Evidence Based
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12+ Benefits of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (L. rhamnosus)

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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L. rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus is among the more promising probiotics for skin health, gut health, and respiratory inflammation. It may also help with gestational diabetes and vaginal infections, and new research has introduced the possibility of even more benefits. Read on to learn more about this intriguing probiotic supplement.

What is Lactobacillus rhamnosus?

Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a gram-positive lactic acid bacterium that is part of the normal gut microflora in humans. It is generally regarded as safe and has been used extensively in food products and health supplements.

Among many other health benefits, people take L. rhamnosus to balance their immune system and alleviate allergies and dermatitis.

Mechanisms

In a laboratory setting, researchers have observed that L. rhamnosus:

  • Suppressed the production of inflammatory cytokines: IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8R, IL-13, IL-17, TSLP, IL-1β and TNF-α [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
  • The mechanism of proinflammatory cytokine suppression involves CD4(+) CD25(+) Foxp3(+) Treg cells [1, 7, 3].
  • Elevated anti-inflammatory IL-10 [8, 2, 4].
  • Elevated and decreases interferon gamma (IFN-γ) [8, 2, 3].
  • Elevated IgG and IgA [8, 2].
  • Decreased IgE, IgG, IgG1 [2, 9].
  • Decreased IGF1 gene expression in the skin [10].
  • Increased FOXO1 gene expression in the skin [10].

Potential Benefits of L. rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus probiotic supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before using probiotics.

Possibly Effective For

1) Gestational Diabetes

In a study of 373 pregnant women, a probiotic supplement of L. rhamnosus reduced the incidence of gestational diabetes [11].

L. rhamnosus also exerts an anti-diabetic effect in mice, with an anti-hyperglycemic effect in several rodent models. L. rhamnosus further improves glucose tolerance and enhances insulin sensitivity [12].

2) Gut Health

L. rhamnosus has often been selected as candidate probiotic for the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea. It may reduce the duration of diarrhea, particularly in children. It was also shown to reduce the risk of acquiring gastrointestinal infections when administered daily in hospitalized children [13].

L. rhamnosus has been proven to reduce symptoms in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders [14].

It was also beneficial against stress-induced intestinal dysmotility in mice [15].

Diarrhea

Supplementation with L. rhamnosus reduced the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in patients treated with antibiotics from 22.4% to 12.3% [16].

L. rhamnosus administration was associated with significantly lower rates of and symptomatic rotavirus gastroenteritis diarrhea in hospitalized children L. rhamnosus was well tolerated, and no harms were reported in any of the trials [17].

GI Infections

L. rhamnosus has been shown to prevent enteric colonization by Candida species in preterm neonates and Clostridium difficile induced colitis in children [13].

Ulcers

L. rhamnosus promotes gastric ulcer healing in rats [18].

IBS

L. rhamnosus was beneficial in patients with irritable bowel syndrome [14].

It can reduce pain frequency and intensity in children with abdominal pain-related disorders, particularly among irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [13].

3) Respiratory Illness

Fermented milk containing L. rhamnosus was efficient in reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections that lasted longer than three days in hospitalized children [13].

Preterm infants treated daily with L. rhamnosus in capsules starting within one week after birth, appear to have a significantly lower incidence of RTIs and rhinovirus-induced episodes in the first 2 months [13].

Consumption of L. rhamnosus reduced the occurrence of respiratory illness in children attending day care centers [19].

Children receiving L. rhamnosus probiotics had fewer days with respiratory symptoms per month than the children in the control group [20].

Capsulated L. rhamnosus was shown to protect hospitalized patients against ventilator-associated pneumonia, mainly when caused by Gram-negative pathogens like Pseudomonas aeruginosa [13].

In cystic fibrosis patients with P. aeruginosa, long-term L. rhamnosus significantly decreased the incidence of pulmonary exacerbations and increased body weight [13].

