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What is a Probiotic 'Strain'?

Optibac Probiotics

You have probably heard the term before, but few people are actually aware of its precise meaning, nor of its importance.

A probiotic 'strain' is a particular biological variety within a species. For instance if we look at the probiotic species called acidophilus which exists within the Lactobacillus family, an example of a strain would be 'NCFM®' or 'Rosell-52'. In well marketed probiotic yoghurts the strain names are often cleverly chosen, like 'regularis' or 'immunitas' for example. The strain is important because it is the probiotic strain itself (and not just the family and species) which undergoes research - telling you about its ability to survive at room temperature, to survive the harsh stomach acidity & biliary salts, and its ability to adhere to the gut wall lining (which is necessary for the probiotic to multiply and exert its beneficial effects on the body). The strain research also indicates the number and quality of clinical trials the probiotic has undergone to demonstrate its performance in the body.

One should note that people (customers, retailers, manufacturers alike) often talk about the term probiotic 'strains' when they are actually referring to a probiotic species, or genus.

So, a probiotic genus, such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria (these are by far the two most common) refers to a 'family' of bacteria, and within this family there are different species, such as acidophilus or rhamnosus. Now, what some people fail to appreciate, is that even within a species, there are different strains. Some of these are well-researched, others are more or less unheard of! So make sure you are getting a good one.

This table should give further clarification of what we're banging on about:

Genus (or family) Species Strain
Lactobacillus Acidophilus Rosell-52
Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM®
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Rosell-11
Bifidobacterium Lactis BB-12®

Many probiotic manufacturers get away with selling generic probiotic species, either omitting the strain name completely, or simply using a strain name which doesn't mean anything.

I am a big fan of OptiBac Probiotics - a UK company that focuses on probiotics & prebiotics alone, and in particular they pay attention to their strains. You can trust that these are high quality, and tested for properties like surviving room temperature, as well as for specific benefits on the body - as different probiotic strains have been shown to have different modes of action in the human body.

Which strains do I need?

In particular look out for:-

wellbeing EXTRA Strength probiotic

1) Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® - probably the most researched strain of acidophilus in the world. Fantastic in particular for supporting the gut health of those with bloating (1), as well as supporting and maintaining bacterial gut health in people with conditions such as Candida overgrowth. Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® can be found in the daily probiotic, OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing EXTRA Strength . For daily wellbeing EXTRA Strength contains 4 other probiotics; different types will settle in different areas of the gut so it can be a good idea to take a daily probiotic which has various species and strains.

For bowel calm S. boulardii

2) Saccharomyces boulardii - a unique probiotic species which is great for diarrhoea (2) and Candida overgrowth(3). An enormous amount of research shows its ability to stop diarrhoea naturally - without blocking you up. In fact S. boulardii is prescribed in pharmacies across Europe - in countries such as France and Germany where customers often seek a more natural approach. Interestingly, one could say that S. boulardii is an exception to the rule - here strain is not so important, as its a probiotic yeast as opposed to bacteria. Saccharomyces boulardii can be found in OptiBac Probiotics For bowel calm . It can, and often should, be taken alongside a more 'normal' probiotic such as For daily wellbeing or For daily wellbeing EXTRA Strength ; as the strains in these daily probiotics will replenish healthy bacteria in the gut in the long term.

3) Also look out for the wonder strain Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® found in the newest product in the OptiBac range  'For maintaining regularity' - this probiotic has been extensively researched to support natural digestion and bowel regularity (4), and combined with prebiotics could provide a gentle, natural option for those with constipation who are looking to increase their fibre uptake and maintain regular bowel movements. If you are suffering, try this product, and let us know how you find it.

For further information on the complex subject of constipation, you might also like to view the web site

Other Optibac products to consider.

OptiBac Probiotics have specialised products with easy to recognise names such as 'For Your Child's Health' (probiotics for infants and children), 'For Travelling Abroad'   (for preventing loose bowels when travelling), 'For A Flat Stomach' (for helping with bloating and gas), 'For Daily Immunity' (probiotics with immune boosting herbs) and the fairly obviously named 'For Those on Antibiotics' .

Click here to check out OptiBac's full range .


1. Ringel, Y. et al. (2008) Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 improve symptoms of bloating in patients with function bowel disorders (FBD). Gastroenterology; Vol 134 (4 Suppl. 1): A459

2. McFarland, L.B. & bernasconi, P. (1993) Saccharomyces boulardii: A review of an innovative biotherapeutic agent. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease; Vol. 6 pp. 157-171.

3. Ducluzeau, R. & Bensaada, M.(1982) Comparative effect of a single sor continuous administration of Saccharomyces boulardii on the establishment of various strains of Candida in the digestive tract of gnobotic mice. Annales de microbiologie. (Inst Pasteur). 133: pp: 491 - 501.

4. Matsumoto, M. et al (2001) Effect of yoghurt with Bifidobacterium lacis BB-12 in improving fecal microflora and defecation of health volunteers. Journal of Intestinal Microbiology; 14(2): pp.97-1012

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        Tuesday 30th December 2003  
The products we provide are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Information and statements made are for educational purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your health care professional.
The Finchley Clinic Ltd does not dispense medical advice, prescribe or diagnose illness.
We provide nutritional products that may assist the body in its efforts to nutritionally rebuild and heal itself.
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