Lactobacillus Casei – Know the Facts
If you are at least vaguely familiar with probiotics and how they work inside the human body, then you must have surely come across the name Lactobacillus casei by now. Not only is this bacterium a harmless presence inside the gastrointestinal tract, but it can also greatly contribute to overall wellness by creating a symbiotic relationship with the other microorganisms present in your gut.
In fact, the popularity of Lactobacillus casei as a probiotic has grown so much in recent years that some companies have chosen it as their main ingredient in health-boosting dairy products or dietary supplements of various kinds.
But this widespread employment raises a number of (pertinent) questions: what does Lactobacillus casei exactly do inside your body? Do its benefits outweigh any drawbacks it might cause? How can you increase your Lactobacillus casei intake? etc.
To find out all of these answers and more, let us take a closer look at this probiotic and its role in the economy of human welfare as a whole.
Lactobacillus casei in the world of probiotics
Lactobacillus casei is a ‘good’ bacterium normally associated with a high resistance regarding temperature and pH variations. It constitutes a probiotic pertaining to the Lactobacillus genus, with the latter category encompassing a large number of lactic acid-producing bacteria which boost fermentation processes, food decomposition, and immunity screening alike.
! Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that exist naturally within the gastrointestinal and urogenital systems of most mammals, as well as in the biological makeup of some plants. Their etymology translates to ‘pro-life’ bacteria and reflects how probiotics contribute to general wellbeing by inhibiting the formation of ‘bad’ bacteria (fungi, viruses, microbes, etc.), regulating digestive processes, and maintaining mental balances in check.
Lactobacillus casei was first isolated as a distinct probiotic species at the beginning of the 20th century, with many subsequent strains pertaining to this particular ‘good’ bacterium having been discovered and used accordingly ever since (Lactobacillus casei GG, Lactobacillus casei ATCC 334, etc.). One already famous example is that of the Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota, initially recognized by Japanese specialist Minoru Shirota in 1930 and nowadays employed in the fermentation process of numerous Yakult products.
! Yakult is the brand name initiated in 1935 as a result of Dr. Minoru Shirota’s discovery of his eponymous Lactobacillus casei strain. The company is renowned for its probiotic-infused dairy product with the same name, which consists of skimmed milk (powder), sugar, water, natural flavors, and 6.5 billion CFUs (colony-forming units or a number of live bacteria) of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota per serving. Yakult can be found distributed all across the globe, with a particular popularity in America, Asian countries, and India.
Regardless of their name, it is safe to say that all Lactobacillus casei strains share the beneficial properties originally associated with this probiotic, namely improved functionality both within and outside the gastrointestinal system.
The benefits of Lactobacillus casei
- Intestinal comfort – the fact that probiotics can regulate digestion and bowel motility patterns is not ‘brand new information’ for the medical community. As a Lactobacillus genus member, Lactobacillus casei both generates lactic acid and stimulates the production of gastric acid, hence accelerating food decomposition patterns, improving nutrient absorption, and regularizing waste evacuation (which is crucial in avoiding episodes of constipation, bloating, and excessive fermentation that leads to gas accumulations).
In fact, Lactobacillus casei has been a long time associated with a number of gastric and intestinal advantages that can seemingly be acquired only through this organic outlet of the probiotic sort. For instance, one early 2002 study recognized Lactobacillus casei’s capacity to strongly adhere to the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, these colonies, therefore, surviving multiple digestive cycles and also contributing to protein synthesis.
This persistent presence of Lactobacillus casei bacteria can also benefit individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance since Lactobacillus probiotics are ‘famous’ for their capacity to process milk sugars and facilitate their gastrointestinal passage in the case of more lactose-sensitive people.
Lactobacillus casei has also been linked to the alleviation of more serious gut disorders such as Crohn’s disease and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) by reducing intestinal inflammation, normalizing bowel motility patterns, and meliorating the symptoms usually brought about by these gut imbalances. Cases of acute diarrhea (particularly in children) have also been shown to considerably improve under Lactobacillus casei administration.
- Immunity control – the immunomodulatory properties of Lactobacillus casei derive from this probiotic’s capacity of producing small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which then target pathogens of various kinds and inhibit their subsequent overgrowth. Research has connected the presence of Lactobacillus casei strains with an internal boosting of the body’s own immune responses in the face of viruses, microbes, and fungi of different origins. The fact that this ‘friendly’ microorganism can be found throughout the length of the gastrointestinal tract can simultaneously offer elevated immunity protection against respiratory and throat infections, Helicobacter pylori and Salmonella contamination, as well as symptoms of urogenital discomfort (excessive discharge, itching, a burning sensation, etc.).
- Mental balance – even though it might sound surprising at first, your brain and gut are virtually connected via what is plainly known as the brain-gut axis. The vagus nerve (one of the largest neurological transmitters inside your body) regulates the ‘relationship’ between these two systems in terms of wellbeing; this means that a disruption in one will automatically show up on the other, with prolonged gastrointestinal problems like IBS and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disorder) often being recognized as the underlying causes of depression, anxiety, and bipolar manifestations. Aside from meliorating gut issues, Lactobacillus casei can also regulate stress response (for instance, in academic circumstances) and thus keep mental stability under control on a long-term basis.
- Allergy reduction – allergenic reactions fall in the same category of immune responses to real or ‘imagined’ antigens as perceived by your body. Their manifestations usually include skin rashes, coughing and sneezing or even life-threatening instances (like foods allergies that can sometimes lead to anaphylactic shock). As research has revealed during the last decade, Lactobacillus casei can be employed as an alternative way of managing such reactions in the case of pediatric rhinitis, food allergies, and episodes of atopic eczema.
