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The NEEDS Wellness Team

Q: Dear Wellness Team, I've heard that different probiotic cultures enhance different functions in the body. Where can I get a complete list of the different positive effects of various cultures? Sincerely, Doreen Olson

A: Dear Doreen, You are absolutely correct; different probiotic cultures have different specialties. There are many different strains of the "good" bacteria with many different functions, and many of them overlap.

To specifically answer your question, we recommend a resource offered by one of our trusted vendors, Klaire Labs. On their website,, they offer a concise chart that summarizes the functions of 16 commonly used probiotic strains (click on "Functions of Probiotic Species" to view their chart). There are literally hundreds of different bacteria, but only a few handfuls are commonly found in supplements. Probiotic supplementation is necessary for much of the American population for a variety of reasons, such as poor dietary habits, overuse of antibiotics, and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals which alter the intestinal flora.

The two main categories of probiotics are acidophilus and bifidobacteria. They are considered the "good" bacteria of the intestinal tract, and serve many functions, including balancing the immune system of the intestinal tract and preventing pathogens from taking hold and causing illness. They can help alleviate constipation and strengthen the mucosal barrier to prevent leaky gut. In general, Bifidobacterium species are the first to colonize the GI tract during the birthing process. Lactobacillus strains tend to be hardy and somewhat more acid-resistant.

In both categories, each unique strain has specific strengths. Lactobacillus rhamnosus supports both the innate and acquired immunity, and suppresses chemicals that induce inflammation. Lactobacillus plantarum helps kill C. difficile infections, which can be tolerant to even antibiotics.

Bifidobacterium longum is the most abundant of its species and can help prevent E. coli infection. Bifidobacterium breve stimulates the Peyer's patches of the intestinal immune system, and helps prevents intestinal infection.

Saccharomyces boulardii is a hardy, non-pathogenic yeast that is found in the GI which doesn't fit in either the acidophilus or bifidobacteria category. However, it is an excellent choice for fighting an intestinal infection and it does a great job of enhancing the intestinal barrier.

Probiotic supplementation is generally safe for anyone, as long as the product is made properly and is not contaminated. The NEEDS Wellness Team recommends choosing a high-quality probiotic manufactured by a reputable vendor. Most, but not all formulas require refrigeration to extend the viability of the cultures. It is also helpful to switch brands once or twice a year, to gain the benefits of different strains made by different manufacturers. If you need assistance in selecting a good probiotic to suit your needs, the NEEDS Wellness Team is always here to help! Just give us a call toll-free at 800-634-1380

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