Published January 30, 2024 We hear about probiotics almost daily from podcast sponsors, Instagram ads, marketing emails, etc. The term “probiotics” has become such a buzzword in the wellness space lately that it’s often hard to know what to believe and where to begin. So let’s go back to basics for a moment. By definition, probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that maintain or improve the “good” bacteria in your body and exert beneficial effects on your health. Essentially, there are two main kinds (or genuses) of probiotic bacteria that you need to know: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacilli are mainly found in your small intestine and vagina while Bifidobacteria exist mostly in your large intestine, aka colon. There is some crossover in the roles they play in your body, like breaking down carbs from your food which later get turned into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) through fermentation.Aside from their respective locations in your body, the main difference between the two genuses is that Lactobacilli are much more diverse, with a whopping 170 recognized species. So which of these are best for women? Let’s take a look at the different species and strains and what they’re helpful for. For urinary tract health: Lactobacillus acidophilus Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lactobacillus crispatus For vaginal health: Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lactobacillus reuteri Lactobacillus paracasei Lactobacillus fermentum For bloating: Lactobacillus acidophilus Bacillus coagulans For constipation Bifidobacterium lactis Lactobacillus plantarum Bifidobacterium animalis For diarrhea (both IBS + traveler’s diarrhea): Saccharomyces boulardii Lactobacillus casei For digestion: Bifidobacterium longum Bifidobacterium breve Bifidobacterium animalis Lactobacillus plantarum Lactobacillus acidophilus For skin health: Lactobacillus acidophilus Lactobacillus reuteri Lactobacillus casei Lactobacillus plantarum Bifidobacterium longum For fertility: All Lactobacilli How to get more of these probiotics Food! Lactobacillus acidophilus is found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and kombucha and tempeh. It’s often added to yogurt and other cultured dairy products like kefir, cottage cheese, milk and cheeses. Bifidobacteria are also found in all fermented foods but are less common in dairy products since most include Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Lactobacillus acidophilus. Interestingly, Icelandic yogurt, called Skyr, is made with Icelandic bacterial cultures that include Bifidobacterium. Supplementation It’s best to choose a probiotic formula that contains a blend of bacterial strains so as to not throw off the delicate balance of bacteria in your microbiome. You’ll also want to find a supplement that uses probiotic strains that complement each other as opposed to competing against one another. To check if a probiotic has a synergistic blend of probiotics, look for proof of clinical studies that support the use of these bacteria together. Next up: colony forming units (CFUs). This is how the industry quantifies the number of live bacteria in a probiotic. Ideally, you want a minimum of 1 billion CFUs to ensure that you’re ingesting a significant amount of viable bacterial cells in each capsule. And the last piece to consider when looking for a probiotic supplement is the survivability of the bacterial strains. Since your stomach is incredibly acidic, it’s common for probiotics to die here before reaching your gut. Soil-based bacteria (like those found in Bloat BFF) are able to survive harsh environments due to their unique spores that act as protective shields. Similarly, certain strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus are considered resistant to acid, since they’ve evolved to exist in extreme environments, so they are quite effective. Other ways that companies can make probiotics more likely to reach your gut are novel methods such as microencapsulation technology and heat-inactivation. Now you know what to look for on the packaging!