4) Allergies

Some researchers believe that administration of L. rhamnosus in early life could play a role in food allergy prevention [21].

L. rhamnosus accelerates oral tolerance acquisition in cow’s milk allergic infants [21, 13].

It decreased the allergic response to peanuts in children [22].

L. rhamnosus supplementation shows good clinical and immunologic response in children with allergic rhinitis [7].

The combination of prenatal maternal (2-4 weeks) and postnatal pediatric (6 months) L. rhamnosus treatment in families with a history of atopic disease, significantly lowered the incidence of eczema in children aged 2, 4 and 7 years old [13].

In milk-hypersensitive adults, L. rhamnosus has been shown to reduce the immunoinflammatory response [13].

Consumption of L. rhamnosus-fermented milk by mothers and offspring showed a reduction in physical allergic symptoms in newborn mice [2].

5) Skin Health

Supplementation with L. rhamnosus normalizes skin expression of genes involved in insulin signaling and improves the appearance of adult acne [10].

Eczema

L. rhamnosus efficiently prevents the development of eczema and possibly also atopic sensitization in high-risk infants up to 6 years old [23].

Cumulative prevalence of eczema and prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis were significantly reduced in the children taking L. rhamnosus [24].

Atopic Dermatitis

L. rhamnosus is effective in decreasing symptoms of atopic dermatitis after 8-weeks of treatment in children aged 4-48 months [25].

Oral application of L. rhamnosus prevents the development of atopic dermatitis in mice by suppressing the production of inflammatory cytokines [1].

6) Vaginal Infections

Probiotic supplementation with vaginal L. rhamnosus is useful in hindering bacteria growth, especially after antibiotic therapy [26].

L. rhamnosus vaginal tablets have demonstrated to be a reliable topical effective and safe treatment to reduce the bacterial vaginosis recurrence rate. No side effects have been reported [27].

Insufficient Evidence For

Researchers are currently investigating whether L. rhamnosus has other health benefits. The potential benefits in this section have produced positive results in at least one clinical trial, but these studies are small, contradictory, or otherwise limited. Talk to your doctor before supplementing with L. rhamnosus for any reason.

7) Weight Management

L. rhamnosus appeared to promote weight loss in women, reducing fat mass and circulating leptin concentrations. However, the weight loss was minor (an additional 1.8 kg compared to the placebo), and the men in the study did not benefit at all. Additional human trials will be required to clarify whether L. rhamnosus can truly promote weight loss [28].

L. rhamnosus significantly lowered weight and demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in multiple mouse studies [29, 30].

It also protected against high-fat diet-induced adiposity and reversed insulin resistance in mice [31].

It significantly reduced blood levels of triglyceride and cholesterol, decreased liver fat content, and reduced the expressions of lipogenic and pro-inflammatory genes in the livers of mice [32].

8) Liver Function

In obese children with NAFLD, L. rhamnosus restored liver function [33].

L. rhamnosus protects against alcoholic liver injury [34, 5].

L. rhamnosus protects against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice, by increasing beneficial bacteria in the distal small intestine and attenuating liver fat accumulation and portal alanine-aminotransferase concentrations [6].

9) Dental Health

L. rhamnosus reduces oral counts of Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium correlated with the formation of dental caries or cavities [13].

Long-term consumption of L. rhamnosus containing milk reduced the development of cavities in children [13, 35].

10) Immunity

L. rhamnosus activated humoral as well as cellular immune responses in mice [36].

Bacterial Infection

Long-term L. rhamnosus supplementation has an influence on the composition of the intestinal microbiota in children, and reduces the frequency of gastrointestinal complaints after antibiotic use, preventing certain bacterial infections for up to 3 years after the trial [37].

Non-viable L. rhamnosus combats pneumococcal infection in malnourished immunocompromised mice [38].

Mice with pneumonia treated with L. rhamnosus had significantly improved survival [39].

