Probiotic Strains That Fight Obesity, Diabetes, Depression and More, Part 2
The health of your microbiome is of paramount importance, and the specific probiotic strains that you cultivate there can fight obesity, diabetes, depression, fatigue, joint pain, chronic inflammation and much more.
Part 1, identified 13 symptoms or signs that indicate your gut bacteria are making you sick. Here in Part 2, I’m going to address the probiotic strains that might alleviate those symptoms.
I’ve grouped the health issues in accordance with the food sources and/or probiotics that are beneficial to them:
- Eat a phytochemically-rich Diet
- What are probiotic strains
- What are prebiotics
- Metabolic issues — body weight and type 2 diabetes
- Depression and moodiness
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Joint pain from RA
Let’s get to it…
As I pointed out in Part 1, most if not all of the health issues this post covers are impacted by your gut bacteria and strongly affected by your diet. A diet dominated by processed foods and sugar will feed the harmful bacteria that cause or amplify a wide assortment of health problems.
So the first thing to do is to eat better. In particular, eat more plant foods and foods high in fiber. Basically, you want to eat foods rich in phytochemicals (also called phytonutrients), which are typically colorful foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains and many spices.
Just by eating more plant-based and fibrous foods, you can become healthier, and thereby reduce reoccurring sickness, fatigue and blemished skin.
|Phytochemical||Benefit||Food Source||Side Note|
|Focus on orange and dark leafy green veggies|
|Heating the food make lycopene easier to absorb|
|Lutein is found in the macula of the eye|
|One cup of red grapes (0.24 liters) has about 1.25 mg of resveratrol|
|Anthocyanidins||Blood Vessel Health||Blueberries
|Focus on red and purple berries|
|Soybeans||There are 47 mg of isoflavones in 1/2 cup of boiled soybeans (0.12 liters)|
*Note that spinach, collard greens, broccoli and kale contain more than one phytochemical, and thus are particularly effective at improving the health of your microbiota, as well as providing the health benefits enumerated in the chart.
As you’re improving your diet, you could also being supplementing with prebiotics and probiotics.
What Are Probiotic Strains?
Probiotic strains are live bacteria and yeasts referred to as “the good” microorganisms in us, given that they contribute to our good health in many ways. If you eat a diet abundant in photochemically-enriched foods, you may not need to supplement with probiotics (unless of course you obliterate your microbiome with antibiotics). That said, it’s easy and effective to supplement with probiotics, and doing so is a good step toward cultivating the specific bacterial strains you may need.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics contribute to our health by:
- Decreasing the number of “bad” bacteria in your gut that can cause infections or inflammation.
- Replacing the body’s “good” bacteria (replacing the “good” bacteria that have been lost when taking antibiotics, for example).
- Restoring the body’s “good” versus “bad” bacterial balance, which then helps to keep your body functioning properly.
Probiotic strains that are naturally found in your intestines include Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast, and bacteria in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of microorganisms. (Outside of the body, Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic that is found in many yogurts.)
Foods that contain probiotics include some juices and soy drinks, fermented and unfermented milk, buttermilk, some soft cheeses, miso, tempeh, kefir, kim chi, sauerkraut, pickles, and the most famous probiotic food, yogurt.
Then, of course, there are probiotic supplements available in capsules, tablets, powders and liquid extracts. A commonly used supplement is Acidophilus, but there are many, many more.
OK, so now that you’re ready to gulp down probiotics every day, how are you going to feed them? Hey, you feed the cat, the dog, the kids (or grand kids) — and now your bacteria (probiotics) are waiting in line, too. You feed them with prebiotics. Prebiotics are fuel for bacteria. Probiotics are the bacteria themselves, and prebiotics are their favorite food source.
Prebiotics are non-digestible or partially digestible “functional” foods — largely fiber — that help grow healthy bacteria in the colon, and thus promote better overall health. They’re considered functional foods because they provide health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition. Prebiotics are found in high amounts in breast milk, which work to optimize the numbers of beneficial bacteria in a baby’s intestine, a really good reason to be breastfed. Obviously, we don’t stay on that gravy train for long, so, thankfully, there are other sources.
