Are probiotics really that good for you? Is yogurt the best source of probiotics? I regularly hear these and many other questions about probiotics. Probiotics is a subject that is pretty straightforward, but confusion still persists regarding these beneficial microbes. The fact that there are so many different types of probiotic strains doesn’t help. Let’s start by discussing Lactobacillus gasseri, one of the beneficial microorganisms that assist with digestive health and against harmful organisms.
The Benefits of Probiotics
There are many benefits of probiotics you probably already know, and some that may surprise you. Your digestives system depends on microorganisms called “probiotics” to work properly.  Probiotic bacteria helps the body get the nutrients it needs, stimulates your immune system, and protects your intestines from harmful toxins and organisms.  When you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your system, metabolism, digestion, and your natural detoxification process all run smoothly. The cardiovascular system, bones, blood sugar, and mental health are also connected to probiotic status. 
These wide-reaching effects stem from your digestive tract’s role as a gateway to the rest of your body. The healthier your gut, the more it can withstand the assault from today’s most common germs and toxins. These include pesticides, herbicides, and the artificial sweeteners found in many processed foods.
Your Gut and Your Health
When your gut is imbalanced, so is your health. With 70-80% of your immune response occurring in your gut, illness begins.  But I’m not just talking about a cold or flu. Probiotics affect more than just your immune system. In fact, some research suggests it may play a role in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mood.  If you suffer from IBS, irritable bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, you’re not getting all the nutrition you need. These diseases starve your body and create serious health complications.
Nutrients enter your body through the lining of your intestines, and when your gut’s not working right, many pass right through. In a healthy gut, nutrients are absorbed and toxins are excreted. A sick gut does capture some nutrients; however, toxins are allowed into the bloodstream. Often, a sick gut has an overgrowth of germs, the “bad” bacteria that causes illness. Some germs, like E. coli and C. difficile, can cause diarrhea and more serious conditions of dehydration.
Scientists have determined the gut-brain axis–the nervous system connection between your gut and brain–plays a large role in mental health.  When your gut isn’t working right, neither is your brain. And this means trouble with focus, concentration and many people suffering from IBD report frequent feelings of depression.
Not All Probiotics Are Equal
Researchers have determined that not all probiotic bacteria species perform the same actions in your gut. In many instances, there’s even a variety of activity between strains within the same species! Some help digest carbs, some produce nutrients, and others may stimulate your immune system or protect your intestines from invading germs. To avoid confusion and make it simpler for you to get the probiotic best for you, scientists have added identifiers to the end of the name. So instead of just saying L. gasseri, it would be listed as L. gasseri SBT 2055. This way, if you need a specific strain for a specific need, you can more easily find it.
Lactobacillus gasseri: A Strain You Want
Also known as L. gasseri, the Lactobacillus gasseri strain is one you don’t hear about often. It is, however, extremely powerful for weight maintenance and possibly protection against harmful organisms. So far, research suggests the strains of L. gasseri speed up metabolism and encourages weight loss. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported obese adults who took L. gasseri SBT2055/LG2055 lost more than 8% over a 12-week period simply by adding this probiotic strain to their diet.  And a 2010 study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found taking this same strain reduced abdominal body fat and waist size. 
Other studies have reported effects such as lowering cholesterol, reducing allergic response, easing symptoms of asthma in children, and even lessening menstrual pain in women suffering from endometriosis.    Other research suggests this strain could enhance the effectiveness of modern approaches to H. pylori. 
Don’t Forget the Prebiotics!
Foods like gum arabic, garlic, chicory root, onions, and bananas provide natural sugars and fibers that feed probiotic bacteria. Foods like these are called prebiotics, and they may “feed” good bacteria in your gut while discouraging “bad” bacteria from taking hold. Eat foods like these regularly for a healthy gut.
Two Good Ways to Get Probiotics
You can get probiotics through your diet if you eat fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, lassi, natto, miso, and tempeh. When it comes to yogurt, make sure it’s organic, preferably grass fed, and contains “live active cultures” on the package. For a powerful probiotic boost, I recommend taking a supplement. Make sure it’s high quality and uses microencapsulation. This ensures the probiotics makes it through the stomach acids and into the intestines where you want them. For L. gasseri, you’ll want a supplement with colonies listed at 2 billion or better.
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- University of Michigan. Probiotics. University of Michigan Health System.
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- Ryuzo Deguchi, Hidemasa Nakaminami, Emiko Rimbara, et al. Effect of pretreatment with Lactobacillus gasseri OLL2716 on first-line Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 May; 27(5): 888-892. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2011.06985.x.
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