To say that our digestion is connected to everything else in our health is no exaggeration. Without the ability to properly assimilate nutrients, we can’t fight disease, stop oxidative damage to our cells, or fuel our bodies and minds.
So keeping the digestive system running smoothly and stopping the dysfunction that leads to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases is crucial. One of the best ways to do that is with trusted probiotics that have a history of human use. And that is the subject of this Terry Talks Nutrition®.
Digestion Affects Everyone
Everyone experiences common digestive ailments from time to time, brought on by stress, diet, or viruses. Serious digestive diseases are common, too – including IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Whatever the underlying problem, I believe one of the keys to overcoming digestive diseases—and keeping your digestive system running smoothly—are probiotics. There are many probiotic supplements and foods available, so finding the right probiotics for the greatest benefits is essential, but can be challenging.
Lactobacillus plantarum – All-Around Probiotic Contender
One of the most extensively tested probiotics, Lactobacillus plantarum, has wide-ranging benefits. In a clinical study, it was found to reduce IBS symptoms in 95 percent of those taking it versus only 15 percent of patients in the placebo group. This normalization of the digestive system happened in only four weeks.
Another clinical study with L. plantarum found powerful results as well. By the end of the four-week trial, it reduced the frequency and severity of abdominal pain, bloating, and incomplete evacuation in 78 percent of the patients, compared to only 8 percent for the placebo.
In a placebo-controlled Swedish clinical study of patients with IBS, individuals were divided into groups receiving a rose-hip drink with L. plantarum or a similar drink without the probiotic for four weeks. In the probiotic group, 60 percent required fewer trips to the bathroom and experienced more regularity, while the entire group experienced a rapid and significant reduction in gas and flatulence. And, while both groups reported a reduction in abdominal pain, the gastrointestinal health in the L. plantarum group remained better and more stable overall, even 12 months later.
Other research has explored the ability of this powerful probiotic to reduce the incidence of a condition known as Clostridium difficile-associated disease. It occurs most often in critically ill, hospitalized patients who have been treated with antibiotics. Symptoms can range anywhere from simple diarrhea to life-threatening colitis. The problem is, C. difficile (also known as “C. diff”) infection is on the rise, including in younger, healthier people who normally wouldn’t seem at risk. It is notoriously difficult to treat, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 250,000 cases and 14,000 deaths each year—which is unacceptable for a condition that should be preventable.
In a clinical study, 22 intensive care unit patients were provided with an oatmeal mix containing L. plantarum and 22 were given plain oatmeal without the probiotic. Inflammation and infection parameters were tested each day of the study. By the end of the treatment period, 19 percent of those in the control group still had detectable levels of C. diff, but none of the patients in the probiotic group did. Considering the seriousness and scope of the problem of infection, this is a real breakthrough. Still other research has shown that L. plantarum reduces inflammation associated with colitis by inhibiting the expression of pro-inflammatory T-cells, while a cell study in Portugal showed that it can fight E. coli and other food-borne pathogens.
The reason this probiotic is so effective is because it is especially equipped to survive the trip through the acid environment of the stomach and adheres to the mucosa – the inner walls of the intestine—where it can colonize and multiply.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus – Inflammation Stopper for IBD
Another probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is well known for its ability to stop the conditions that lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A Spanish review examined the ways that probiotics address the symptoms of IBD, and named it as one of the probiotics that reduces inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract. This same review also mentioned that because L. rhamnosus appears to reduce inflammation, it can strengthen the barrier in the intestines to prevent leaky gut (the leaching of large food particles from the digestive tract into the bloodstream).
In cases of Crohn’s disease, an Italian review stated that many of the worst aspects of the Western diet (including refined grains and sugar consumption) are implicated and connected with leaky gut syndrome, and by extension, IBD. Other work has shown that L. Rhamnosus and various Bifidobacterium beneficial bacteria species can lessen the symptoms.
Right now, conventional wisdom says that there is no cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. But an effective, long-term answer may be closer than we think.
Even if you don’t have IBD, this probiotic can stop the inflammation in your digestive tract that can cause gas, bloating, and loose stools. Also, L. rhamnosus may help prevent more serious conditions from developing down the road.
Bifidobacterium bifidum – Helping Make Digestion Predictable
In IBS, Crohn’s disease, and colitis, the need to be close to a bathroom—at any time or at all times—is one of the most life-limiting and frustrating aspects of the conditions. People who suffer from these diseases simply want some sense of normalcy and predictability.
A clinical trial conducted in Bavaria found that Bifidobacterium bifidum significantly reduced IBS symptoms—including pain and discomfort, frequency of bowel movements, urgency, bloating, and overall quality of life.
Likewise, a double-blind, placebo-controlled Korean study found that a mixed group of probiotics—including B. bifidum and L. rhamnosus—reduced symptoms of IBS, including the time between incidences of diarrhea, over four weeks.
Another randomized study using B. bifidum in a composite probiotic treatment showed similar results – less abdominal pain and less discomfort while using the bathroom. The treatment was especially effective for those who experienced diarrhea as a primary symptom of IBS.
Probiotics – The Future of Digestive Health
We all need beneficial bacteria. Without them, we wouldn’t exist. But I think it’s important to get probiotics that have a history of human use and work especially well in the human body. Having a “big number” of probiotics is less important than making sure you get the right probiotics. Whether you have a serious condition or just want comfortable and regular digestion, I believe that the three types of beneficial bacteria I’ve discussed here are the key to overall health for everyone.
To relieve bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and more, I recommend a combination of Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum taken daily. Look for a dairy-free formula that features a minimum of 20 billion live, acid resistant, probiotic bacteria.