There are many types of bacteria living inside our body, especially in our gut. Many of these bacteria are good ones that offer various health benefits. They are considered as probiotics that help promote healthy gut and immune system However, once there is bacterial imbalance, you could become sick. This is why probiotic supplements are developed and used to address such imbalance and promote gut health.
Nature and history of Lactobacillus rhamnosus
One common type of probiotic that is found in our intestines is called Lactobacillus rhamnosus. They belong to the genus Lactobacillus, which produce lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactose is sometimes called milk sugar, a type of carbohydrate found in milk and dairy products.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus had been subject to hundreds of clinical studies and trials. It is known to have numerous health benefits. These include applications in diarrhea, infant allergies, bacterial infections, and respiratory illnesses, among others.
There are different strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The popular one and the earliest strain discovered is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. It was discovered by Sherwood Gorbach and Barry Goldin, thus the “GG” at the end of its name. It was discovered in 1985 as they were attempting to isolate a strain of lactobacillus that would qualify to be probiotic. These probiotic characteristics include the following:
- Resistance to acids in the stomach and bile so it can endure going to the lower gastrointestinal tract;
- Ability to effectively implant and colonize in the human intestines, particularly the intestinal epithelial cells (IECs);
- Fast growth rate
- Production of an antimicrobial substance; and
- Ability to benefit health.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG was said to be the first strain that belongs to the Lactobacillus genus to be patented in 1989.
Potential Benefits of Lactobacillus rhamnosus
The Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotic is deemed to have longer-term benefits as it has a better chance of survival even with the acidic condition of our body. Aside from the mentioned characteristics of probiotics, its proteins prevent the growth of certain bad bacteria like Salmonella species.
L. rhamnosus also promotes the growth of other beneficial bacteria like Bacteroides, Clostridia, and bifidobacteria, thus making our bodies healthier.
When taken orally, Lactobacillus rhamnosus sticks to the intestine’s mucous membrane, helping keep the gastrointestinal microflora in balance. This probiotic is also observed to promote gut-barrier functions, as well as help prevent the production of carcinogens by the bad bacteria in the intestines. It also potentially boosts the immune system during bacterial infections.
Here are the more popular potential applications of L.rhamnosus:
1. Helps in preventing and treating diarrhea
Diarrhea can be caused by different factors, such as antibiotic intake, viral infection,and bacterial infection. L. rhamnosus have been observed to aid in preventing and reducing the occurrence of diarrhea.
Antibiotics disrupt the human gut microbiota or the ecological community of microorganisms in our gut, causing digestive symptoms like diarrhea. L. rhamnosus were seen to reduce the chance of diarrhea by 60-70 percent when taken within 2 days from the onset of antibiotic treatment and continued until 3 days after completing the antibiotic intake. This may suggest the restorative role of L. rhamnosus in keeping the microbial balance in our gut.
In addition, as healthy bacteria are also destroyed along with the bad bacteria during antibiotic intake, supplementing with probiotics, including L. rhamnosus, can help restore the beneficial bacteria in our body.
Viral infection, bacterial infection, and other causes
Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been observed to help in the prevention and treatment of diarrhea caused by rotavirus in children and babies. Some studies also show the probiotic’s protection against traveler’s diarrhea, acute-gastroenteritis-related diarrhea, acute watery diarrhea, and diarrhea caused by chemotherapy.
2. May prevent and treat allergic rhinitis
L. rhamnosus GG and other probiotics or a combination of any of them, may play an important role in preventing and treating allergic rhinitis. It does so by modulating the immune response of our body to allergens. Studies have shown that taking L. rhamnosus GG resulted to improved allergic reactions, especially itchy eyes, to people with grass pollen allergy and allergic rhinitis.
Some studies have also shown probiotics to be ineffective in dealing with allergic rhinitis. In this light, it may be assumed that L. rhamnosus GG and other probiotics can actually prevent and treat allergic rhinitis, but more research needs to be done and more factors need to be identified on the studies to ensure its effectivity. Some of these factors may include the dosage and route of probiotic administration, the probiotic or combination to be used, the regimen, and more.
3. May ease IBS Symptoms
While more research needs to be done to recommend L. rhamnosus in relieving Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms, studies show that there may be a link between our body’s natural gut flora with IBS. It has been observed that with IBS, there is more harmful bacteria in one’s body than beneficial bacteria.
Some studies have also shown that Lactobacillus-rich foods and supplements, such as L. rhamnosus GG, relieve IBS symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, and unusual bowel movements.
4. Helps in preventing relapse of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that results in inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Since probiotics like L. rhamnosus GG have evidence in promoting healthy digestive tract, studies were done to observe if L. rhamnosus GG is effective in treating patients with ulcerative colitis.
Some studies showed that it was not effective in treating patients with ulcerative colitis, but was effective and safe in maintaining remission in people with ulcerative colitis. This would make a good therapeutic option in avoiding relapse in patients.
