A great many species of bacteria make up the human microbiome, but the same dozen or so strains come up repeatedly when probiotics are discussed. One of the major players is Streptococcus Thermophilus, and it supports your body’s biology in a number of unique ways.
In this article, we’ll attempt to highlight the key nutritional benefits. After reading, you’ll know whether to incorporate a probiotic containing S. Thermophilus into your own bespoke gut health regime.
What is Streptococcus Thermophilus?
Streptococcus Thermophilus – generally abbreviated to S. Thermophilus – is a lactic acid bacterium widely used in the production of yogurt and cheese. One of the earliest identified and isolated forms of probiotic bacteria, S. Thermophilus is often mooted as an option for those who are intolerant of lactose, owing to the fact that it can break the sugar into lactic acid and thereby facilitate smoother digestion. However, the benefits of S. Thermophilus don’t end there: not for nothing is the bacterium one of the earliest colonisers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Indeed, the probiotic strain could protect against small intestine irritation, combat antibiotic-induced diarrhoea, reduce gut inflammation and prevent chronic gastritis. There is a wealth of data, derived from human, animal and in vitro studies, underscoring the advantages of the S. Thermophilus strain as it pertains to human health. As noted by the authors of a recent review published in the Journal of Functional Food, “Studies have established their ability to survive passage through the GI tract and transiently colonise while ingested.”
Since questions swirl around exactly which probiotic strains are able to survive the acid pH and bile salts of the stomach – a famously inhospitable environment – this alone is a massive coup for S. Thermophilus.
Five Key Benefits of S. Thermophilus Bacteria
1. Reduces Lactose Intolerance
As mentioned, Streptococcus Thermophilus is incredibly useful for those who struggle to digest dairy. This is due to the bacteria's powerful fermentative capacities. Because it is able to easily turn milk sugar into lactic acid, it can help sensitive people avoid the troublesome symptoms of lactose intolerance, including painful bloating, gas and even vomiting. If you haven’t resorted to cutting out dairy altogether, utilising a probiotic containing this strain can swiftly ease discomfort and improve gastrointestinal rhythms.
2. Reduces Diarrhoea
There is some evidence that Streptococcus Thermophilus helps to reduce acute diarrhoea. In one study, conducted on mice, subjects infected with C. difficile exhibited 46% less weight loss and reduced symptoms of diarrhoea when given S. Thermophilus. It was also suggested that the lactate produced by the bacteria helps to stunt the progression of C. difficile.
This isn’t the only study. Another, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, showed a correlation between S. Thermophilus and a reduction in diarrhoea symptoms: children given the probiotic experienced 50% less symptoms than the placebo group. The beneficial bacteria is also understood to alleviate antibiotic-induced diarrhoea.
3. Encourages the Growth of Other Probiotics
S. Thermophilus is known to stimulate the growth of other probiotics, which is partly why it is so common as a starter culture for yogurts: it works synergistically with Lactobacillus strains, each providing co-factors the other needs to proliferate. The fact that S. Thermophilus works best in tandem with other strains, helping ensure their survivability through the gastric region, is probably why it is rarely utilised as a single-species treatment.
4. Could Prevent Gastritis
Among the therapeutic uses for S. Thermophilus, this has to be one of the most noteworthy. In separate studies, milk containing the bacterium was shown to be effective for gastritis prevention – making it arguably one of the best functional foods for the condition. It should be noted that the studies were on mice, so we eagerly await a large-scale human trial to replicate the results.
5. Helps to Eradicate H. Pylori
In a 2015 Thai study, Streptococcus Thermophilus – when used in conjunction with Lactobacillus delbrueckii – was shown to improve Helicobacter Pylori eradication rates if taken before and after the standard therapeutic protocol. In fact, eradication rates were significantly higher in those who only took the probiotics before (and not after) the antibiotic course.
And there are many other benefits to speak of.
Should You Take a Probiotic Containing S. Thermophilus?
Given its ability to stimulate the growth of other probiotics, it would seem logical to include Streptococcus Thermophilus in your health protocol, whether in the form of yogurt, cheese or a probiotic supplement. In truth, S. Thermophilus is not as ubiquitous as some strains employed in popular supplements: indeed, it tends to appear only in the most expensive products.
The two most powerful probiotic supplements on the market are VSL#3 and Progurt – and each contain Streptococcus Thermophilus. While the former contains 450 billion good bacteria (from S. Thermophilus and other strains), the latter is brimming with a cool one trillion – from S. Thermophilus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidus.
Progurt’s clinically-tested strains are also human-derived – identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth. The freeze-dried probiotic powder is free from GMOs, MSG, dairy, sugar, lactose, wheat, gluten, soy, salt, cornstarch and preservatives, and what’s more, it has a shelf life of 12 months.
Whether you choose to use Progurt, another supplement or rely on foods, getting S. Thermophilus into your diet is a big part of ensuring optimal gastrointestinal performance and achieving elevated levels of wellbeing. Isn't that what probiotics were made to do?