(Woodpath is an education site focused exclusively on gut health. Our articles are researched by clinical nutritionists and contain citations at the end of the page.)

Probiotics are not one size fits all. Each strain has its own unique purpose. Below we break down how specific probiotic strains are used to address symptoms resulting from the following health issues:

  • Digestive health
  • A poor immune system
  • Slow metabolism
  • Vaginal health concerns

The bottom of this page contains product recommendations. First, let's learn the science so we know which to choose.

Digestive Health

One of the most persistent and misunderstood conditions of digestive health is leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut is a condition where harmful bacteria, candida, undigested food, and toxins permeate or "leak" through the intestinal wall and flood the bloodstream.

Symptoms of leaky gut include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Gas or bloating
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sugar and or carb cravings
  • Joint pain
  • Poor immune system

Two causes of leaky gut are prolonged antibiotic use and a poor diet.

  • Antibiotics can wreck the digestive system by irritating and possibly damaging the intestines.
  • A poor diet consisting of foods heavy in sugar, gluten, alcohol, dairy, and caffeine can send your body into a tailspin. Your body may see these foods as toxic. It is recommended you try an elimination diet, including removing gluten and dairy from your diet for a few weeks. Gluten and dairy primary culprits when it comes to food intolerance and digestive distress. 

IBS and Leaky Gut

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common symptom stemming from poor digestive health.

Studies have found that an increase in intestinal permeability caused by leaky gut contributes to the onset of bowel diseases such as IBS. (Camilleri, Madsen, Spiller, Greenwood-Van Meerveld, & Verne 2012)  

An effective way to find relief from both leaky gut and IBS is to change your gut microbiota with probiotic strains geared toward promoting gut health.

These include the following probiotic strains (found in foods as well as supplement form):

  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium lactis

Foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt (which contains active cultures) can provide quality probiotic strains to promote better digestive health. However, high-quality probiotic supplements can offer a broader range of good bacteria, at a higher concentration of colony forming unit (CFU's).

Immune Health

Many factors can compromise a healthy immune system, including pregnancy, having kids who are in constant contact with germs, and the stresses of everyday life.

Probiotics can promote a stronger immune system — that’s because your intestines house roughly 70% of your immune system.

Gut dysbiosis — when your gut is out of balance — can negatively impact immune health. Increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut can help keep you healthy.

You can achieve this by taking probiotics specific to promoting immune health, including:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus Gg — Improves immune system functioning while also improving gut health. It helps reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections and illness. (Hojsak, Abdovic, Szajewska, Milosevic, Krznaric, & Kolacek 2010)
  • Lactobacillus paracasei — Improves immune system functioning. It can reduce the cold and flu by three days. (Rozzardini, Eskesen, Calder, Capetti, Jespersen, & Clerici 2012)
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus — Reduces and prevents cold and flu symptoms.

Slow Metabolism

Slower metabolism (and associated weight gain) comes naturally as we age.

Studies have shown that certain probiotics could potentially help women to not only lose weight — but keep it off.

Many overweight individuals have a different gut microbiota than their thinner counterparts. This could be due to various factors such as diets high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates — all which promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

Researchers attempted to answer whether if bad bacteria could inhibit weight loss, would introducing good gut bacteria — by way of probiotics — kickstart weight loss.

They found that probiotics could potentially help reset the body, balance the gut microbiota, and promote the continued growth of bacteria that aids in weight loss and supports healthy weight.

They also determined that probiotics alter the permeability of the intestinal wall, keeping harmful molecules out of the bloodstream. This can help prevent a chain of events that ultimately lead to obesity. (Sanchez, Darimont, Drapeau, Emady-Azar, Lepage, Rezzonico, Ngom-Bru, Berger, Philippe, Ammon-Zuffrey, Leone, Chevrier, St-Amand, Marette, Doré, & Tremblay 2013)

Probiotic strains linked to promoting weight loss include:

  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus amylovorus
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Make sure to pair probiotics with a healthy, balanced diet.

Vaginal Health

A woman’s reproductive system is an extremely delicate ecosystem. A disruption to this ecosystem can throw off pH levels and the intricate balance of good to bad bacteria — potentially leading to a host of issues.

Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Lactobacillus, and Gardnerella are strains of bacteria responsible for keeping the vagina in symbiosis. They are all responsible for maintaining the vagina's acidic pH levels.

This acidic environment protects women against opportunistic infections that may be caused by bacteria, yeast, or fungi overgrowth. When the pH levels are off, it can make women more susceptible to urinary tract infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections (yeast infections), and STD's.

The following can contribute to a vaginal pH imbalance:

  • Antibiotics
  • Douches
  • Soaps
  • Sexual intercourse

Fortunately, probiotics can maintain pH balance while offering several health benefits. Look for probiotics with differing strains of Lactobacillus such as:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus fermentum

Product Recommendations

As you can see, the term “probiotics” covers a wide range of strains — each with their own benefits. To complicate things further, probiotics may not be the best approach for your specific health issues. It depends on the root cause of your symptoms.

We recommend you work with your doctor to determine the right course of treatment for your symptoms. If probiotic supplements are your best option, we recommend the following: 

And, as always, you can get gut updates and stunning nature imagery from our popular Facebook page. Also, scroll down for our best gut articles.

Research Citations

  • Camilleri M, Madsen K, Spiller R, Greenwood-Van Meerveld B, & Verne GN. Intestinal barrier function in health and gastrointestinal disease. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2012;24:503–512. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2982.2012.01921.x.
  • Hojsak I, Abdovic S, Szajewska H, Milosevic M, Krznaric Z, & Kolacek S. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-2568.
  • Rozzardini G, Eskesen D, Calder PC, Capetti A, Jespersen L, & Clerici M. Evaluation of the immune benefits of two probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis, BB-12® and Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei, L. casei 431® in an influenza vaccination model: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;107(6):876-84. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100420X.
  • Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, Emady-Azar S, Lepage M, Rezzonico E, Ngom-Bru C, Berger B, Philippe L, Ammon-Zuffrey C, Leone P, Chevrier G, St-Amand E, Marette A, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition.2013; 1 doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003875
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