Science 

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus 101: Sources, Benefits, and Uses

March 24, 2021 6 min read

Gloved hand holding a red petri dish with lactobacillus rhamnosus

With so much conversation around probiotics and gut health, you might be left wondering which probiotics are right for you. We’ve combed through the science to better understand individual probiotic strains and the functions they support in the body, and in this segment, we’re looking at Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Also called L. rhamnosus, this bacteria is a member of the genus Lactobacillusand performs a key function in the body by producing the enzyme lactase. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down the lactose in dairy products into lactic acid. For this reason, L. rhamnosus is considered a probiotic. 

Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer myriad benefits to whole-body health and wellness. Along with balancing good bacteria in your gut, probiotics are believed to prevent and treat a number of digestive issues. Moreover, studies show that probiotics can support heart health, balance the vaginal microbiome, and even alleviate certain mental health conditions. 

Many of the foods you consume on a daily basis have naturally occurring probiotics. Yogurt, kefir, and other fermented dairy products often include live probiotic cultures. In fact, L. rhamnosus bacteria are often added to yogurts and cheeses to increase their probiotic content. You can also find probiotics in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. 

If you’re not getting enough probiotics from your diet, you may want to consider taking a supplement. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of L. rhamnosus, along with tips for incorporating this beneficial microorganism into your diet.

How is L. rhamnosus used?

The human body contains trillions of bacteria, many of which live in the gut. Taken together, these bacteria are known as the microbiota and serve a key function in keeping the body healthy. Not only does maintaining your gut health aid in digestion, but it also supports your immune system and mental well-being. 

One of the most popular probiotics, L. rhamnosus is found in the human intestines. Thanks to its special adaptations, the bacterium can survive in both acidic and basic conditions. As a result, it can readily colonize and adhere to the walls of your gut to improve overall intestinal health.

Part of the Lactobacillus family, L. rhamnosus also produces a substance called lactic acid. Along with helping you get more nutritional value from food, lactic acid prevents harmful bacteria from colonizing in the digestive tract. Additionally, the lactic acid in L. rhamnosus encourages the growth of helpful types of bacteria, including Bacteroides, clostridia, and bifidobacteria.

If you aren’t getting enough L. rhamnosus from the foods you eat, you may want to consider trying a supplement. You can generally consume this probiotic with or without food, and individuals who can’t swallow pills may opt to open up their capsules and sprinkle the supplement directly onto food or into drinks. For best results, follow the directions on the package and consult with your doctor before adding any new supplement to your regimen.

What are the science-backed benefits of L. rhamnosus

First isolated in the 1980s, L. rhamnosuscomes in different strains, each with its own attributes and benefits. Over the years, this bacterium has been used to benefit overall health and treat a wide array of conditions. Here are some of the science-backed benefits associated with this particular strain:

Treating and preventing diarrhea

For most individuals, diarrhea is an occasional if inconvenient problem. However, some patients suffer from persistent diarrhea. Additionally, those taking antibiotics for a secondary issue may experience diarrhea due to the disruption of their natural microbiota. The result is often persistent stomach upset, discomfort, and even dehydration. 

The good news is that taking L. rhamnosus has been shown to restore gut balance and prevent diarrhea in patients taking antibiotics. A review of 12 studies involving almost 1,500 patients revealed that taking an L. rhamnosus supplement alongside an antibiotics prescription reduced the risk of suffering diarrhea from 22.4% to 12.3%. 

L. rhamnosushas also been shown to help patients suffering from other kinds of diarrhea. Research published in Epidemiology and Healthrevealed that taking probiotics can help treat traveler’s diarrhea and occasional diarrhea stemming from gastroenteritis. As a bonus, doctors generally consider L. rhamnosus a safe supplement that you can take preventatively. 

Alleviating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common digestive issue affecting up to 23% of adults around the world. Along with causing general discomfort and inconvenience, IBS results in a host of negative effects, such as stomach pain, bloating, and problematic bowel movements. Fortunately, L. rhamnosushas proven to be effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome. 

Research shows that IBS may be linked directly to the body’s gut flora. In fact, experts believe IBS patients have fewer beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium, and more harmful bacteria, such as Streptococcusand E. coli. By strengthening gut barriers and encouraging the production of good bacteria, L. rhamnosus strains may help reduce IBS symptoms and alleviate general discomfort and abdominal pain

Woman on couch with stomachache from IBS

Aiding in weight loss and overall cardiovascular health

Studies suggest that gut bacteria can significantly impact diet and appetite. One of the benefits of taking an L. rhamnosus probiotic is that it can reduce food cravings and hunger, thereby aiding in weight loss. A randomized study in the British Journal of Nutritionfound this especially true for women, who saw impressive reductions in fat mass and circulating leptin concentration.

L. rhamnosus has also been shown in animal trials to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood cholesterol levels. Studies involving mice fed a high-fat diet showed that L. rhamnosus increased insulin sensitivity and reduced adiposity. Another study involving mice showed that consuming an L. rhamnosus supplement was as effective as statins at lowering cholesterol levels. Further research is needed to demonstrate whether this probiotic is as effective on human participants as it is in rodents. 

Promoting dental health

It’s not just the gut and cardiovascular system that benefit from probiotics. In fact, taking an L. rhamnosussupplement could help prevent cavities. Dental cavities are common in both children and adults, and they develop because of harmful bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria go on to create acids, which damage tooth enamel, allowing cavities to form. Thanks to their antimicrobial properties, L. rhamnosus probiotics can help kill harmful bacteria and prevent cavities. 

Research demonstrates that children who consume L. rhamnosus have fewer cavities than those who don’t. In a randomized study involving 594 children, those who drank milk containing the bacterium had both fewer cavities and a reduced oral concentration of harmful bacteria than those who consumed milk without the supplement. 

Other effects

Scientists are still discovering new ways in which L. rhamnosus may benefit the human body. According to early research, L. rhamnosus strains may help prevent or alleviate allergy symptoms, treat bacterial vaginosis and Candida vaginitis, and even reduce acne by normalizing the skin expression of genes involved in insulin signaling.

In summary

Lactobacillus rhamnosus offers a wide array of benefits for gut health and overall wellness. A form of friendly bacteria, L. rhamnosus occurs naturally in the human intestines. However, not everyone has enough of this strain to ensure gut health. Taking a supplement can help encourage the growth of healthy bacteria while fighting against bacteria with harmful effects.*

Moreover, taking L. rhamnosus can help with certain health conditions related to the gut. Individuals who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, take antibiotics, or travel regularly may benefit from taking a probiotic supplement containing L. rhamnosus. Along with reducing bloating and abdominal discomfort, this bacteria strain can help prevent and treat diarrhea. 

Developing research suggests that L. rhamnosus can also help with other health conditions. Along with aiding in weight loss and reducing cholesterol, studies show that this probiotic may help reduce the occurrence of dental cavities in children. Finally, L. rhamnosus could have future applications in the treatment of allergies and acne. 

It’s worth noting that this microorganism occurs naturally in many of the foods you may already consume. This member of the genus Lactobacillusis found in dairy foods such as kefir and yogurt. Additionally, L. rhamnosus is present in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. If you aren’t getting enough probiotics from your diet, you may want to consider taking a supplement. 

April Maguire, MPW - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice


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