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What is a Probiotic Strain?

When discussing probiotics, one of the most common terms that pops up is “strain.” Many people are aware that probiotic supplements contain certain “strains,” but not everyone knows their roles or importance. The strain or strains of bacteria in a supplement matters more than CFU (“colony forming unit”) count and, subsequently, learning more about which strains you need will help you get the most out of a probiotic supplement.

Definition of Probiotic Strain

Properly defined, a strain (when referred to in the context of probiotics) is a specific variety of bacteria found within a wider species. Each specific strain of probiotics works to support a different part or function of the body. For context, take the species acidophilus, which is a member of the Lactobacillus family and primarily indicated as a probiotic supplement for improving gut health. Within the acidophilus group are members called ‘strains.’ In this case, for example, L. acidophilus LA-5 is a specific strain that is versatile, found in supplements and foods for almost 40 years. LA-5, unlike a ‘generic’ L. acidophilus strain, is the subject of 150 research papers, more than 60 of which are clinical studies.

One significant point of confusion lies in the differences between strains, species and genus of probiotic bacteria. Frankly, consumers and manufacturers alike are responsible for mixing up and misusing these terms. So, let’s look at it this way: the genus is the overall “family,” encompassing a wide range of bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are the two most common genera in probiotics supplements). Within this family are numerous different species of bacteria—in the example provided above, acidophilus would be a species of the Lactobacillus genus. Finally, every species contains a number of strains of bacteria, with LA-5 being just one example of potential L. acidophilus strains.

So, to review with this example: “Lactobacillus” is the genus, “acidophilus” is the species and “LA-5” is the strain.

Species and Specific Health Issues 

Many people first look at using probiotics because they’re looking to support a specific health factor, such as improving digestion or lessening a skin condition. In the vast realm of probiotics, research has shown that several species have strong affinities for promoting health in certain areas of the human body. Below are some examples of such beneficial species found comonly in probiotic supplements. 

B. animalis 

A sub-species of Bifidobacteria, B. animalis is one of the most popular probiotics in the world. It’s typically used to help aid in digestion, as well as fighting against the harmful effects of food-borne bacteria. B. animalis can also help break down lactose into crucial nutrients.

L. acidophilus

L. acidophilus comes from the parent family Lactobacillus, which produces an enzyme called lactase, as well as lactic acid. L. acidophilus is typically found within the mouth, vagina (where it helps fight off bacteria) and the small intestine (aiding in digestion). This species is also commonly found in fermented soy products like miso, as well as being one of the most prominent species in most yogurts.

B. breve

Another probiotic species that lives primarily within the digestive tract and the vagina, B. breve is a member of the Bifidobacteria genus. Its most effective perk is its ability to destroy bacteria and yeasts that are capable of causing infections. B. breve also works to help the body absorb key nutrients by fermenting sugars and breaking down plant fibers to make them more digestible.

L. reuteri

L. reuteri is found within the mouth and the intestine, and has primarily been shown to aid the digestive system. Further, it has oral health benefits: a study showed a decrease in the oral bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay when supplementing with L. reuteri.

B. longum

Ever wonder how the body is able to effectively break down and digest complex carbohydrates? The answer can be found in bacteria such as B. longum, which lives in the gastrointestinal tract. It not only reduces carbohydrates down to a molecular level, it also functions as an antioxidant that fights against free radicals.

B. lactis

As its name may imply, B. lactis is typically derived from raw milk and is sometimes used in probiotic infant formulas. B. lactis is also used in a variety of culinary applications, including use as a starter for buttermilk, cottage cheese and many other soft cheeses. In terms of the human body, B. lactis serves the primary role of breaking down lactose in the small intestine.

How Common Probiotics Strains Work

When browsing probiotics supplements, the most common question most people have is which strain or combination of strains is best to take. This can be difficult to answer because the state of everyone’s gut health is unique: a probiotic supplement that effectively manages symptoms for you may prove ineffective for someone else. That said, there are several popular strains that have been well researched and shown to be effective.

Here are just a few of the more well-known strains of probiotics available today:

Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1

A patented L. acidophilus strain that has undergone several decades of research, Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 originated from humans and is thus very capable of adapting to the body’s GI tract. Because it is resistant to acid and bile, Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 has less difficulty than many other strains making it to the gut intact, and research has shown that it’s capable of propagating well within the intestines. One of the downsides to strains found within the L. acidophilus species, however, is that they don’t tend to actually live very long once they reach the gut, typically dying off within eight days, and thus need to be continually replenished.

Lactobacillus paracasei CNCM I-1572

Lactobacillus paracasei CNCM I-1572—also known as LP-DG™—is a popular probiotic strain known for its ability to improve digestive health by restoring beneficial gut microflora and supporting healthy inflammatory response. LP-DG™ is the subject of 20 human clinical studies where it has been shown to excel at easing digestive troubles and adding balance to the microbiome. Further, because it has been shown to replenish intestinal microflora, it is an effective strain to combat modern lifestyles that are characterized by stress, poor diet, antibiotic treatment, and insufficient sleep.

Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®

Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 has a host of positive influences in the body. Clinical research has established that this strain may reduce risk of upset stomach, support healthy bowel function, reduce irritability in infants, may reduce upper respiratory tract challenges, and alleviate symptoms of skin irritation. From several of these actions, it would appear that this Bifidobacterium strain is exceptionally relevant during allergy seasons. 


Which Probiotic Strain is Right for You?

While multi-strain probiotics supplements are common and widely available, research has shown that many bacteria may be antagonistic toward one another. As a result, many experts believe that isolating specific strains of bacteria may be a more effective way to properly restore balance to the gut.

Remember, combining probiotics with a balanced diet, regular exercise, healthy stress management and obtaining six to eight hours sleep regularly all coordinate to improve health and vitality through time.

About Innovia Nectar

Innovia Nectar is the first probiotic exclusively using innovative technology that guarantees an excellent probiotic shelf stability for 24 months. Unlike other probiotics, it’s designed with a micro-shot system that separates the powder probiotic from the plant extract- and vitamin-fortified liquid until the moment the packaging seal is broken and the two are combined. This unique system keeps the probiotic fresh, dry and stable until the moment of consumption.

SOFAR Americas, Inc. is owned by Italian pharmaceutical manufacturing firm SOFAR S.p.A., who has 45 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical and Nutritional field producing branded pharmaceuticals, medical devices and dietary supplements of the highest quality. Expertise, flexibility, and innovation are the guiding values and allow the design, development, production, and distribution of the innovative products for the health and the well-being of the people.

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