Health Benefits of Lactobacillus Gasseri

Probiotic strain offers specific digestive and vaginal properties

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In recent years, a probiotic known as Lactobacillus gasseri has gained a great deal of popularity and attention. Also known as "beneficial bacteria" or "good bacteria," probiotics are found naturally in the human body and in certain foods. When taken in dietary supplement form, Lactobacillus gasseri is said to reduce inflammation and offer other health benefits.

Lactobacillus gasseri is a strain of the genus Lactobacillus, a family of bacteria naturally found in the digestive and urinary tracts. The bacteria is thought to help the body by suppressing harmful bacteria, which, in turn, enhances immune function and aids in digestion.

Lactobacillus gasseri is but one of several probiotic bacteria, which also include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus infanti, and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Health Benefits

Probiotics are generally regarded as beneficial to digestive health. They also help maintain "healthy" vaginal flora and aid in weight loss.

For its part, Lactobacillus gasseri is believed to offer specific health benefits, either on its own or in combination with other probiotic bacteria. These include the prevention of bacterial vaginosis and peptic ulcers as well as the control of ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and endometrial pain.

Here is a look at several studies investigating the purported benefits of Lactobacillus gasseri:

Weight Loss

A number of clinical trials and animal-based studies have suggested that Lactobacillus gasseri may help reduce abdominal fat and support weight loss.

Among them is a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in which 210 obese adults were given either milk enriched with Lactobacillus gasseri or a placebo milk. After 12 weeks, the Lactobacillus group experienced an 8.5 reduction in abdominal fat compared to the placebo group.

Despite the promising results, the same conclusions have not been reached in other studies.

According to a 2013 study published in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 62 obese adults given a 12-week course of Lactobacillus gasseri experienced no significant weight changes compared to adults given a placebo.

While the bacterial subtypes used in each study may explain the differences, more research will likely be needed to determine the exact role Lactobacillus gasseri plays in weight loss and what other factors may contribute, perhaps more significantly.

Vaginal Health

Lactobacillus strains are known to promote vaginal health by suppressing harmful bacteria and fungi. However, consuming probiotics in food or supplement form may not be enough to stave off more hardy vaginal infections.

According to a 2015 study published in BMC Infectious Diseases, Lactobacillus gasseri is far more effective in reducing the recurrence of bacterial vaginosis when taken by suppository than by mouth.

Similarly, the contention that oral probiotics can prevent yeast infections does not always hold true. This is especially true after antibiotic therapy when the risk of vaginal candidiasis is high. While Lactobacillus suppositories have proven beneficial in treating yeast infections, probiotic-rich foods and supplements have been less so.

On the other hand, Lactobacillus gasseri may help lessen menstrual pain in women with endometriosis, suggests a small study published in the journal Cytotechnology in 2011.

The study, conducted by the Food Science Institute in Japan, involved 66 women with endometriosis who were given either a Lactobacillus gasseri tablet or a placebo. Those provided the probiotic reported less severe menstrual pain after 12 weeks, although no changes in blood tests or other exams were noted.

Bowel Diseases

Lactobacillus is among the probiotic bacteria believed to offer relief from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A 2011 review of studies published in the journal Ulcers concluded that Lactobacillus gasseri exerted anti-inflammatory effects in the colon beneficial to the reduction of IBS and ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Where it appeared less effective is in the actual prevention of bowel infection. For this, probiotic strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Saccharomyces boulardii are more able to reduce the recurrence of IBD or IBS when used in combination with convention therapies.

H. Pylori Infection

In a 2014 review of studies published in PLoS One, scientists evaluated the effects of probiotic supplements on the eradication of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria known to be the predominant cause of stomach ulcers.

According to the current research, H. pylori eradication rates are consistently higher in people prescribed antibiotics with a probiotic (including Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus acidophilus) than those provided antibiotics alone.

It is not known how much more or less effective Lactobacillus gasseri is in helping treat H. pylori than other probiotic strains.

Possible Side Effects

Probiotics like Lactobacillus gasseri are considered safe with few short-term or long-term risks. In some cases, Lactobacillus gasseri may trigger side effects such as gas and bloating. Most cases are mild and tend to improve as your body adapts to the supplement.

The only people who may need to avoid Lactobacillus are those with compromised immune systems. These include people with advanced HIV infection, organ transplant recipients, and others taking immunosuppressive drugs for cancer and other conditions.

Without an intact immune system, it is possible that probiotic bacteria can overgrow. In rare cases, Lactobacillus can cause an infection in the chambers of the heart and heart valves.

If you have a weakened immune system or are taking immunosuppressive medications like prednisone, methotrexate, or Sandimmune (cyclosporine), speak with your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement.

The use of Lactobacillus in children and during pregnancy or breastfeeding has been under-researched. While it is generally considered safe, speak with your pediatrician or OB/GYN to fully understand the benefits and risks (including whether you need a probiotic or not).

Dosage and Preparation

Lactobacillus gasseri supplements are available in many grocery stores, drugstores, and health food stores, either as a single supplement or as part of a combination probiotic. Lactobacillus suppositories and vaginal capsules are less commonly used in the United States but can often be found online.

The strength of Lactobacillus products is indicated by the number of living organisms per capsule or tablet. When used to promote digestive or vaginal health, doses ranging from 1 to 10 billion colony forming units (CFU) per day are considered safe.

When treating an acute medical condition, higher dosages may be required. Examples include:

  • Antibiotic-induced diarrhea: 10 to 100 CFU daily in three to four divided doses
  • Constipation: 200 to 400 CFU daily in three to four divided doses
  • H. pylori infection: up to 15 billion CFU daily along with triple antibiotic therapy

What to Look For

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies probiotics like Lactobacillus gasseri as dietary supplements. Under this classification, they neither require clinical research nor quality testing to reach store shelves. Because of this, the quality can vary from one brand to the next, sometimes considerably.

To ensure quality and safety, only choose brands that have been tested and certified by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.

Other Questions

Do you really need a probiotic?

If you haven't any problems with your digestive or vaginal health, you more than likely are getting all the probiotic bacteria you need from food. Lactobacillus gasseri is also found in certain fermented foods such as Puba or carimã (a Brazilian staple food). You can also increase your Lactobacillus intake by consuming fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, tempeh, miso, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Even if you find it hard to keep regular (a not-uncommon occurrence as you age), you may able to maintain normal bowel movements with probiotic foods and fiber rather than with pills. If not, a daily probiotic may give you the boost you need.

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