Types of Probiotics

There are several types of probiotics (most commonly known are probiotics from the Bifidobacteria and Lactoibacilli group). Probiotics have different characteristics and they act differently in the body. Learn about their properties and how they can help you maintain your health.

Many types of organisms are described as probiotics. Most of them are bacteria, but some are also beneficial types of yeast.

When you are considering probiotics, you should be aware that they are classified by genus, species, and strain. For example, for the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, the genus is Lactobacillus, the species is rhamnosus, and the strain is GG.

Probiotics are widely different – they have different properties, they offer different health benefits, and they populate different areas of the intestines. That is why you can't assume that properties of one probiotic strain can be applied to another strain – even if they both belong to the same species.

Most commonly known probiotics are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These 2 groups are among the usual inhabitants of the human gut and are found in most probiotic supplements on the market.


There are about 30 species of Bifidobacteria. These bacteria appear in the intestines within days after birth, especially in breastfed babies and in babies delivered by natural birth (gut and vaginal bacteria are passed from the mother to the infant during childbirth and with breast milk).

Bifidobacteria are part of the lactic group bacteria. They can be found in fermented dairy products, such as yogurts and certain cheeses.

Bifidobacteria used in probiotic supplements commonly include:

  • Bifidobacterium Bifidum,
  • Bifodobacterium Longum
  • Bifidobacterium Pseudolongum
  • Bifidobacterium Breve,
  • Bifidobacterium Lactis,
  • Bifidobacterium Thermophilum,
  • Bifidobactzerium Infantis.

Studies have shown that Bifidobacteria offer the following benefits:

  • Help relieve the symptoms of IBS (Bifidobacterium Infantis),
  • Lower elevated cholesterol levels,
  • Improve glucose tolerance (Bifidobacterium Lactis Bb12),
  • Help with infections in small children (used in combination with Streptococcus Thermopiles),
  • Alleviate diarrhea in infants and small children,
  • Prevent traveler’s diarrhea, 
  • Help treating atopic eczema in infants,
  • Used for treatment of pouchitis – a condition that sometimes develops after surgery for ulcerative colitis,
  • Reduce the symptoms of Helicobacter Pylori infection and increase the rate of eradication when used in combination with the standard antibiotic treatment,
  • Help control the symptoms of ulcerative colitis (used in combination with certain Lactobacilli and Streptococcus,
  • Used for treating vaginal yeast infections (in combination with antifungal medications)
  • Some studies suggest that a combination of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus Acidophillus (called HOWARU Protect) might improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of infectious diseases and colds in children.


Like Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli are also part of the lactic group. Bacteria from this group convert lactose and other sugars to lactic. They make the intestines and vagina more acidic, thus creating an environment that inhibits the growth of bad (pathogenic) bacteria.

Lactobacillus species are found in yogurt, cheese, beer, wine, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, and other fermented products.

Currently, the genus Lactobacillus includes over 180 species. Among most prominent members of this group are:

  • Lactobacillus Casei,
  • Lactobacillus Acidophillus,
  • Lactobacillus Salivarius,
  • Lactobacillus Buchneri,
  • Lactobacillus Reuteri
  • Lactobacillus Dds-1,
  • Lactobacillus Bulgaricus,
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus,
  • Lactobacillus Johnsonii,
  • Lactobacillus Gasseri.

Lactobacilli have many beneficial functions. They moderate the immune function; they suppress the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, and help keep a healthy intestinal microflora. They also show anti-cancer properties and fight off inflammation.

On the negative side, some Lactobacilli decompose plant material and are responsible for the spoilage of vegetables, fruits, and other food – Lactobacillus Casei and Lactobacillus Brevis are, for example, the ones that are most often to blame for spoiling of beer.

Lactobacilli have many health benefits:

  • They help with diarrhea that develops after antibiotic use
  • They help with rotavirus and other infectious diarrhea (especially in children)
  • Lactobacilli (specifically Lactobacillus Gasseri an Lactobacillus Rhamnosus) have been found to be beneficial with bacterial vaginal infections (when applied vaginally)
  • Vaginal application of Lactobacilli prolongs the time between vaginal yeast infections
  • They help support the function of the immune system
  • Lactobacilli alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance
  • They ease the symptoms of IBS
  • Lactobacilli help prevent travel-related diarrhea

Saccharomyces boulardii

Saccharomyces boulardii is a type of yeast, which acts as probiotic. It was first characterized by Henri Boulard, who noticed that the natives in Southeast Asia chew lychee and mangosteen to ease the symptoms of cholera. He isolated the active ingredient from the skin of these fruits and discovered beneficial yeast from the family of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.