Common foods rich in prebiotics include whole wheat, onions, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, and beans, but perhaps the best prebiotic fiber is inulin, also known as chicory root fiber. Chicory root fiber is added to many foods, including snack bars, yogurts, and beverages. You can also supplement with inulin directly, usually in the form of a powder widely available in health food stores.
Most people do really well when ingesting prebiotics, but about 10 percent do not. Typically, this population has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. You may be in this minority if you get bloated, get gas and/or headaches after ingesting inulin.
A person needs about 20 grams of resistant starch minimum before meaningful benefits are seen and that at about 50 grams diminishing returns are in full effect providing no additional benefit. Thus, ideally you want to get about 20-50 grams of resistant starch per day. It is highly unlikely that you will get there by food alone, because most cooking/heating and food processing destroy the resistant starch found in food. Consequently, supplementing is almost always done to reach the minimum necessary amount to see beneficial effects.
Now that you’re well versed in what you need to eat to improve your health through feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut, and generally how probiotics and prebiotics can help, let’s examine the specific bacterial strains that may be the most helpful to you.
Body weight and type 2 diabetes are related. There’s even a term for it, “diabesity“.
Studies have shown that becoming overweight is a major risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes. Today, roughly 30 percent of overweight people have the disease, and 85 percent of diabetics are overweight. 
Yes, certain gut bacteria can influence your weight, because they can affect how you digest your food, your level of chronic inflammation and they produce chemicals that make you feel hungry or full.
The ratio of two types of bacteria in your intestines may determine how much weight you lose when given a particular diet. These two bacteria are Prevotella, which digests fiber and carbohydrates, and Bacteroidetes, which is most prevalent in those whose diets are high in animal protein and fat. 
In a 2018 study, 62 people were given a high-fiber, whole grain diet for 26 weeks. Those who had more Prevotella in their intestines lost 5.1 pounds (2.3 kg) more body fat than those with more Bacteroidetes in their intestines. 
Type 2 Diabetes
A 2017 study done in Finland found a gut bacteria compound may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The global prevalence of diabetes among adults (90 percent of which is type 2 diabetes) has gone up from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014. In the United States, there are more than 29 million people living with diabetes. There are also 86 million living with prediabetes, a serious condition that raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other lifelong health problems. 
Typically, eating a fiber-rich, plant-dominated diet along with consistent exercise does much to treat type 2 diabetes, but apparently indolepropionic acid helps too. The Finnish study’s author Dr. Kati Hanhineva said:
“Our findings suggest that indolepropionic acid may be one factor that mediates the protective effect of diet and intestinal bacteria.” 
Well, that’s nice, this indolepropionic acid, but where do you get it? I didn’t find it. What I did find was Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa L.) and Corosolic Acid.
According to a 2012 study, Banaba has been used as a folk medicine to treat diabetes in various parts of the world, primarily southeast Asia, and Corosolic acid has been reported to decrease blood sugar levels within 60 minutes in human subjects. Corosolic acid also exhibits antihyperlipidemic (lipid, or fat, lowering) and antioxidant activities.
The beneficial effects of Banaba and Corosolic Acid with respect to various aspects of glucose and lipid metabolism appear to involve multiple mechanisms, including enhanced cellular uptake of glucose, impaired hydrolysis of sucrose and starches, decreased gluconeogenesis, and the regulation of lipid metabolism.
What that all means is that Banaba and Corosolic Acid have beneficial effects on various metabolic functions. And, unlike indolepropionic acid, we can buy them in a product called GlucoFit or a similar one by the same manufacturer, Now Foods, called Glucose Metabolic Support.
Scientists have been researching a potential link between mental health and gut health for years. In February 2019, a study that examined how various features of the microbiome correlate with the quality of life and depression over 1,000 participants.
