My Cart

You have no items in your shopping cart.

You're currently on:


Difference between probiotics and lactic acid bacteria and how to take them

What are these substances and how best can we use them to support the immune system?

The use of supplements of lactic acid bacteria, probiotics and prebiotics is now widespread, especially in winter, to help the gut and the whole body, to recover after debilitating diseases, such as flu or gastroenteritis.

Lactic acid bacteria (otherwise called lactic cultures) can, in fact, be taken throughout the year to improve the balance of gut microflora and, consequently, the whole body wellness. But what exactly are lactic acid bacteria? What is the difference between probiotics and lactic acid bacteria and between probiotics and prebiotics?
Let us find out together.

In this article we will try to briefly explain the following topics.

Difference between probiotics and lactic acid bacteria: similar but not identical

With regard to probiotics and lactic acid bacteria it still seems that there is a little bit of confusion and the two terms are often used interchangeably. But are they really interchangeable, or are they rather substances with different functions?

In fact, probiotics are a specific category of enzymes capable of bringing benefits to the human body. So let's first explain what lactic acid bacteria are.


Lactic acid bacteria: what are they?

By the term lactic acid bacteria are generally indicated lactic cultures, i.e. particular microorganisms that are able to chemically transform, or better metabolise, lactose (mainly present in milk) by an enzymatic process.

These enzymes "are found in milk and cheese and are used to produce beverages or fermented milk (yoghurt)" (B. Brigo, I fermenti lattici. Riequilibrio intestinale e benessere intestinale, Milano 2010). The transformation of lactose can be carried out by different strains of bacteria, but only some of these can perform processes that are really useful and beneficial for humans: probiotic lactic acid bacteria.


And what are probiotic lactic acid bacteria?

Probiotic lactic acid bacteria are therefore a well-defined class of enzymes that can bring benefit to the health of our body.

By the term probiotic one refers to live microorganisms belonging to specific strains of lactic acid bacteria (the most important ones are the Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium genus groups) capable of positively colonise the intestine.

Referring to the definition adopted by the WHO and FAO in specific guidelines, we can also define probiotics as "Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host".


Why can probiotics support the immune system?

The immune system is the first, essential, body barrier against harmful external agents such as viruses and bacteria. Their role may be to prevent infectious agents from entering the body, or to provide an effective response once it has entered the human body and eliminate it quickly.

An efficient functioning of the immune system is therefore essential to prevent any discomfort or restrict its intensity and duration. How can probiotic lactic acid bacteria positevely influence the immune system?

In this regard it should be noted that the gut is not only there to absorb the nutrients taken with food, but it is also "the primary immune organ, as it hosts 60 percent of immunocompetent cells' (B. Brigo, ibid).


How do probiotics act in the gut?

How can probiotic lactic acid bacteria positively affect the immune system? Let us try to explain it in a simple way by also referring to scientific studies.


These beneficial bacteria, when they inhabit the intestine, are able to consume nutrients which «would otherwise feed harmful microorganisms and also block the receptors to which they bind to trigger the infection" (P. Holford, Manuale di nutrizione familiare, Milano 2008).

Basically, probiotics monitor the growth of harmful microorganisms in the intestines and may affect the survival of pathogens, helping the intestinal flora to maintain a proper balance.


When and how to take probiotic lactic acid bacteria?

After understanding the difference between probiotics and lactic acid bacteria, let us try to shed light on when and how it is good to take these substances to promote general wellbeing.

Typically, taking supplements of probiotic lactic acid bacteria is recommended when external factors such as viruses or bacteria, pollutants, over-consumption of processed foods or stress cause an imbalance of intestinal flora.

Indeed, in these cases, probiotics, unlike antibiotics (which indiscriminately kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria ), are able to restore the balance of bacterial flora, depriving harmful microorgansims of the nutrients needed to survive and blocking the receptors to which they bind to trigger an infection.

Probiotic and prebiotic supplements  can be taken by everybody, even for long periods of time as they have no side effects. The ideal is to make use of products containing high amounts of live lactic acid bacteria together with prebiotic fibres, which can provide a synergistic effect and increased efficacy.

Note that, according to the guidelines provided by the Italian Ministry of Health, in order for a supplement to be truly effective it must provide, in a daily dosage, one billion live lactic acid bacteria, for each strain.


Do lactic acid bacteria contain lactose?

It is a rather widespread misconception,  therefore it is worth spending a few words about it.

Many people are still erroneously convinced that lactic cultures contain lactose and that, consequently, their intake is not recommended for those who are intolerant to this substance. Actually, it is a "false belief": lactose is a disaccharide (i.e. a sugar) present in varying concentrations in milk.


The lactic acid bacteria used in supplements are prepared by means of selected cell cultures and no stage of their production involves the use of milk (as many believe).

Supplements of lactic acid bacteria are therefore lactose-free and can be taken safely even by people intolerant to it. After all, even yoghurt (the food richest in lactic acid bacteria), despite being a derivative of milk, thanks to the fermentation process, loses its lactose content.


Difference between probiotics and prebiotics

Having highlighted the difference between probiotics and lactic acid bacteria, let us see what distinguishes prebiotics from probiotics.

As we have seen, probiotics are active microorganisms that, once taken in adequate amounts, have a beneficial effect on the host's health, because they improve intestinal balance.

Prebiotics are not microorganisms but water-soluble fibres, or «non-digestible substances that bring benefits to an host organism as they stimulate the growth and activities of some bacterial strains that are part of the intestinal flora» (C. Gelmetti, La scuola dell’atopia, Milano 2007).

Probiotics can be found in certain foods such as wheat flour, bananas, honey, wheat germ, beans, leeks etc.

The intake of prebiotic fibres promotes growth, within the colon, of one or more species of bacteria useful for the development of beneficial probiotic microflora, which is why often, in the formulation of supplements, probiotics and prebiotics are combined together in order to obtain a synergistic effect and higher efficacy.





© Developed by CommerceLab
Compare Products

You have no items to compare.

There is no deal available.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter:








  • 100% MADE IN ITALY
Sign Up for Our Newsletter: