October 26, 2021
There are a few surprising times when you may need to take a probiotic supplement to improve your gut health, and in turn boost immunity and improve mental health naturally. You're probably aware that there are billions of microbes that live in your gut, where they do some really cool things! (See probiotics blogs). But, some lifestyle habits can hinder the helpful bacteria, (aka probiotics). Here are 8 surprising times you may need to take a probiotic. Plus, a sneak peak into one special probiotic, L. rhamnosus.
During each of these times in your life, researchers have noted that the microbiome of the gut tends to host fewer probiotics than ideal. The use of certain probiotic species (or more specifically strains) can help. To learn more about what different probiotic species do in the body that's beneficial, check out the list below.
Finding a reliable, science-backed resource about probiotics can be tough, but there is one place to discover more about probiotics, and discover what each of them does - that's at The International Probiotics Association website. Check out the many blogs there, on some of the most famous probiotic species, including:
Created by Allison Tannis for the International Probiotic Association's Monthly Microbe Series of blogs available in original format on their blog.
The way these friendly microbes travel is fascinating! Meet Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus, who we like to call the Happy Wanderers among your microbiota. Science geeks would describe Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus as rod-shaped, gram-positive anaerobic cells found in chains, but we like to think of them as smiling groups of helpful happy wanders moving hand-in-hand around the human body. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus microbes have super cool characteristics, including being incredibly sticky (we’ll explain why that’s like a superpower below). Come discover why some strains of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus are a welcome addition to the human microbial community.
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus is formerly known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus. With new research insights, scientists are refining what we know about many probiotics, leading to some getting a name change, to make identifying them easier and understand. You may still see this probiotic strain listed as L. rhamnosus on products, but its official scientific new name is now Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus.
You contain Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus – it’s found in many places around the human body. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus moves around in your body a lot. In fact, it can move from your mouth, all the way through your digestive tract, out the colon, and, in females, over to the vaginal tract. It’s presence in the vagina is key - it plays a particularly important role in female vaginal health. Of note, beyond your body, this strain can also be found in some semi-hard cheeses, yogurts, and fermented milk.
Some characteristics of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus make it particularly good for you to have in your microbiome. Here are 7 ways it helps you:
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus has impressive abilities to adhere, or stick, to enterocytes (cells that line the inner surface of the small and large intestine). It can anchor itself with its pili, which are long, hair-like structures that protrude from it, kind of like Velcro.
This strain creates long chains, similar to a group of wanderers in a line, hand in hand. Do you remember the game, Red Rover, which involves creating two lines of people, hand in hand, to create what one hopes is an impenetrable physical barrier, while one person from the other team tries to run and break through it? Similarly, Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus in the gut mucosal (the gooey layer that lines your digestive tract) creates a physical barrier when it grows that tries to prevent pathogens (bad microbes) from getting through. How do these probiotics do this? Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus can produce a biofilm that protects the mucosa (moist inner lining of organs, such as the intestines and vagina). A biofim could be described as a bunker or house with hallways, or channels, that messages can travel down, as well as walls and a roof that offer protection to the microbes that inhabit it. Microbes build biofilms (or communities) to feed and protect themselves.
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus spp. also help to fix the mucosa to keep it a strong physical barrier. The mucosa is part of the barrier that helps keep anything foreign in your gut from gaining access to the blood stream. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus strains can actually help repairs the barrier! These Happy Wanderers could be drawn as traveling carpenter caricatures with backpacks filled with tools. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus fixes tight junctions (the area between cells in the gut) that have been damaged by proteins, antigens, or other potentially harmful compounds from your diet. Damaged tight junctions can’t perform their job well – they can become leaky allowing substances you don’t want through the intestinal wall. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus helps fix damage to intestinal junctions.
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus has a positive effect on the community of microbes. Scientists describe this effect as the ability to activate other beneficial microbes by sending out factors that act little friendly messages to other microbes – in the microbiology world, this is called quorum sensing. It is the equivilant of microbes sending out a bunch of text messages to each other to communicate, but in the form of little tiny chemical compounds that share how they are ‘feeling’ and giving status updates to their neighbours. These Happy Wanderers are a welcome addition to the microbial community.
Microbes also produce factors that prevent bad microbes (pathogens) from becoming an established part of the community. For example, some strains of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus are known to produce proteins that inhibit Salmonella species.
Another super cool and exciting feature common of the Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus species – the ability to beneficially influence the immune system, particularly calming heated inflammatory reactions. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus been studied in conditions that involve inflammation, such as diarrhea to vaginal infections. Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus appears to have immunomodulating abilities, which is sort of like a teacher that turns a room of rowdy kids into studious scholars or at least is able to get them to all use their inside voices. It’s thought that some Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosusstrains do this by reducing the messengers that are activating and stimulating inflammation (e.g. interleukins produced by macrophages), while also promoting an increase in the numbers of some white blood cells (B cells), and their activation. Interestingly, researchers are looking at the potential for this microbe to improve or enhance the immune response. Studies suggest Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus spp. may be beneficial against illnesses from respiratory tract infections to atopic dermatitis, thanks to it’s immunomodulating effects.
7. Gives Bad Microbes the Slip
Lastly, some of these microbes can create a soap-like substance, called biosurfactants, that disrupts the biofilms of pathogens. That makes it difficult for pathogens, such as E. coli, to adhere to the cells that line the vaginal or digestive tracts. Many Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus species play an important role in vaginal health. Let’s take a closer look at the role of these probiotics in vaginal health.
The ability of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus spp. to prevent pathogens from flourishing in the vagina is helpful in maintaining health there. Particularly since the vaginal environment is constantly changing: the cells that line the vagina slough regularly, taking the biofilm and the microbes that live there with it. Balancing the microbiota that live there is important to keeping the vaginal tract healthy. Thank goodness some Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus spp. are hardy, happy wanderers that can handle the treacherous journey from the mouth, down the digestive tract, out to the colon, and along the highway of microbes to the vagina. Their super cool characteristics allow them to move into this area of the body regularly, stick, encourage beneficial microbes to flourish, keep the pH acidic, and deter pathogenic ones from establishing there. Many clinical studies have looked at the beneficial effects of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus spp. in vaginal health.
One of the most studied strains of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus is L. rhamnosus GG – it’s worth taking a quick peek as there have been more than 800 studies. This strain was first isolated from healthy human intestines back in 1983, by two scientists, Sherwood Gorbach and Barry Goldin. (Did you catch the Gs in the scientist’s last names, explaining why the strain was called L. rhamnosus GG?) With impressive abilities to bind to the mucus that lines the gut wall, L. rhamnosusGG has many health benefits and is a well-known probiotic for multiple age groups, and is particularly popular for its helpfulness against diarrhea and immune support.
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus may be characterized as a happy wanderer, but not all who wander are lost. These bacteria have travelled all over the world, and some have found a particularly heart-warming project. As part of a collaboration that combines good science with social wellness, a strain of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus is being used to create nourishing yogurt in resource-poor countries. It allows local production of probiotic yogurt, in impoverished, undernourished areas. The project even includes some young women, including single mothers, who are starting up kitchens, enabling them to become entrepreneurs, and creating a source of nourishment and economical growth for their communities.
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