Benign bacteria, commonly known as probiotics, often have long and complicated names and it can be difficult to distinguish the different types from each other. There is, however, a system for naming probiotics that makes it easier to understand the different properties of the various bacteria and what effects they have.
There are trillions of different bacteria in our intestines that belong to a variety of different strains, all of which have different properties and functions. In order to distinguish these bacteria from each other they are often named at three different levels: genus, species and strain. The highest level is the genus, for example Lactobacillus, which is a genus of bacteria commonly found in probiotic and synbiotic supplements. Within the genus there are then various species, such as plantarum and paracasei. The bacterium in each species can also belong to a specific strain that is usually named using a combination of numbers and/or letters. For example, one of the bacterial strains in our dietary supplement Synbiotic belongs to the genus Lactobacillus, the species plantarum and the strain 2362.
The bacteria are divided into genera and species based on the characteristics and properties they possess. But even at the lowest level – the strain – there are clear differences between the different types of bacteria. Bacteria that belong to the same genus and species, but different strains, can differ significantly with respect to how they act inside the body. Research on the effects of lactic acid bacteria on humans or animals is therefore often conducted at the stem level.
Lactic acid bacteria are living organisms that are affected by, and interact with, their environment. For example, many bacteria are sensitive to moisture and warmth. Bacteria also interact with each other and the effectiveness of different combinations of bacterial strains varies. There are, for example, bacterial strains that can increase each other’s potency and, on the opposite end, some types of bacteria that compete with each other. When choosing dietary supplements with lactic acid bacteria, it is therefore important that not only the individual types of bacteria have been studied, but also that the entire combination of bacteria has been studied.
Another way to distinguish different types of bacteria is to divide them up into gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. In general it can be said that gram-negative bacteria are so-called malignant bacteria – this, for example, includes bacteria in the genera Salmonella and Legionella. The gram-positive bacteria include benign bacterial genera such as Lactobacillus, but there are also pathogenic gram-positive bacteria that can cause disease, such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus.
No two gut floras are exactly alike and it is therefore important to remember that different bacteria and supplements can have different effects depending on the individual. In general, however, it is important that the types of bacteria you ingest have been studied and have been proven to be effective in combination with other bacteria and substances used. And don’t forget that it can take some time for the body to get used to a new supplement. After that you just have to play it by ear!