Do you have a dog?
I’m more of a cat person myself, but I love dogs, too.
So what does this have to do with probiotics?
See, I used to think probiotics were pretty simple:
You had good bacteria living in your gut. Sometimes you had to take antibiotics which killed the good and the bad bacteria, so then you took probiotics to get more good bacteria in your gut again.
But the more expert doctors I talk to, the more I understand: probiotics are a very complex topic!
That’s why I love any kind of analogy or explanation that makes understanding probiotics more simple – and when I sat down with Dr. Jason Hawrelak for his Masterclass, I was ecstatic to hear he had a very simple yet powerful analogy to share. (A big thank you to Dr. Hawrelak for teaching us all this powerful information!)
If you find it useful, make sure you check out Dr. Hawrelak’s Masterclass, What Every SIBO Patient Needs To Know About Their Microbiome And Probiotics.”
Genus Vs. Species Vs. Strains of Probiotics
The first important thing to understand is that there are both species and strains of different probiotics.
Take Bacillus Subtilis HU58 (one of the ingredients in Just Thrive Probiotic) for example.
Bacillus is the genus.
Subtilis is the species.
And at the very end, there should also be a designation for the strain. In this case it’s HU58.
Not all probiotic manufacturers list the strain of the probiotic they’re using – sometimes they just list the genus and species.
Why Does The Strain Matter?
Knowing which strain of a probiotic you’re taking is really important because characteristics of probiotics are strain specific.
That means that what makes a probiotic unique – and potentially helpful or harmful for people with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or other health conditions is the strain!
That means one strain of Bacillus Subtilis could be helpful and another strain of Bacillus Subtilis could be harmful.
I know it’s a little confusing to conceptualize, and that’s where Dr. Hawrelak’s analogy comes in.
How Probiotics Are Like Dogs
The scientific name for dogs is Canis familiaris.
Canis is the genus.
Familiaris is the species.
And then beyond that designation, there are different breeds of dogs.
Poodles, Bull Mastiffs, Cocker Spaniels – they’re all Canis familiaris.
But they’re all very unique!
Characteristics of dogs – from intelligence to personality, to size, shape, and color, are all breed specific.
You don’t know much about a dog unless you know what breed it is. And you don’t know much about a probiotic unless you know what strain it is!
Strain Specific Probiotic Qualities
Just like dogs have specific qualities based on what breed they are, probiotics have specific qualities based on what strain they are.
Here are some of the qualities of probiotics that are strain specific:
- Shell stability
- Resistance to bile or stomach acid exposure
- Adherence ability
- Adherence mechanism
- Where it can colonize
- Capacity to produce antimicrobial compounds
Different Dogs Are For Different Jobs
We know that different breeds of dogs are suited for different jobs.
Some breeds make perfect family pets. Others are better-suited for a working life on a farm.
If you put a herding breed of dog into a family, it will try and herd the kids (not always a good thing).
If you put a family pet onto a farm, it will just stare at the cows (it doesn’t have the herding instinct!).
It’s just the same for strains of probiotics.
If you want a probiotic that can have a therapeutic effect in the colon, but it can’t survive being exposed to stomach acid – it’s not the right probiotic for the job.
Where We Go Wrong
Most people don’t pay attention to the probiotic strain – they just look at the genus and species.
But now we know that’s like pretending all dogs are the same, when we know they the breed of dog makes a huge impact on their specific qualities.
But it’s not just us (the consumers) that make this mistake…
Probiotic Red Flags
Some probiotic manufacturers and researchers ignore the strains of probiotics, too.
Often, just the genus and species of a probiotic are listed on supplement labels.
Even worse, researchers will take data from research done on one strain of a probiotic, and assume it applies to ALL other probiotics in the same genus and species.
But we know a Corgi and a St. Bernard are VERY different – even if they are the same genus and species.
Some probiotics in the same species might be very similar – like the difference between a Golden Retriever and a Labrador Retriever. But scientists don’t know for sure unless they study each strain.
How To Use This Information
When you’re researching probiotics or reading the back of the supplement bottle, make sure you look for strain designations.
And don’t be discouraged – understanding the importance of probiotic strains is a critical step toward healing!
Knowing which specific strains have been studied and shown to help treat SIBO and other conditions means you’re more likely to get the results you want – and less likely to waste money on probiotics that don’t work for you.
New research on specific strains is becoming more and more common – and that means more hope for healing for us!
One strain I’m really excited about is the Shirota strain of L. casei. According to Dr. Hawrelak, in one research study 64% of people cleared their SIBO with this strain! And even better? This strain is commercially available in Yakult yogurt drinks.
This is just one of the many exciting developments that are happening now in probiotics and SIBO.
How To Find Specific Strains For Your Conditions
Want to find the exact strain that will help your symptoms?
Make sure you check out Dr. Hawrelak’s Masterclass, What Every SIBO Patient Needs To Know About Their Microbiome And Probiotics.
P.S. Was this analogy a useful tool for you? I’d love to know if it helped you as much as it helped me.