Probiotic Bacteria: Specific Strains for Specific Purposes
Different types of cultured foods contain different strains of beneficial bacteria in varying quantities. Each strain has its own properties and functions. Not all their names and functions are well-known, so let’s introduce some of them to you.
Cultured Dairy Foods
Many people enjoy cultured dairy foods such as cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, crème fraiche, yogurt, kefir, and others.
Each cultured dairy product is made from a number of strains of probiotic bacteria. Let’s look at two popular cultured dairy products, yogurt and kefir.
Probably the most recognizable strains of probiotic bacteria are often found in yogurt and other cultured dairy products. These include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, streptococcus thermophilus and others. Sometimes other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are added during or after culturing yogurt.
Some commercial yogurt producers use clever marketing to make claims that their products provide specific health benefits. They put together a combination of naturally-occurring bacteria in the laboratory, invent a new name for it, trademark it, and then claim that it’s exclusive to their products.
What is not so well known is that the L. acidophilus* bacteria strain found in most commercial yogurts is not hardy enough to live through the digestive secretions of stomach acids and bile.
Kefir is a tart cultured dairy beverage that has become popular in recent years. The origin of the word “kefir” is likely to be the Turkish word “Keif”, which means “good feeling”. The name of the bacteria strain that kefir contains is L.caucasicus - from the Caucasus Mountains where it is said that shepherds often lived over 100 years on a diet mainly of kefir.
You can buy kefir as a commercially prepared drink, but it’s worth knowing that making kefir at home is very easy, and it provides many more strains of friendly bacteria. In fact, if you use real kefir grains, in addition to L. caucasicus, your kefir will contain approximately 25 more types of probiotic bacteria strains! It’s generally accepted that kefir probiotic strains in kefir can colonize the gut.
Note that most commercially packaged products may contain other added ingredients, some of which may be undesirable. It’s a good idea to read the labels carefully!
Caldwell’s use their own unique, scientifically-developed starter culture that makes the fermentation process more reliable, and produces consistent and beneficial results. It contains three bacteria specifically suited for fermenting vegetables: L. plantarum, L. mesenteroides, and P. acidilactici*.
So let’s get to know these bacteria:
Although most often used in fermenting vegetables such as pickles and sauerkraut, this strain is also used in the fermentation of sourdough bread, sorghum beer and cassava. A couple of its characteristics are that it initiates the desirable lactic acid, and it tolerates a high range of salt and sugar.
The ability of L. mesenteroides to lower the pH level very rapidly helps to protect the vegetables from developing harmful bacteria. It also helps to preserve the color of the vegetables and stabilizes ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
This strain is mainly used for making fermented vegetables and beer. It reduces food spoilage by inhibiting pathogens and actively competes against Listeria. P. acidilactici is very resistant to destruction by stomach acids and helps to balance the intestinal microflora in the digestive system.
This strain is commonly used to ferment sauerkraut and salami. Many claims of health benefits are attributed to L. plantarum, most significantly connected to digestive health: “… recently it has been discovered that it also promotes a normal digestive health and can be used as an effective treatment for colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.”
Here are a few of the other commonly reported health benefits of L. plantarum:
- Preserving key nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants
- Manufacturing vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, vitamins A and K, and short chain of fatty acids
- Contributing to the destruction of molds, viruses, and parasites
- Helping to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Increasing the number of immune system cells
- Providing protection from environmental toxins, such as pesticides and pollutants
- Reducing toxic waste at the cellular level
- Stimulating the repair mechanism of cells
- Synthesizing the anti-viral amino acid, L-lysine
- Eliminating toxic components from food, including nitrates
Cultured raw foods vs. supplements
There are many brands and types of probiotic supplements on the market, and many of these are excellent products. However, some may not be sufficiently resistant to stomach acids. They may lose their viability if stored at the wrong temperature or for too long, and this could also reduce the bacteria count. Depending on the brand, many probiotic supplements can be expensive.
*The main name of a strain is often shown using just its initial, for example, L. for Lactobacillus and P. for Pediococcus.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Information provided in this article is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or to any other individual. This is general information for educational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call, consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. Wise Choice Marketing Inc is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through Wise Choice Marketing Inc.