Furthermore, the study investigated how gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that affect mood. “The production of brain chemicals, such as serotonin, by human cells can be amplified or diminished by gut microbes,” says gastroenterologist Geoffrey A. Preidis, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “The more we learn about the connection between the brain and gut microbiome, the closer we will come to managing mental health disorders with microbiome-targeting therapies.” 
The researchers found that butyrate-producing Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus bacteria were consistently associated with higher quality of life indicators. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that provides fuel for the cells of our gut lining, supports immune system functions of the colon wall and protects against certain diseases of the digestive tract. Typically, gut bacteria that nourish or produce butyrate are good for us. 
This category includes food intolerance, IBS, leaky gut and SIBO, which are not all the same thing, but do share some common characteristics.
|Food allergy||Food sensitivity||Food intolerance|
|Immune system involved?||Yes (IgE antibodies)||Yes (IgG and other antibodies, white blood cells and other immune system molecules)||No (Digestive enzyme deficiency, poor absorption of certain carbs)|
|Examples of foods involved||Top 8 most common: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish.||Varies from person to person and may include foods you eat often.||Fermentable carbs (FODMAPS): milk (lactose), legumes and certain vegetables, fruits, grains and sweeteners.|
|Onset of symptoms after eating the food||Rapid, often within minutes.||Within a few hours but may be delayed up to a few days.||Within 30 minutes to 48 hours after eating.|
|Examples of symptoms||Trouble swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, hives. Can result in anaphylaxis.||Headaches, joint pain, digestive issues, skin issues, an overall feeling of being unwell.||Most common are digestive issues: bloating, excess gas, gut pain, diarrhea, constipation.|
|Amount of food needed to cause symptoms||Tiny.||Varies depending on your degree of sensitivity.||Generally worse with larger amounts of problem foods.|
|How it’s tested||Skin prick tests or blood tests of IgE levels to specific foods.||Many tests are available, but their validity is uncertain.||Breath tests may identify fermentable carb intolerances (lactose, fructose).|
|Age of diagnosis||Commonly in infants and young children, but adults can also develop them.||Can appear at any age.||Varies, but lactose intolerance is most likely in adults.|
|Prevalence||1–3% of adults; 5–10% of children.||Uncertain but suspected to be common.||15–20% of the population.|
|Can you get rid of it?||Kids may outgrow milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to continue into adulthood.||May be able to consume a food again without symptoms after you avoid it for several months and address any underlying issues.||Can minimize symptoms by limiting or avoiding problem foods in the long term. Antibiotic treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may also help.|
The gold standard for identifying food sensitivities is an elimination diet followed by a methodical “oral challenge” where you reintroduce the eliminated foods one by one after a period of avoidance. Some health practitioners use food sensitivity tests to identify problem foods.
Certain gut bacteria may also aid in preventing or treating food allergies. A recent study found that mice given gut microbes from healthy infants were protected against an allergic reaction to cow’s milk; however, those given microbes from allergic infants had a bad reaction to the milk. “This study allows us to define a causal relationship and shows that the microbiota itself can dictate whether or not you get an allergic response,” study author Cathryn Nagler, PhD, of the University of Chicago, told UChicago Medicine’s website.
IBS – Irritable Bowl Syndrome
This chronic digestive problem can cause extreme abdominal discomfort as well as diarrhea or constipation. Unhappily, we aren’t certain what causes it, and there are few successful treatments beyond avoiding trigger foods and stress.
What is known is that the microbiome plays a role in how fast the gut moves digested material along, which is a primary component of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The problem lies in determining which bacteria contribute to the problem.
What might help some people is fasting. In this study, researchers looked at 58 patients with IBS and divided them into two groups. One group was given prescription meds and psychotherapy to reduce IBS symptoms, while the other group fasted for 10 days, drinking only water. The fasting group reported improvement in 7 of 10 symptoms.
If you’d rather gnaw on your elbow than fast, you can try a Fasting Mimicking Diet, like Dr. Valter Longo’s ProLon, or try a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. People with IBS have lower amounts of these strains in their guts, and higher levels of harmful Streptococcus, E. coli and Clostridium.
