Current research shows that probiotics can benefit digestion in a variety of different ways. They can improve nutrient absorption, reduce bloating, stop acid reflux and be targeted to almost any digestive ailment. But what is really happening when you take a probiotic supplement? How do we know if a bacteria is beneficial or harmful in the body? This article will explain the different mechanisms by which probiotics can help digestive and immune health.
Humans have developed a symbiotic relationships bacteria over the past 2 million years. This mutually beneficial relationship happens with bacterial species and, of course, many bacterial species are not beneficial for humans and can cause disease. The most important beneficial bacteria are:
- Bacillus species
- Lactobacillus species
- Bifidobacterium species
Most of us have heard about Lactobacillus, specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in many supplements and also in cultured dairy products. However, this article will focus mostly on Bacillus probiotics which are are perhaps the most uniquely beneficial class of bacteria that inhabit the human GI tract. They have developed a special ability to survive through our harsh gastric system and to thrive both inside and outside the human body. This species is generally taken in a spore form, which means it becomes activated only after it is placed in the human digestive tract. Because they are in spore form, Bacillus probiotics are very resilient and do not need to be refrigerated.
In the Digestive System, Bacillus species support the following functions:
1.) Modulate and Train Our Immune System:
Bacillus species stimulate an important structure called the gut associated lymphoid tissue. By doing so, these bacteria improve T-cell and B-cell (immune) function as well as tune the function of the adaptive immune system. They also reduce inflammation and help the body move through the immune cascade. In addition, by tuning the immune response, Bacillus species improve pattern recognition and can help suppressing unwanted responses (like allergies).
2.) Assist in Digestion:
Probiotics help digest food by producing a whole range of digestive Enzymes including: protease, peptidase, lipase, cellulase, amylase, lipase, lactase and pectinase. In addition, they directly digest incoming starches and non-starch polysaccharides. By aiding with the breakdown of these fibers and polysaccharides probiotics reduce the production of gas and bloating.
3.) Help Control other Microbes and Yeast:
Bacillus can target and kill other harmful bacteria in the human gut. Perhaps surprisingly, these “good bacteria” can produce antibiotics that help kill off the “bad bacteria”. This is especially important where conditions of bacterial overgrowth (like SIBO) are thought to cause up to 80% of IBS cases. It should be noted that probiotics are also one of the best ways to reduce a fungal/candida overgrowth.
4.) Produce Nutrients in the Gut:
Lastly, probiotics produce the whole array of nutrients that are essential for human life. This includes B-vitamins, quinols, vitamin K2, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are critical to the health of the large intestine and the gut as whole. They also control inflammation, regulate colon function, improve metabolism, and contribute to detox activities. Low levels of SCFA production can leads to leaky gut and chronic pathogenic bacterial overgrowth.
No other strain of probiotics is known to provide such a wide array of beneficial functions for human health as Bacillus does. This bacterial-human symbiotic relationship results from millions of years of co-evolution between Bacillus and humans. Modern super-clean human living spaces and super-clean food minimizes the natural exposure to Bacillus bacteria as nature intended. Because of this, many people can benefit from a supplement that contains a range of Bacillus species probiotics.