Your microbiome is critically important to your health, protecting against pathogenic illnesses as well as noninfectious gut disorders like allergies and autoimmunity. It also supports your mood and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Your diet has a huge impact on the types of bacteria that flourish in your gut, and if you eat fermented foods regularly—as in, several times per day, as condiments at least—then you may not have to take probiotics. For everybody else, probiotics are one of the supplements I recommend daily and long-term.
But there are so many different strains of probiotics out there. Which ones, or which combination, should you choose?
Probiotics For SIBO
What matters most in this case is to find a probiotic that lacks prebiotics: these are the food for good and bad bacteria alike, and they’re generally listed as FOS or inulin on most probiotic packages. If you have SIBO, then you have bacteria in the wrong place, and you want to kill it, not feed it. If probiotics often make you feel worse, this is likely the reason.
Probiotics For Histamine Intolerance
Gut inflammation can lead to histamine intolerance: it’s a buildup of histamine that your gut can’t break down fast enough. If you’re one of these people, certain types of probiotics help. The probiotics that tend to lower histamine levels include:
- Bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium longum.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
- Lactobacillus reuteri — indirectly.
I wasn’t able to find many other studies to support the idea that certain probiotics actually worsen histamine intolerance.
Probiotics For Diarrhea and Constipation, Abdominal Pain and Bloating
Supporting gut health is kind of what probiotics do—so it’s reasonable to list pretty much all of them in this category. But here are a few that stand out, based on the studies that have been done:
- L. Rhamnosus. This is great for traveler’s diarrhea, and diarrhea associated with taking antibiotics. It also helps with lactose intolerance.
- L. Plantarum. This one was specifically found to aid in abdominal pain and bloating of IBS.
- L. Casei. Also great for diarrhea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
- L. Reuteri. This one was shown to be effective for acute diarrhea in young children. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9144122)
- B. Breve. This was shown to help bowels move in kids with constipation.
- B. Infantis. This one has also specifically been studied for IBS.
- B. animalis. This one has been studied for both constipation and abdominal discomfort.
- Saccharomyces boulardii. This probiotic is a yeast rather than a bacteria, and it has been shown to be beneficial for a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions — particularly acute diarrhea.
Probiotics For Skin Disorders
The gut and the skin are intimately connected—in fact, nearly every time I see a skin disorder, the gut is the first place I look for the root cause. For that reason, healing the gut in general very likely helps to heal the skin. But there are a few specific strains whose role in skin healing have been specifically investigated.
- L. Acidophilus. This one was studied and shown to be effective for acne.
- L. Rhamnosus. This one is specifically helpful for eczema.
Probiotics for Immune Support
Since some 80% of your immune system is in your gut, healing the gut automatically confers an immune boost. But there are some strains that have been more associated with immune support than others.
- L. Rhamnosus again. This animal study shows that L. Rhamnosus boots Th1 activity and modulates cytokine responses.
- L. Reuteri. This animal study shows that L. Reuteri can induce a systemic immune reaction.
- B. Animalis. This study shows that B. Animalis helps to ward of respiratory infections.
Probiotics for Vaginal Balance:
For women who struggle with recurrent vaginal infections, probiotics specific to balancing the vaginal tract can be very helpful. These particularly include:
- L. Acidophilus. This study shows that various lactobacillus strains, including acidophilus, can disrupt biofilms associated with Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast, and prevent growth of pathogenic organisms. Other organisms include L. Reuteri and L. Rhamnosus.
- L. Gasseri. This study shows that L. Gasseri helps the body fight a vaginal infection of staph aureus.
Probiotic for Weight Management:
Again, evidence shows that a healthy microbiome plays an important role in weight management. But this study specifically shows that L. Rhamnosus helps obese women to lose weight and keep it off.
Probiotic for Mood Balance and Brain Function:
Recent research has highlighted the importance of probiotics in mood balancing. Here are a few of the specific strains involved:
- L. Rhamnosus. This one seems to do it all. This study specifically shows that L. Rhamnosus decreases anxiety.
- L. Casei. This study shows that L. Casei modulates both anxiety and depression.
- B. Longum. This one has been shown to help modulate both anxiety, and support memory funciton.
Probiotics are an important part of a healthy regimen. While most high quality probiotics will contain a combination of many of these strains (and you will notice that several of the names appear again and again), this list is designed to help you identify specific strains for specific issues.