Lactobacillus is what many people think of when they think of probiotics especially the acidophilus version. However there are many types of Lactobacillus in the GI tract. Lactobacillus are a rod shaped bacteria that gets its name from the fact that they product lactic acid. They are a part of the normal flora in the GI tract and the GU tract. Lactobacillus reuteri is the most common occurring bacteria in the GI tract. Some of the other common Lactobacillus include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus sporogenes and more.
Lactobacilli are friendly bacteria and they help to stabilize the mucosal barrier of the intestines and help decrease permeability. Decreasing permeability helps the Lactobacillus to keep toxins from entering the blood stream from the colon. Lactobacilli are especially helpful after using antibiotics. The antibiotic can kill the normal Lactobacilli and as a result allow colonization of bad bacteria. Bad bacteria can result in diarrhea and GI problems. The Lactobacilli can adhere to mucous membrane and compete with the bad bacteria from taking the same position and reduce the chances the bad bacteria will colonize. Also Lactobacilli produce lactic acid and lactic acid inhibits bad bacteria from growing. Besides producing lactic acid some Lactobacilli produce Hydrogen peroxide which can kill other bacteria and keep the vaginal flora healthy. The lactic acid also lower pH in the vagina and this keeps bacteria from growing, just like cranberry does for the urinary tract.
Lactobacilli have immunomodulating effects where they seem to help modulate cytokine production. Lactobacilli may also down-regulate immune systems that are over active and up-regulate hypoactive immune systems.
Lactobacilli aren’t all the same in their ability to modulate immune function and inhibit the bad bacteria. Certain species seem to be more effective at helping different conditions.
Conditions Possibly Helped by Lactobacilli
- Eczema in infants with milk allergies – Lactobacillus GG seems to help reduce symptoms.
- Diarrhea due to antibiotics – Lactobacillus rhamnosus decreased frequency and improved consistency; other combinations have also been tried and found effective.
- Bacteria vaginal infections – Lactobacillus acidophilus has shown to be somewhat helpful. Also Lactobacillus GR-1™ and Lactobacillus RC-14™ have been shown to help protect the vaginal tract.
- Colic – Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to reduce crying time in babies.
- Diarrhea has been helped by Lactobacillus GG
- H pylori – inflammation helped by Lactobacillus johnsoni and Lactobacillus gasseri
- Irritable bowel syndrome – Some relief of symptoms has been found using Lactobacillus plantarum 299v
- Respiratory infections – Lactobacillus GG has shown to reduce absence in children in daycare centers. See also Bifidobacterium.
- Travelers diarrhea – Some reduction in symptoms with Lactobacillus GG
- Usually none
- Occasional gas and flatulence
- May cause infection in severely immunocompromised individuals
Disease in Which to Avoid Lactobacillus
- Short Bowel Syndrome
- Usually 1-10 billion total taken in 3 doses
- Diarrhea prevention – Lactobacillus GG 10-20 billion daily