Saccharomyces boulardii has long been used to alleviate the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. It shows antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects in the bowel. It helps the body eliminate toxic bacteria from the gut and protects the intestinal lining. It also boosts the action of the immune system by increasing the secretion of immunoglobin A in the gut.

Saccharomyces boulardii has been effectively used for:

  • Treating infectious diarrhea (diarrhea due to rotavirus, salmonella, E. Coli, cholera infection etc.)
  • Helps with diarrhea related to antibiotic use
  • Offers help with IBS (due to its ability to ease the inflammation in the intestines)
  • Prevents the reoccurrence of Clostridium Difficile (a special kind of bacterial infection that is hard to treat and is often recurring)
  • Saccharomyces boulardii is also used for gastrointestinal problems, related to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and bacterial overgrowth in the gut
  • Moderately effective for treating vaginal yeast infections and UTIs
  • Used for relieving acne

Streptococcus Thermophilus

Streptococcus Thermophilus is classified as lactic acid bacteria. It is found in fermented milk products and is often used for making yogurt and cheese. This bacterium enables stable fermentation and is the one that takes care that dairy products have consistent taste and texture.

 Streptococcus Thermophilus helps with:

  • Chemotherapy induced mucositis (inflammation in the intestine tissues) - Streptococcus Thermophilus enables faster return of normal cell function after the damage caused by chemotherapy
  • Helps prevent intestinal cancer
  • S. Thermophilus is beneficial with diarrhea
  • Alleviates the symptoms of lactose intolerance

Enterococcus Phaecium

This is a type of probiotic bacteria, which is commonly found in the gut.

There were a few probiotic supplements that contained Enterococcus Phaecium, which were sold in UK and Denmark for several years.

However, studies have found that this bacterium can lead to serious, potentially even fatal infections – especially in patients with compromised immune systems. Treatment for this bacterium requires multi-drug approach as it seems resistant to certain types of antibiotics. That is why it is not advisable to ingest probiotic supplements or foods that contain Enterococcus Phaecium.


Leuconostoc bacteria are commonly involved in the process of fermentation, used for making many fermented foods, including sauerkraurt and kefir. They rarely cause disease in humans. If they do cause an infection, they can be hard to treat as they are resistant to some types of antibiotics.

You might also be interested in:

  1. Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders. Theodoros Kelesidis. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296087/
  2. Saccharomyces boulardii effects on gastrointestinal diseases. Zanello G1, Meurens F, Berri M, Salmon H. Current Issues in Molecular Biology. 2008 June. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18780946
  3. The Probiotic VSL#3 Has Anti-inflammatory Effects and Could Reduce Endoscopic Recurrence After Surgery for Crohn's Disease. Fedorak RN, Feagan BG, Hotte N, Leddin D, Dieleman LA, Petrunia DM, Enns R, Bitton A, Chiba N, Paré P, Rostom A0, Marshall J1, Depew W2, Bernstein CN1, Panaccione R, Aumais G, Steinhart AH, Cockeram A, Bailey RJ, Gionchetti P, Wong C, Madsen K. 2014 Nov. Clinicacl gastroenterology and hepatology. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25460016
  4. Probiotics: an update. Vandenplas Y, Huys G, Daube G. Jornal de pediatria. 2015 January. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25458874
  5. Impact of personalized diet and probiotic supplementation on inflammation, nutritional parameters and intestinal microbiota - The "RISTOMED project": Randomized controlled trial in healthy older people. Valentini L, Pinto A, Bourdel-Marchasson I, Ostan R, Brigidi P, Turroni S, Hrelia S, Hrelia P, Bereswill S, Fischer A, Leoncini E, Malaguti M, Blanc-Bisson C, Durrieu J, Spazzafumo L, Buccolini F, Pryen F, Donini LM, Franceschi C, Lochs H. Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Oct. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25453395
  6. Modulation of immunity and inflammatory gene expression in the gut, in inflammatory diseases of the gut and in the liver by probiotics. Plaza-Diaz J, Gomez-Llorente C, Fontana L, Gil A. World journal of gastroenterology. 2014 Nov. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25400447
  7. Probiotic Enterococcus faecium Strain Is a Possible Recipient of the vanA Gene Cluster. Bodil Lund and Charlotta Edlund. Clinical infectious diseases. June 2000. http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/9/1384.full

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