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Streptococcus Thermophilus (S. thermophilus) Health Benefits

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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yogurt and berries

S. thermophilus is an often encountered probiotic used in cheese and yogurt production. Although not particularly well studied as a probiotic, this bacterium has many potential health benefits. It is great for the skin, may alleviate GI symptoms, and may increase folate and hemoglobin levels.

What is Streptococcus thermophilus?

Streptococcus thermophilus is a thermophilic lactic acid bacterium traditionally and widely used as a starter in manufacturing dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

At birth, S. thermophilus is among the first colonizers of the GI tract and may impact the maturation and homeostasis of the intestinal epithelium after birth [1].

Mechanisms of Action

Health benefits of S. thermophilus

1) Reduces Lactose Intolerance

Along with L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus improves lactose digestion in the gastrointestinal tract and reduces symptoms of lactose intolerance [1].

2) Stimulates the Immune System

S. thermophilus exerts an anti-inflammatory effect by suppressing the Th17 response in mice white blood cells [2].

S. thermophilus stimulates macrophage and T-cell cytokine production [5].

S. thermophilus stimulates epithelial cell regeneration and immunological innate defense mechanisms [6].

3) May Inhibit Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea

Mice infected with C. difficile treated with viable S. thermophilus exhibited less weight loss, reduced diarrhea, and lower detectable toxin levels [10].

4) May Improve Oral Health

S. thermophilus inhibits the growth of P. gingivalis and reduced the emission of volatile sulfur compounds that can cause oral malodor [11].

5) Stimulates the Growth of Other Probiotics

S. thermophilus is used in the production of yogurt alongside Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus. These two species are synergistic. S. thermophilus provides L. d. bulgaricus with folic and formic acid, while L. d. bulgaricus provides amino acids and peptides for the growth of S. thermophilus [12].

S. thermophilus improves the viability of L. brevis in milk [13].

6) May Prevent Gastritis

Aspirin causes gastritis or stomach ulcers if intensively employed. S. thermophilus reduces inflammation and prevents chronic gastritis in aspirin-treated mice [3, 4].

7) May Improve Mucositis

In one study, S. thermophilus partially alleviated mucositis induced by administration of the antimetabolite chemotherapy drug methotrexate in rats [14], while in another study no protective effects were observed [15].

S. thermophilus partially prevented the loss of body weight induced by doxorubicin and slightly ameliorated doxorubicin-induced mucositis in rats [16].

S. thermophilus significantly reduced intestinal mucositis severity in rats treated with 5-Fluorouracil [17].

8) May Ameliorate IBD

S. thermophilus increased hematocrit and hemoglobin concentrations, and improved acute colitis in mice [18].

S. thermophilus repressed the Th17 response and ameliorated intestinal lesions in mice with colitis [9].

9) Can Increase Folate and Hemoglobin

Folate-rich fermented milk produced by high-folate-producing S. thermophilus increases hemoglobin levels in mice [19].

10) Is Beneficial for the Skin

Ceramides play an essential role in the barrier and water-holding functions of healthy skin. A significant increase in skin ceramide levels was observed in healthy subjects after treatment with a cream containing a preparation of S. thermophilus [20].

Topical treatment with an S. thermophilus-containing cream increased ceramide levels and increased hydration in the skin of healthy elderly women [21].

Topical administration of an S. thermophilus-containing cream to patients with atopic dermatitis increased ceramide levels and improved the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis (i.e. erythema, scaling, pruritus) [22].

11) May Potentially Combat Cancer

Mice with fibrosarcoma, treated by S. thermophilus were protected against this tumor when re-challenged. Additionally, spleen T-lymphocytes from cured animals could effectively transfer the antitumor activity to recipients transplanted with the tumor [23].


S. thermophilus is widely used in the dairy industry and is considered safe for consumption.

However, probiotics should be avoided in immunocompromised individuals, people with organ failure, and dysfunctional gut barrier, where they may cause infection.

S. thermophilus can produce low amounts of biogenic amines histamine and tyramine [24].

Buying S. thermophilus

These probiotic products contain S. thermophilus:

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About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

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 & 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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