The unique probiotic effects of L. reuteri

We’ve lately been discussing (some would say obsessing) about the unique benefits of consuming the microorganism Lactobacillus reuteri, specifically the ATCC PTA 6475  and DSM 17938 strains (available from Swedish company, BioGaia, as the Gastrus product). Benefits such as increased skin thickness, dramatically increased dermal collagen, accelerated healing, reduced inflammation, preservation or increased bone density, turning off appetite, increased empathy, facilitation of fasting, increased libido, etc. are all mediated via L. reuteri’s unusual capacity to stimulate oxytocin release from the hypothalamus. So many of the most visible and measurable health benefits from our yogurt making with this strain of L. reuteri are due to higher levels of oxytocin.

But there are additional benefits to L. reuteri that don’t involve oxytocin but are due to this organism’s other properties, particularly its probiotic effects, in particular its anti-bacterial and immune-mediating/anti-inflammatory effects. These are just as fascinating, though not as outwardly visible.

Among the non-oxytocin benefits of L. reuteri (various strains) are:

    • Reduction of acid reflux and infantile colic
    • Potent suppression of H. pylori, the organism that can proliferate and cause stomach ulcers.
    • Suppression of C. difficile, the organism that can cause pseudomembranous enterocolitis, a life-threatening infection from proliferation of this species after antibiotics (though occurring “spontaneously” lately)
    • Reduction in antibiotic-associated diarrhea 
    • Protection against some intestinal infections from toxic strains of E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella (especially the ATCC 55730 strain)
    • Protection against gastric cancer
    • Reduction in chronic diarrhea (IBS?)
    • Immunomodulation via stimulation of CD4 lymphocytes in the stomach lining, similar to that seen in skin healing in the MIT studies, reflecting reduced inflammation.

Note that some of the probiotic benefits of L. reuteri are in the upper gastrointestinal tract. This is unusual, as most bacterial species that inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract only colonize the colon with sharply diminishing numbers as you ascend up the ileum and jejunum, with relatively few bacteria in the duodenum and stomach. But L. reuteri has the unique ability to colonize the stomach, duodenum, and upper small intestine. In fact, in the immunomodulation study cited above, L. reuteri strain ATCC 55730 better colonized the stomach and duodenum than the colon.

This has prompted speculation that L. reuteri may be helpful in preventing and treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that we have been discussing lately. It may also be helpful for dealing with troublesome recurrences that plague management of SIBO. Because L. reuteri is also resistant to many antibiotics, supplementation during SIBO antibiotic treatment may accelerate healing and better suppress recurrence by giving you a head start in repopulating and maybe even tip the balance in favor of SIBO eradication, given its broad antibacterial properties.

So L. reuteri supplementation that we are achieving via prebiotic-infused yogurt to amplify bacterial counts can, yes, make you look and feel 20 years younger. But it also provides some real and substantial gastrointestinal health benefits.

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Dr. William Davis

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