To complicate things, you can also try a 4-strain aqueous (drinkable) probiotic supplement called SymproveTM, containing Lactobacillus acidophilus NCIMB 30175, Lactobacillus plantarum NCIMB 30173, Lactobacillus rhamnosus NCIMB 30174 and Enterococcus faecium NCIMB 30176). These probiotic strains have been shown to reduce clinical symptom severity scores in IBS [x] and to reduce abdominal pain scores and significantly reduce constipation, diarrhea and mucorrhoea in diverticular disease. 
The intestinal lining determines what substances can enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract. In a healthy gut, the intestines are resistant to harmful substances. In someone with increased intestinal permeability, those harmful substances may begin to leak through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. This increased intestinal permeability is known as leaky gut syndrome.
A 2012 study examined the probiotic supplement OMNI Biotech and Ecologic®Performance to see if they helped with leaky gut. They did. The researchers found that all the biomarkers they examined for leaky gut were significantly diminished through the use of the probiotics.
SIBO – Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
SIBO is a serious condition affecting the small intestine that typically causes pain and diarrhea, and can lead to malnutrition as the bacteria start to use up the body’s nutrients. It occurs when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine.
As you know by now, taking probiotics could help return the bacteria in your gut to normal, but with SIBO this might not always work. A 2010 study found that probiotic treatment could be more effective at treating SIBO than antibiotics. However, a review from 2016 found that evidence for the effects of probiotics in treating SIBO was inconclusive. Your best option is to follow your doctor’s advice.
One doctor that has written widely on SIBO is Dr. David Jockers. His 14 Strategies To Beat SIBO Naturally tells you eveything you need to know to get started, including his probiotic formulations. Dr. Amy Meyers makes a pitch for soil-based probiotics are the best for SIBO in her article, Why Soil Based Probiotics Are Best For SIBO.
The highest rated SIBO-focused probiotic I found on Amazon.com is Codeage SBO Probiotic.
Joint Pain from RA
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition in which the immune system primarily attacks the joints, but also the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. If your joint pain stems from autoimmune disease, probiotics may be helpful.
A recent pair of studies shed light on the possible role of the microbiome. The first study revealed that RA patients are more likely than healthy people to have several rare species of bacteria in their guts. In the second study, researchers transplanted a healthy strain of bacteria into mice with RA, and their symptoms improved. While the researchers aren’t sure why this approach works, they do believe the microbiome can stimulate the immune system to attack the body.
Although the researchers found an association between the gut microbe Collinsella and the arthritis phenotype, no specific recommendations of which probiotics to use to alleviate RA were offered.
A common condition that many of us grapple with are allergies — reactions to pollen, food, and other substances that lead to breathing trouble, hives, rashes, and other symptoms. Some researcher propose a “hygiene hypothesis“, which goes like this: Children these days grow up in extremely clean conditions, primarily indoors where they’re not exposed to a variety of bacteria strains; and when they do finally run into these micro-organisms, their immune systems overreact.
Recent research suggest it’s likely more complex than just a hygiene issue, but rather allergies may have a lot to do with the interaction of the microbiome with microbes found in the environment. “Lifestyle, environmental exposure, urbanization, diet, and antibiotic use have a profound effects on the human microbiome, leading to failure of immunotolerance and increased risk of allergic disease,” suggests this paper.
The probiotic supplement Lactobacillus Plantarum from Allergy Research Group delivers three probiotic strains of lactobacillus that may be helpful to allergy sufferers: L. plantarum, l. rhamnosus and l. salivarius.
Remember these three things:
- The first thing to do for gut health, which translates to your overall health, is to increase your consumption of plant-based and fibrous foods.
- The next thing you can do is to decide what chronic health issue you are motivated to work on and see if there’s specific probiotic strains that can help.
- If I haven’t covered your health issue here, google it along with the term “probiotic” and see if there are studies that can inform you, or probotic supplement that you can try.
Read Part 1