- Improved cholesterol levels – let’s face it: these days, it’s almost impossible to avoid eating fatty and sugar-filled foods. But this modern indulgence in ‘tastiness’ often reflects onto our health levels in a not so pleasant manner via enlarged cholesterol readings and stiffened arteries in time. Luckily, Lactobacillus casei supplementation can be paired with a correct eating regime in order to remove cholesterol deposits, which then eliminates the threat of developing high blood pressure and the (otherwise imminent) onset of diabetes.
- Anti-carcinogenic properties – cancer is undoubtedly one of the major health threats of our modern age, with continuous research for the purpose of effectively treating this disease leading us to probiotics and various Lactobacillus casei strains respectively. The most promising findings were related to carcinogenic cells found at the level of the urinary system (more specifically, in the bladder region), with Lactobacillus casei colonies being proven to suppress the recurrence of superficial carcinogenic cells in the instance of bladder cancer, as well as modulate cell activity by inhibiting the formation of tumours and sustaining the formation of healthy cells throughout the organism.
Sources of Lactobacillus casei supplementation
Although Lactobacillus casei colonies are a constituent part of the human gastrointestinal tract, factors such as prolonged antibiotic treatments, irregular eating regimes, and even stress can negatively affect the number of live colonies present at this level and consequently disrupt your digestive, immune, etc. wellness.
Fortunately enough, external supplementation of different origins can be employed to replenish the number of ‘friendly’ bacteria inside your gut and restore general wellness in a fairly short amount of time, as follows:
- Dietary enhancers – are arguably one of the most practical options of Lactobacillus casei boosting. With an ever-growing market and diversity (in terms of format, strain combinations, CFUs content, etc.), these supplements offer you the possibility of a higher concentration of probiotics within a single serving of product (pill or powder stick, for example). The downside is that you can come across low-quality products and unsatisfactory customer services (if you order them online), so stay on the lookout for quality products containing viable Lactobacillus casei cultures for maximum positive results.
- Dairy products – being a lactose tolerant individual means enjoying all the benefits that dairy products bring to a well-balanced diet, probiotic enhancement included. Despite the fact that commercialization of these products requires pasteurization (i.e. high-temperature treatments), many dairy companies have begun adding probiotic cultures to their items before they hit the shelves. As a result, you can find and therefore consume numerous types of kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, and soft cheeses (Parmesan, Cheddar, Gouda, etc.) with a Lactobacillus casei enhancement specified on the label.
- Fermented vegetables – from sauerkraut and Sicilian green olives to almost any sort of brine pickle combination you can imagine, fermented veggies are seen as a staple food category in terms of probiotic (and Lactobacillus casei) content. The issue of pasteurization comes into play regarding these products as well, with companies supplementing their products with ‘friendly’ microorganisms pre-distribution so as to regain their original health benefits.
When should you avoid Lactobacillus casei?
Currently, the consensus among the international medical community is that probiotics are generally safe for usage by the majority of the population. Nevertheless, certain medical situations require careful monitoring or altogether interdiction of probiotic employment in order to avoid further complications. The most frequent instances include:
- Weakened immune system – while probiotics of the Lactobacillus casei type are not categorized as motile, having a suppressed or compromised immunity can render even these ‘good’ bacteria into something harmful by allowing them to circulate freely within the organism and potentially leading to an instance of sepsis (severe blood infection).
- Short-Bowel Syndrome (SBS) – is a condition which occurs after a substantial length of your small intestine has been surgically removed, therefore generating issues at the level of food processing and nutrient assimilation. In this case, Lactobacillus casei supplementation can also cause a number of infections, with medical supervision being more than recommended before starting any similar treatment.
- Being a pregnant or nursing mother – voices are split when it comes to the safe usage of Lactobacillus casei by this category of individuals. The predominant opinion among specialists is that probiotics – at least, those intensely studied so far – are most likely not going to negatively influence either the mother or the child, but caution and medical supervision are still advised until the emergence of more convincing studies in this sense.
- Medication-based treatments – in general, most immunosuppressants are not to be mixed with a sustained probiotic treatment in light of the aforementioned consequences (infections, sepsis, etc). The same warning applies for antibiotics as well: not only will the first counteract the beneficial effects of probiotics by killing them off alongside the ‘bad’ bacteria, but you might also experience more pronounced side effects (bloating, nausea, flatulence, visceral cramping) as a result of this same probiotic enhancement.
Otherwise, a healthy individual should expect to experience at most some minor abdominal discomfort when starting a Lactobacillus casei treatment. Symptoms like bloating, gas, and cramping are a normal outcome of your gastrointestinal tract trying to integrate the new bacteria colonies and should subside within a week of administration.
Lactobacillus casei – the probiotic of the future?
It is now obvious that, by creating a symbiotic connection with the other ‘good’ bacteria inside your gut, Lactobacillus casei is able to promote not only abdominal wellness and immune screening but also a heightened sense of both physical and psychological welfare.
Its natural occurrence within the gut is therefore not random, but nature’s ‘response’ to an improved sense of health and happiness as coming from within your body.
As studies continue to demonstrate the beneficial action of this probiotic, more and more brands have started using Lactobacillus casei strains inside their dairy, pickled or supplement products so as to comply with their buyers’ need for healthier alternatives to what today’s standards would call ‘good living’.
To conclude, it would seem that Lactobacillus casei is indeed one answer to achieving a better lifestyle via the organic and safe(r) route. So give this ‘friendly’ bacterium a try for yourself and see what positive changes it can bring into your daily routine too!