Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a widely studied and commonly used strain of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus species. It is often used as a probiotic due to its minimal potential for adverse effects. This HealthHearty write-up provides information on the benefits and side effects of the Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG strain.
In Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, GG stands for the last names of Barry R. Goldin and Sherwood L. Gorbach, who isolated the strain from the human intestinal flora in 1983.
A whopping 100 trillion microbes live in the gastrointestinal tract of the human body. Bacteria form a substantial part of the gut microflora (also called microbiota). While one-third of the gut microflora is common to all, the rest varies from person to person. The small intestine and colon contain both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Friendly bacteria perform a vital role in maintaining and restoring the balance of the intestinal microbiota. Problems arise when the number of beneficial bacteria decreases and the population of pathogenic bacteria increases. More often than not, unhealthy dietary habits, long-term antibiotic therapy, or the use of other drugs throws the gut flora out of balance, thereby affecting digestive health. Under such circumstances, one can become susceptible to a host of gastrointestinal problems. To restore the balance of gut flora, one can take probiotic food items or supplements, in addition to improving dietary habits and lifestyle.
The Food and Agricultural Organization defines probiotics as live microorganisms that confer health benefits on the host, when administered in adequate amounts. The terms ‘prebiotic’ and ‘probiotic’ should not be used interchangeably, as the former refers to substances that promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. More often than not, these living microbes are bacteria that are believed to improve one’s digestive health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is one such beneficial bacterium that is found in the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, and the genitourinary system in humans. It is commonly added to yogurt, beverages, or dietary supplements. Studies have shown that it has the ability to withstand the harsh, acidic environment of the human stomach.
The Lactobacillus genus comprises more than 180 species. Some of the strains of this genus have been used for the fermentation of dairy products such as yogurt or kefir. The strains of this bacterium have the ability to digest lactose into lactic acid. This prevents the growth of proteolytic bacteria, as the fermentation of lactose gives rise to a low pH environment, wherein the proteolytic bacteria cannot survive. L. rhamnosus GG is one of the species of the Lactobacillus genus that can help promote the health of the intestinal tract. Some of its benefits are enumerated below:
The use of probiotic supplements such as L. rhamnosus GG is often recommended for those who have been asked to take antibiotics for the prevention or treatment of bacterial infections. This is mainly due to the fact that antibiotics cannot differentiate between pathogens and beneficial bacteria, and might end up destroying friendly bacteria as well. This has an adverse effect on the balance of gut microflora. The use of supplements containing live cultures of L. rhamnosus GG has been associated with improved digestion. The production of lactic acid also helps in lowering the risk of gastrointestinal ailments.
✦ Antibiotic-associated Diarrhea (AAD)
Though antibiotics help in destroying or inhibiting the growth of bacteria that are responsible for causing infections, their use can cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, etc. Studies have shown that the incidence as well as the severity of antibiotic-associated diarrhea could decrease when antibiotic therapy is coupled with the use of probiotics. According to a research review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2012, the risk of AAD decreased by 42% due to the use of probiotics. However, further research is required to corroborate this claim. The use of milk products enriched with probiotics and probiotic supplements is also suggested for the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea, a condition that is characterized by abdominal pain and watery stools in travelers. This condition is often attributed to the improper handling of food. L. rhamnosus is also believed to be effective in the prevention of Rotavirus diarrhea in children.
✦ Prevention of UTI
It is believed that the use of probiotic suppositories can also help in the prevention of urinary tract infections and vaginal infections in women. These could prove to be a good alternative in case of antibiotic resistance. L. rhamnosus and other strains of the Lactobacillus genus could protect the urogenital tract, as the biosurfactants excreted by the bacteria could inhibit the adhesion of the disease-causing microbes. Moreover, these strains also correct the balance of gut flora, thereby preventing the growth of pathogens. In a study conducted in 2005, this bacterium prevented the gastrointestinal transportation of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus in individuals affected by kidney diseases.
✦ Effect on Anxiety Levels
In another study, effect on the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter receptors was observed in mice that were fed Lactobacillus rhamnosus. GABA-A receptors are believed to be responsible for mood changes, development of stress, or the onset of anxiety or panic. GABA-B receptors are believed to have an effect on the pain response, mood, as well as memory. In that study, mice fed with this bacterium were found to be less anxious.
Besides the aforementioned benefits, it is believed that the use of this probiotic might help in the digestion of dairy products in individuals affected by lactose intolerance. In a study conducted in 1998, lactose-intolerant subjects who were given milk enriched with the probiotic didn’t experience an inflammatory response, while the ones who drank milk without the probiotic experienced symptoms that were indicative of an inflammatory response. However, further research is required to confirm its effectiveness. Some studies have shown the potential of this bacterium for the prevention of respiratory tract infections and atopic dermatitis in children.
Though the manufacturers of probiotic food and supplements make several claims about the health benefits, it would be best to consult your healthcare provider before you start taking these supplements. The onset of the side effects of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG have been observed following the initial use of probiotic food products or supplements. These side effects include:
✦ Abdominal bloating
✦ Intestinal gas
However, these side effects are known to resolve after a brief period, when the body becomes used to this supplement. In rare cases, their use has been linked to sepsis in patients with short bowel syndrome, or immunocompromised individuals affected by serious diseases such as HIV or AIDS.
Studies on Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG have shown its ability to improve digestive health and lower the risk of gastrointestinal disorders to a great extent. This supplement is considered to be safe for pregnant women, as well as nursing mothers. However, consumers must buy and use probiotic supplements or food products that are manufactured by reliable brands.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.