5. Promotes health by increasing the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
L. rhamnosus increases the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like acetate, butyrate and propionate, which nourish the cells that line the colon. SCFAs are also linked to other benefits, including weight loss, protection against colon cancer, and aid to lowering blood sugar levels.
6. Helps prevent dental cavities
Cavities are caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth. While probiotics like L. rhamnosus have antimicrobial properties, they may be able to destroy these bad bacteria. Some studies have shown that L. rhamnosus are effective in reducing harmful bacteria in the mouth, thus resulting in fewer cavities, as well as lesser gum inflammation incidents.
These results, however, need to be backed by more studies to recommend L. rhamnosus for dental applications.
7. Aids in treating vaginal yeast infections
With its ability to fight many types of harmful bacteria, L. rhamnosus was studied in the prevention and treatment of yeast vaginal infections. Results showed that it did not prevent the occurrence of such infection, but it was effective in aiding in its treatment. Symptoms were observed to improve with the conventional treatment supplemented with L. rhamnosus.
8. Prevents and treats Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
UTI is an infection that occurs along the urinary tract, including kidneys, bladder, and urethra. This infection is caused by bacteria, such as E.coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
In some studies, L. rhamnosus and other probiotics were observed to prevent and treat UTIs by destroying these bad bacteria and keeping the balance in the vaginal flora. The probiotics were taken either orally or intravenously.
9. Helps prevent respiratory viral infections
Different studies show the effectivity of L. rhamnosus in preventing and fighting bacterial and viral infections. Studies in mice and in humans were made to discover its effectivity in treating and preventing respiratory infections.
In one study done on mice with pneumonia, supplementation of L. rhamnosus was shown to significantly improve the survival rate of mice by reducing the harmful bacteria and improving the immune response of their lungs. Another study on mice also showed that probiotics including L. rhamnosus activate the respiratory immunity of the body to fight against bacterial and viral respiratory infections.
Many human trials were also done to show L. rhamnosus and other probiotics in preventing bacterial and viral respiratory infections to healthy humans.
10. Other potential benefits
L. rhamnosus was observed to have many other potential benefits to humans, but still need more studies and evidence to conclude its efficacy and administration. These possible benefits include the following:
- Helps treat acne
- Lowers risk of lung infection
- May treat Crohn’s disease
- Improves rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
- Helps reduce blood cholesterol levels (LDL)
- Treats indigestion
- Helps promote weight loss
- Helps minimize cold symptoms
- Improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control
Lactobacillus rhamnosus intake and dosage
The Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotics are available as supplements in capsule form. They may also be added to various foods like dairy products, including yogurt, milk, and cheese.
If you decide to take in the capsule form, make sure you consult your doctor first on the safety of the probiotic to your health condition. You also need to follow the package dosage instructions or your doctor’s instruction. One capsule usually holds about 10 billion live bacteria, but other capsules hold double live bacteria.
For preventing traveller’s diarrhea, you may take Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplement 2 or 3 days before traveling. You need to continue the intake daily throughout your trip.
For antibiotic-related diarrhea, you may take 2 capsules with 10 billion live bacteria or 1 capsule with 20 billion live bacteria daily. Take the capsule a few hours after you take your antibiotic and go on for at least a week after you have completed your required antibiotic intake. This will further help restore the microbial balance in your gut.
Side effects and safety precautions
L. rhamnosus supplements are usually safe to take with little known side effects. Most side effects are signs that the probiotic is working. The most common side effect is bloating, gas, and cramping.
It is however advised that people with compromised or weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, AIDS, any form of cancer, as well as those taking steroid drugs and medication for organ transplant, should avoid taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus or any form of probiotics. Probiotic supplements in the form of capsule or in dairy products may cause infection.
In very rare cases, allergies may result in taking probiotics. In case allergic symptoms occur like difficulty in breathing, swelling of face, lips, tongue,or throat, and hives, you need to seek medical help immediately.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Interactions
Lactobacillus rhamnosus may interact with other medications. As mentioned earlier in the intake of the probiotic, you must take lactobacillus rhamnosus a few hours after antibiotic intake. If you take it within 2 hours of the antibiotic intake, it may make the antibiotic less effective.
It is also not recommended for intake when you are taking cancer medicines, steroid medicines (prednisone, dexamethasone,etc.), and medicines that prevent organ transplant rejection.
To sum things up, Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one of those strains of friendly bacteria or probiotics found in your digestive tract. It is one of the most studied probiotics for human application.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is known for its potential benefits including preventing and relieving diarrhea, preventing and treating allergic rhinitis, relieving IBS symptoms, keeping your digestive tract healthy, improving symptoms of diseases like ulcerative colitis, UTIs, and vaginal yeast infections, and preventing or treating other bacterial and viral infections.
As a supplement, Lactobacillus rhamnosus comes in the form of capsule supplement, as well as in some dairy products just like other probiotics.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus has the potential to improve one’s health, but for safety, care must be heeded before taking it. You must consult your doctor first and must follow the instructions that come with the supplement.