L. rhamnosus can overcome the pathogenic strain Salmonella enterica [40].

Parasitic Infection

L. rhamnosus promotes parasite (nematode) expulsion in mice [41].

Antifungal Activity

L. rhamnosus strains exhibit antimicrobial activity against food spoilage organisms and gastrointestinal pathogens, as well as Candida and Aspergillus [42].

Viral Infection

L. rhamnosus protects against influenza virus infection in mice [43] and beneficially modulates inflammation. Furthermore, the non-viable heat-killed L. rhamnosus is as effective as the viable strain to beneficially modulate respiratory antiviral immune response [44].

L. rhamnosus enhances macrophage viability of herpes (HSV-1) elimination [45].

Treatment of mice with L. rhamnosus significantly reduced lung viral loads and tissue injuries after infection with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) [46].

High dose of L. rhamnosus has protective effects against rotavirus infection in newborn mice [47].

11) Pregnancy & Birth

Prenatal supplementation with L. rhamnosus has been reported to change the composition of the newborn microbiota, promoting a beneficial profile dominated by Bifidobacteria [13].

L. rhamnosus affects the immune regulation and immune responses favorably in mothers and offspring. In addition, some of the beneficial effects of prenatal L. rhamnosus supplementation extend into the postnatal life of the offspring, suggesting a possible immune programming effect of L. rhamnosus [8].

It’s important to remember, however, that pregnancy is a sensitive condition, and that each person’s experience is different. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before using probiotics.

Animal and Cell Studies (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of L. rhamnosus for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

12) Asthma

L. rhamnosus has an anti-inflammatory effect on allergen-induced airway inflammation in mice [9].

Oral administration of L. rhamnosus attenuates the features of allergic asthma in mice [3].

13) Inflammation

L. rhamnosus beneficially regulated the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the lungs of infant mice [46].

L. rhamnosus ameliorates inflammation by down-regulating pro-inflammatory cytokines in rats [4].

14) Detox

Dietary supplementation with L. rhamnosus reduces absorption and toxicity of consumed organophosphate pesticides in Drosophila [48].

15) Mental Illness

L. rhamnosus administered for 28 days reduced depression in rats [49].

L. rhamnosus decreases anxiety-like behaviors in mice [50].

Both a 2- and 4-week L. rhamnosus pretreatment attenuated OCD-like behavior induction in mice [51].

16) Pain Perception

L. rhamnosus can attenuate neonatally induced chronic visceral pain, and significantly alters levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in rats [52].

Cancer Research

Both viable and nonviable L. rhamnosus kill human cervical and colon cancer cells in a laboratory setting, though these results may not be at all applicable to clinical research [18, 53].

L. rhamnosus has been shown to decrease the incidence of carcinogen-induced colon tumors and precancerous lesions in experimental animals as well as in human cells [53], and possess antitumor effects in animal models of bladder cancer [54].

The effect of L. rhamnosus probiotics on human cancer, if any, is unknown.

Supplementing with L. rhamnosus

Safety

L. rhamnosus is safe and well tolerated in healthy adults, and does not seem to cause adverse effects in young or elderly subjects [55, 56].

However, it should not be taken by immunocompromised individuals where it can lead to bacteremia [57, 58]. Use of probiotics in patients with organ failure, immunocompromised status, and dysfunctional gut barrier mechanisms can lead to infections [59].

Food Sources

L. rhamnosus is a human probiotic strain; that is, it is a natural part of the human microbiome. It was first isolated from two healthy adults, Sherwood Gorbach and Barry Goldwin, which is why it got “GG” added to its name [60].

As such, L. rhamnosus is not naturally found in animal- or plant-based foods. Instead, it has to be added during the fermentation process. Various foods may have added L. rhamnosus, including yogurt, cheese, and fermented legumes [61, 62].

Buy Lactobacillus rhamnosus

These probiotic products contain L. rhamnosus:

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About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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