Article at a Glance
- Your gut is home to a diverse community of bacteria called the microbiome.
- A complex gut microbiome is essential to maximize your health throughout life.
- Are you thinking of trying an at-home gut health assessment? Here we provide a list of bacteria that you may find in your test results.
Interpreting your gut health test is just about as important as getting it done. You have the results, but what does all of this mean? Fortunately, we’ve broken down the 10 basic bacteria that will appear on your results.
The human gut is constantly exposed to the bacteria in the food we eat and the beverages we drink. So, humans have evolved to live with and even take advantage of the services that these bacteria can provide [R]. You may ask, what health services do bacteria offer? You can find out for yourself by sending off a sample of your feces for laboratory analysis. Companies now offer personalized services that can provide you with a snapshot of the bacteria living in your gut [R, R, R, R]. Here we list 10 beneficial bacteria you are likely to find in an analysis of your personal microbiome.
1. Lactobacillus acidophilus
As the name suggests, this bacteria ferments lactose sugar and produces lactic acid. Have you heard of the potentially deadly bacteria Listeria? It can contaminate the food supply line, resulting in nation-wide recalls [R]. Lactobacillus produces an antibiotic called nisin and nisin kills Listeria by forming holes in its cell membrane [R]. Adding fermented foods to your diet, like yogurt, can introduce lactobacillus to the gut.
2. Lactobacillus brevis
Biofilms are layers of bacteria that grow on living surfaces. Your gut is precisely that living surface for the gut microbiome. When you are healthy, bacteria cover the entire length of your intestines. This biofilm creates a barrier to potential pathogens. Candida albicans is a fungus that can overgrow the surfaces of your intestine when the biofilm is your gut is disturbed by prescription antibiotics or inflammation. Lactobacillus brevis produces an antibiotic that kills Candida albicans, and therefore promotes gut health [R]. Lactobacillus brevis can be found naturally in food like yogurt, pickles, and sourdough bread.
3. Escherichia coli
It seems like every year we hear about a new outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce [R]. Or about kidney failure caused by contaminated beef, so it is not surprising that E. coli has a poor reputation [R]. What if I told you that E. coli is a natural, healthy component of your gut? The E. coli present in a healthy gut can prevent colonization by pathogenic strains of E. coli [R]. In clinical trials, beneficial E. coli was shown to be as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs in treating symptoms of colitis [R]. Are you wondering how you can promote beneficial E. coli in your gut? Look for probiotic formulations that contain the E. coli strain, Nissle 1917 [R].
4. Bifidobacterium spp.
You may be harboring Bifidobacterium that you first encountered as a breastfeeding infant. This bacteria has been shown to be effective in the treatment of inflammation associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), allergies, and ulcerative colitis. It does this by converting the fiber in our diet into small chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate acts directly on immune cells to reduce inflammation of the gut [R]. In addition to taking probiotics that contain this group of bacteria, you can promote a healthy population of Bifidobacterium through a high fiber diet.
5. Streptococcus thermophilus
Are you lactose intolerant? This bacterium produces enzymes that break down lactose in dairy products. That’s not all. Maybe you suffer from anemia? Streptococcus thermophilus secretes folate during the fermentation of sugar. Folate is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to bind and transport oxygen throughout the body. Streptococcus thermophilus is used industrially to produce most of the yogurt you find at your local grocery store.
6. Bacteroides fragilis
Have you ever wondered what causes the feelings of butterflies in your stomach when you are excited or anxious? Well, that’s what some researchers are calling our “little brain.” The gut has hundreds of millions of nerves that communicate with the brain. So maybe it is not that surprising that our gut microbiome can directly impact our mood. A microbiome that is properly cared for may limit symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety [R]. Bacteroides spp. have been shown to produce large amounts of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works by blocking brain signals that are associated with major depressive disorder [R]. Formulations of over-the-counter probiotics contain this group of bacteria.
7. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii
In the United States, there are over 200,000 new cases of Crohn’s disease every year. People treated for Crohn’s disease were less likely to relapse when Faecalibacterium prausnitzii was part of their microbiome [R]. Doctors think that Faecalibacterium prausnitzii induces the expression of a protein, called IL-10. Your immune system uses IL-10 to inhibit immune responses to your gut microbiota. High fiber diets are important to maintain this bacteria in your gut.
8. Bacillus subtilis
Did you know that stomach ulcers can be caused by bacteria? Helicobacter pylori is well-known for causing gastric ulcers. If left untreated, these chronic ulcers can lead to stomach cancer. Bacillus subtilis has been shown to produce antibiotics in the gut that can prevent colonization by Heliobacter pylori [R]. Want to make sure this beneficial bacteria is in your gut? Bacillus subtilis is commonly found in soil, so just go outside and get dirty.
9. Saccharomyces boulardii
This is actually a type of yeast, not bacteria, but we are including it because of how important it is. Diarrhea caused by the bacterium, Clostridium difficile, is a large burden on global health. C. difficile secretes toxins that degrade the biofilm produced by a healthy microbiome. This allows it to come in contact with and attach to the lining of the gut. Saccharomyces boulardii inhibits infection by secreting enzymes that degrade C. difficile toxins [R]. Could this microbe be the secret to the health benefits of kombucha? Many people would have you think so [R].
10. Lactococcus lactis
Need an excuse to eat more cheese? Look no further than Wisconsin. Lactococcus lactis is widely used in cheese making and was proposed to be the state microbe [R]. Given what we know about the role of bacteria in gut health, it may not be surprising that antibiotics have a significant impact on the gut. L. lactis has been shown to limit the adverse effects of antibiotic-induced diarrhea [R]. Like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactococcus lactis produces an antibiotic called nisin that is toxic to pathogenic bacteria.
There are over 100 trillion bacterial cells in our gut, and they are made up of as many as 1000 species. Scientists have only scratched the surface of the role of bacteria in the maintenance of human health. Do you want to maximize the beneficial properties of your own microbiome? One thing scientists and physicians agree upon is that a varied diet promotes a healthy gut by maintaining a diverse bacterial community. Find a functional or integrative physician who can help you develop a diet suited to your personal microbiome in our directory.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.