacillus brevis

Yet another strain of lactobacillus that is found within the human microbiome, Lactobacillus brevis is also present in fermented foods such as sauerkraut. For those who have a significant imbalance of microflora within the gut, Lactobacillus brevis is often present in very low levels. Supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is the best way to restore balance to the gut, and this is one of the reasons why many common probiotics supplements contain this valuable strain.

Bifidobacterium longum

There’s no getting around the fact that Bifidobacterium longum is one of the most well-studied probiotics on the market today—it’s also found in significant proportions within the human gut. Bifidobacterium longum is crucial for supporting a properly functioning digestive tract, as well as keeping harmful bacteria at bay and even supporting the immune system. One of the hallmarks of Bifidobacterium longum is its ability to ferment sugars, producing lactic acid that helps create a more effective environment in the intestines to fight against harmful free radicals and other destructive agents.

Are Human Strains “Better?”

One of the questions many consumers ask themselves once learning about human strain probiotics is whether or not they’re “better” than strains of alternative origins. There’s a fair amount of misinformation claiming that human strains are indeed superior than other options, but this is largely a product of marketing more than anything else. As of this time, no scientific evidence exists to prove that human strain probiotics are any more effective at being impervious to stomach acidity or binding to the gut wall than any alternatives.

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a probiotic of any kind is if it has been heavily researched. Contrary to what many people may believe, many human strain probiotics are actually under-researched compared to strains such as S. boulardii, which is not of human origin but considered to be one of the most effective and heavily researched probiotics strains available today. Thus, whether or not a strain is of human origin is irrelevant in the quest to find the right probiotic.

What to Look for in a Probiotic

If the origin of a probiotic strain isn’t as important as it’s often made out to be, what exactly should you be looking for? A number of different factors can influence the effectiveness of a probiotics supplement. Here are three significant considerations:

Specific Strains - One of the first things to take a close look at before purchasing a probiotics supplement is the strain or strains contained within the supplement. Every strain of probiotics is unique in that each targets different parts of the body and serves its own specific functions. Depending upon what your needs are, one strain of probiotics may be more effective than another. The most important thing to remember, however, is that supplements containing numerous strains are generally considered to be counterproductive, as different strains may fight one another for dominance. For best results, choose a probiotics supplement that contains just one strain.

Live, Active Cultures - Another important factor to consider when searching for a probiotics supplement is if the cultures contained inside are actually alive and active. Probiotics supplements often list “CFU” count on their labels, which stands for “colony forming units.” While many supplements boast billions of CFUs, the bacteria inside won’t do anything beneficial if they’re dead by the time they arrive in the gut. Be sure that the probiotics supplement you choose has been stored properly from manufacturing date to delivery. For the most part, probiotics that are not shelf-stable and require refrigeration will be the most likely to suffer degradation over time. The more viable probiotics you can deliver to the gut, the more effective the supplement will be.

Packaging - Packaging isn’t the type of thing that many consumers think about when purchasing supplements, but it’s undeniably one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a probiotics supplement. There are two reasons why. For one, the manner in which probiotics are packaged can directly affect their viability — especially when it comes to supplements that require refrigeration. In addition, packaging can affect the administration of beneficial bacteria. DryCap technology is considered an advanced delivery method and, unlike capsules, allows for extremely stable probiotics to be blended with liquid nutrients at the moment of consumption.

The Bottom Line: Human Strain Probiotics Are Not the “Best”

Many people have developed the notion that “human strain” probiotics are superior to the alternatives, which simply isn’t true. You’ll attain the desired efficacy by choosing a strain that has been well-studied over the years and has scientific results that you can verify and trust.

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