One beneficial probiotic strain that you’re definitely not getting from your morning bowl of yogurt? Akkermansia muciniphila (or Akkermansia for short), which is a strain found naturally in the body that can’t be consumed via food.
“Unlike probiotic strains such as lactobacillus that can be found in foods like yogurt, Akkermansia muciniphila is not found in food,” says Tara Karr, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES, nutrition educator and registered dietitian for Pendulum Therapeutics, the first brand to make Akkermansia available as a daily probiotic. “It’s unclear why some people have this strain in their guts while others don’t. Several factors can contribute to changes in the microbiome such as genetics, disease, diet or antibiotic use. Once all of the beneficial bug (Akkermansia) goes missing from the gut, unfortunately there’s no way to ‘eat it back’ and it can only be introduced through supplementing with the actual strain itself.”
If you’re trying to gauge how much you should care about a single bacteria strain going MIA from your gut microbiome, Karr puts it into context: Akkermansia feeds on proteins (called mucin) in the mucus layer of your intestines, and the more it eats, the stronger that gut lining becomes. Having a strong gut lining is important because it has a direct impact on your overall gut health, which can in turn affect many different areas of your overall health, she says.
“I like to think of Akkermansia as a gatekeeper of our microbiome,” she says. “Just like you don’t want any holes in your fence, you also don’t want any ‘holes’ or weak spots in your gut lining. From many studies done around the world by leading researchers, we know that this probiotic strain helps to regulate the lining of our guts, which is vital for our gut health.”
And if you want to tap into those gut-supporting benefits, Karr recommends taking one capsule of Pendulum Akkermansia (which is the only source of the strain in supplement form) once a day with food to help with absorption and ensure it makes it to your microbiome.
“Akkermansia is a next-generation probiotic strain that I believe could benefit anyone who is interested in improving their gut health,” Karr says. “Do you know the saying, ‘You are what you eat’? I like to think of it as, ‘You are what you feed the microbes in your gut,’ because so much of our health is tied back to our gut.” It’s true: Probiotics are still the MVP.
Top photo: Pendulum Therapeutics and Well+Good Creative