There are thousands of unique species in the probiotic family, and nearly all of them provide some form of nutritional benefit to your body. While some help balance the growth of bacteria in the body, others support digestive and urinary health. But all of these different species fit neatly into three key groups: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium blends, Saccharomyces boulardii, and soil-based blends. Though they work differently in the body, each type is important to one’s overall gut health, and supplementing your diet with a variety of probiotics ensures your digestive system has all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium Blends

While they don’t usually colonize your gut, this type of probiotic offers the most well-documented benefits, boasting over 500 clinical trials. Together, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to reduce bowel inflammation, promote regularity, and reduce the severity of symptoms from IBS. But these two have benefits beyond the bowls as well. The strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14 have been shown to restore normal vaginal flora and reduce risk of infections, while a recent study on rats found that Lactobacillus helveticus actually reduced stress levels. The majority of probiotics manufactured today are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium blends, so do your homework and find the probiotic that best meets your unique needs.

Saccharomyces Boulardii

This is a probiotic type that is highly valuable to the gut but doesn’t grow there naturally. S. Boulardii is actually a form of yeast, and it can be a great supplement to protect against gastrointestinal “overgrowth” that can cause diarrhea. In fact, many digestive issues can be treated or prevented with regular use of an S. Boulardii supplement, making them the second most common probiotic manufactured today. The subject of significant amounts of research, this probiotic is worth having on hand.

Soil-Based Blends

Also known as Bacillus strains, soil-based probiotics provide the body with many of the beneficial forms of bacteria that humans were once exposed to through food, farming, and even play. These days, we tend to sanitize our hands and our food thoroughly to prevent any harmful bacteria from entering the body, but this also keeps out the good bacteria. With more than 100 types in the nutraceutical market, soil-based probiotics can offer several benefits. For instance, Bacillus subtilis has been shown to treat constipation and symptoms of IBS. However, the most well-documented strain is Bacillus coagulans, with numerous trials pointing toward relief of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating.