There are over one hundred species of Lactobacillus bacteria and many of them qualify as probiotics.
The World Health Organization define probiotics as "live microorganism which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".
Not all Lactobacillus bacteria do that, of course. Some - selfish little beasts - just sit around looking after themselves. But there are plenty of this family who seem to see their life work as modifying our gastrointestinal and urogenital microflora to both our and their benefit.
And if you just want a good supplement that contains a variety of probiotics from this family then you can't do better than Jarro-Dophilus EPS.
Or one specifically for women's problems is Fem-Dophilus which although it only contains two members of this species, is quite simply the best one for women. Taken orally despite where you want it to do its work!
Even the most health-kick resistant philistine has heard of Lactobacillus acidophilus which is found in many of the yogurts and fermented dairy products.
But what about L casei and L kefir? You'll find these two good and honest probiotics in some fermented milks too.
L lactis subspecies cremoris likes hanging out in Gouda cheese while L delbrueckii subspecies lactis prefers a Swiss type cheese.
L plantarum is more likely to be found in that jar of pickles (or in the silage that cows eat!) although luckily the strain 299v has made it to supplements. Meantime L pentosus has been found hanging out in green olives.
You'll find Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the probiotic Culturelle Probiotic.
In fact, a few members of this family have been found "toes up" at distilleries of both Japanese and Scotch whisky!1 They were either L suntoryeus subspecies or possibly just some very sozzled L acidophilus - the state they were in, it was hard to tell! And no this doesn't mean that you can give up yogurt and get your probiotics from a bottle of Drambuey!
One name that you hear occasionaly is L sporogenes. This is an old fashioned and incorrect name for Bacillus coagulans.
Many Lactobacilli have been proven to possess inhibitory activity toward the growth of pathogenic bacteria2 and some strains are effective against various types of diarrhea.3,4
The preservation of food would almost grind to a halt without this workaholic family. Various members of them are involved in the making of cheese, yogurt, pickles, beer, wines, cider, sauerkraut, kimichi, and bread. Some of these processes they live through to become probiotics we can ingest; other times, they give their life in the process but help to release enzymes and elements that keep us in good health.
It's no coincidence that many of the foods that contain various species of the Lactobacillus family are the very foods that have been revered as bringers of good health and long life for centuries.
Lactobacillus bacteria are everywhere, hiding in the foods you eat, (and the bottles you drink) ready to bring you good health.
1. Cachat E, Priest FG. Lactobacillus suntoryeus sp. no., isolated from malt whisky distilleries. International Journal of Systematic and Ecolutionary Microbiology 55. 2005 31-34
2. Jacobsen CN, Nielsen R, Hayford AE, et al. Screening of Probiotic activities of forty-seven strains of Lactobacillus spp by in vitro techniques and evaluation of the colonization ability of five selected strains in humans. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Nov 1999 vol 65 no 11, pp4949-4956
3. Pochapin M. The effects of probiotics on Clostridium difficile diarrhea. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2000, vol 95, iss1 ppS11-S13
4. Levy J. The effects of antibiotic use on gastrointestinal funcion. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2000, vol 95, iss1 ppS8-S10