For many of those suffering from gut dysbiosis or other digestive disorders, probiotics can provide welcome relief from their symptoms. These probiotics are usually lactic acid-based, meaning that they contains strains of Lactobacilli and/or Bifidobacteria. There are some excellent lactic acid-based probiotics on the market, but the variability we see in our individual physiology and gut health means that a one-size-fits-all approach is not always appropriate.
Soil-based probiotics are a promising alternative to the more traditional lactic acid-based formulations. Research over the past 5-10 years has shown promising results, particularly with respect to IBS and other digestive conditions, and we know that individual strains of soil-based bacteria have antifungal properties too. If you are not seeing the results that you want with your current probiotic, a soil-based probiotic might be the solution.
What are Soil-Based Organisms?
The theory behind soil-based organisms is pretty simple. Up until fairly recently (less than 100 years ago), we had very different attitudes towards our food. These days, we are conditioned to buying our vegetables in supermarkets, where they are cleaned and presented in perfect, glistening rows. However, in previous times most of the vegetables we ate would have come straight from the field. They might have been quickly wiped, but were likely still covered with pieces of dirt and soil when our ancestors consumed them.
This is important because the bacteria contained in that soil and dirt have historically performed a crucial function. It seems likely that they helped to regulate our immune systems, protecting us from bacterial and fungal overgrowth in our intestines.
Soil-based bacteria do not regularly feature in our gut flora these days, mainly because we are exposed to them so infrequently. Almost by default, the composition of our gut flora has changed dramatically from those of our ancestors just 100 years ago. We now have a very different mix of bacteria in our guts, with more lactic acid-based bacteria and fewer soil-based bacteria.
By reintroducing soil-based organisms into our intestines, we move closer to the gut flora composition that our ancestors enjoyed. We also increase the diversity of beneficial bacteria in our guts, helping to improve digestion, boost immunity, and much more. Soil-based organisms (SBOs) have been linked to reductions in abdominal discomfort, bloating, nausea, flatulence, and constipation. Specific SBOs have also been shown to secrete proteins that activate the immune system and stimulate the production of white blood cells and antibodies.
How do Soil-Based Organisms differ from regular probiotics?
Most of the research into probiotics to date has been conducted on lactic acid-based strains like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. They have exhibited some wonderful health benefits, but a couple of problems remain.
Firstly, many of the lactic acid bacteria included in these probiotics struggle to make it through the hostile, acidic environment of the stomach, and therefore a greatly reduced number arrive to the small intestine. That is why most nutritionists and digestive experts recommend getting a probiotic with a high CFU count, to ensure that enough of the bacteria are alive by the time they get where they need to be.
Secondly, the beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria (like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) tend to last only as long as you take the supplements. Some studies have shown that the benefits of these bacteria tend to reduce after an individual stops taking them.
Does this mean that lactic acid-based probiotics are less useful than we thought? Not at all. Research has shown them to have tremendous benefits for digestion, immunity, and much more. But it does mean that we should remain open to other options. Probiotics like Prescript-Assist, which contain soil-based organisms, may be more suitable for some individuals who aren’t getting the results they want from lactic acid-based probiotics.
Soil-based organisms are ‘endospore-forming’ bacteria, which are naturally hardier and better able to withstand the challenging environment of the stomach. These means that soil-based probiotics differ from regular probiotics in two important ways:
- They are much more likely to make it to the small intestine intact.
This means that a soil-based probiotic supplement needs to contain much fewer colony forming units (CFUs) than a lactic acid-based supplement. It also eliminates the need for special coatings or manufacturing techniques that are used to deliver lactic acid-based bacteria.
- They colonize the gut more effectively.
This enables us to reduce our dosage to ‘maintenance’ levels much sooner, without worrying that the health benefits of the probiotics will disappear.
Have Soil-Based Organisms been tested in clinical trials?
There have been a number of clinical trials conducted on SBOs, examining their effectiveness in treating digestive disorders and imbalances.
For example, an independent 2005 placebo-controlled, double-blind study, published in Clinical Therapeutics, examined the use of Prescript-Assist soil-based probiotics for the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Researchers found that, within two weeks of starting the course of probiotics, patients reported significantly improvements in the three major symptoms associated with IBS. (1)
In a followup study, the researchers examined the same patients after a further 60 weeks, during which time most of them had moved on to a lower dose of probiotics. They found that between 81.5% and 100% of patients were in remission from IBS at this later point. According to the researchers, ”Prescript-Assist treatment was found to be associated with both short-term reductions in IBS symptoms and year-long IBS remissions.” (2)
You should also know that soil based organisms have been used safely for many years. One such microorganism, known as Bacillus Subtilis, was widely used as an immune stimulator and treatment for digestive disorders in North America during the 1950s and 1960s. Its popularity declined after the introduction of antibiotics, despite its effectiveness and the fact that it comes with far fewer side effects. It is still widely used today in Germany and other parts of Europe, and a 2011 research study showed that it is also a powerful antifungal, particularly against Candida Albicans. (3)
Note that pregnant women and those who are severely immunocompromised should avoid using soil-based probiotics, but otherwise they are a very safe and well tolerated treatment.
Which soil-based probiotic should you choose?
If you choose to use a probiotic containing soil-based organisms, there are some excellent choices on the market. I recommend Prescript-Assist, the probiotic used in the clinical trials I mentioned earlier. You can find it in a 60-capsule bottle and a 90-capsule bottle.
The formulation used in Prescript-Assist employs a combination of 29 different soil-based organisms. A healthy gut microbiome should contain many hundreds of different strains of bacteria. If your gut flora has been weakened by a course of antibiotics or some other factor, using a probiotic with a large number of individual strains like Prescript-Assist will help to restore that diversity.
Because Prescript-Assist contains soil-based organisms rather than regular lactic acid-based bacteria, it does not require refrigeration. In fact, you can expect more than 95% of the bacteria in each capsule to still be viable after 2 years or more, even without refrigeration.
If you are suffering from Candida, probiotics should be one of the main elements of your treatment plan. If you choose a lactic acid-based probiotic, I recommend Healthy Origins 30bn. If you prefer a soil-based probiotic, the best choice is Prescript-Assist. Either way, make sure that you integrate them into a comprehensive Candida treatment plan like my Ultimate Candida Diet program, including a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet, and some effective antifungal supplements.
Research & Further Reading
- Bittner et al, 2005. “Prescript-Assist probiotic-prebiotic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: a methodologically oriented, 2-week, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study.”,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16117982.
- Bittner et al, 2007. “Prescript-assist probiotic-prebiotic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: an open-label, partially controlled, 1-year extension of a previously published controlled clinical trial”,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17692729.
- Tabbene et al, 2011. “Anti-candida effect of bacillomycin D-like lipopeptides from Bacillus subtilis B38”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21204933.