Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț
Lactobacillus brevis is yet another interesting bacterial species with an impressive list of potential health benefits for its human host. It is unusually tolerant to acidic conditions in the stomach and bile acids from the gallbladder, thereby easily surviving to make its way to the lower reaches of the small bowel and colon. Isolated from fermented foods such as fermented meats and kimchi, one of its standout effects is a reduction in inflammation, especially intestinal inflammation.
Experimental models and some human trials of L. brevis administration suggest a broad panel of potential effects:
- Reduced inflammation of the colon and reduced colitis (L. brevis Bmb6). This microbial species has specifically been shown to strengthen the tight junction barrier between intestinal cells that could be especially beneficial in ulcerative colitis.
- Reduced oral inflammation (L. brevis CD2). Among its effects in the oral cavity, L. brevis suppresses Streptococcus mutans, the species that causes tooth decay, reduces decay-causing acidity, and reduces gum bleeding.
- Increases diversity of bacterial species in the colon, including increased Akkermansia. It also reduces Proteobacteria (the species of dysbiosis and SIBO) that yield metabolic advantages to the host, including reduced endotoxemia
- Prevents weight gain
- Suppresses potentially pathogenic species such as Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus
- Protects against mercury toxicity by binding mercury molecules and protecting the intestinal barrier from toxic mercury effects (L. brevis 23017)
- Reduces uric acid blood levels induced by fructose consumption (L. brevis DM9218)
- Produces gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) that yields anti-anxiety and blood pressure-reducing effects (L. brevis CD0817 )
- Exerts favorable effects on hippocampal function and nerve cells and increases the brain growth factor brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF. (Diminished hippocampal health is the greatest area of interest in Alzheimer’s dementia.) (L. brevis SBC8803)
- Converts fructose, glucose, and sucrose to mannitol that results in a reduction in blood sugar and potentially protection from Parkinson’s disease (L. brevis 3-A5)
- Protection against urinary tract infections, especially those caused by uropathogenic strains of E. coli (L. brevis DT24)
- Inhibits colon cancer cells (L. brevis 8803)
- Reduces allergic responses (L brevis HY7401)
- Reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) (L. brevis KB290)
- Modest reduction in the incidence of influenza in schoolchildren (23·9% with no treatment and 15·7% with L. brevis) (L. brevis KB290)
Given its impressive range of potential benefits for humans who consume and harbor this microbe, why would I call it “the Happiness Microbe”? Add to L. brevis‘ effects is its ability to produce a compound called phenylethylamine, or PEA (not to be confused with palmitoylethanolamide, an endocannabinoid that I’ve discussed in past for its intestinal barrier and pain-relieving effects). Greater levels of PEA raise mood, increase mental clarity, and improve memory. Low levels of PEA have been identified in people with depression—could the solution to depression be an increase in L. brevis combined with efforts to reduce endotoxemia? I believe that the evidence is indeed pointing in that direction. Imagine that: Depression is not a condition best addressed with pharmaceuticals that simply interrupt a pathway affecting emotions, but address basic underlying microbial and hormonal disruptions that, with simple bowel flora efforts, undo the dark moods and suicidal thoughts and without the undesirable adverse effects of prescription drugs?
By ingesting L. brevis and others via consumption of fermented foods, you therefore not only potentially obtain some of the benefits listed above, but you may, over time, improve mood and mental function. The key is to therefore include foods fermented from cabbage and related vegetables in your daily routine that provide Lactobacillus brevis as well as another beneficial microbe, Leuconostoc mesenteroides.
You can appreciate that one of the challenges with this species is the tangle of various strains available. We know, however, that this bacterial species is a common inhabitant in its various strain forms of the surface of cabbage and related vegetables such as kale. My suspicion is that many of these benefits are species effects, not necessarily strain effects.
By the way, if you are interested in new and unique ways to put your microbiome to work for practical use, mobilizing an army of creatures you can employ to your benefit, you will want to get a copy of my new book, Super Gut, that will be released Feb 1, 2022. Super Gut will NOT be the usual “take a probiotic and get more fiber” sort of book that has already been written, but a how-to book on how to achieve anti-aging effects, smoother skin, manage SIBO using microbes, and other strategies, all designed to help you regain health, youth, and higher levels of functioning.