What are soil based organisms and how do they provide probiotic and immune boosting benefits? The answer may be as simple as some good old fashioned fun in the great outdoors.
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Understanding Bacteria & the Microbiome
Most people don’t know this, but most of the cells that make up our bodies are actually bacterial cells. In fact, the bacterial cells in the human body outnumber your human cells 10 to 1! In scientific terms, this phenomenon is referred to as the “human microbiome” and the NIH Human Microbiome Project (1) recently spent over $20 million to determine just how necessary bacteria are to human life. After evaluating over 240 healthy U.S. volunteers, researchers discovered that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human ecosystem and 81% – 99% are seen in healthy adults. Here are some of the key findings about soil based organisms benefits from the study:
- Microbes contribute more genes than humans contribute for human survival.
- Human genome carries approximately 22,000 protein-coding genes.
- The human microbiome contributes upwards to 8 million unique protein-coding genes (360 times more bacterial genes than human genes).
- The bacterial genomic contribution is critical for human survival.
- Genes carried by bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract, for example, enable humans to digest foods and absorb nutrients that otherwise would be unavailable.
I love this explanation from Lita Proctor, Ph.D (2):
“Humans don’t have all the enzymes we need to digest our own diet. Microbes in the gut break down many of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in our diet into nutrients that we can then absorb. Moreover, the microbes produce beneficial compounds, like vitamins and anti-inflammatories that our genome cannot produce.”
Researchers have discovered that having a wide spectrum of soil based organisms benefits in our gut is also key to health. Stressing the importance of housing a variety of bacteria to properly digest the foods that we eat, Curtis Huttenhower, Ph.D. (3) Harvard School of Public Health(4) states, “It appears that bacteria can pinch hit for each other. It matters whether the metabolic function is present, not which microbial species provides it.”
Soil Based Organisms From Eating Dirt
So, what’s the best way to ensure that you maintain the right supply of bacteria in your GI tract?
No, I’m not kidding. To properly reestablish your gut ecosystem you need to regularly consume soil based organisms (SBO). These are the probiotics that you’ve never heard of before. Yet, people have eaten SBO’s every meal since the beginning of time.
Soil based organisms benefits include probiotics (“good” bacteria) that normally live in dirt. They provide our GI tracts much needed support for digestion, food assimilation and nutrient absorption. To date, approximately 30 different strains that have been successfully isolated and are commonly put into the probiotic supplements that we see on the market today.
Some of the most beneficial SBOs include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus brevis
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bacillus subtilis
- Saccharomyces boulardii
SBO Probiotics Benefits & Research
More than 800 research studies (5) referencing soil based organisms exist in the scientific literature, which link SBO’s (Soil based organisms benefits) to successfully treating a wide variety of health conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Nutrient deficiency
- Autoimmune disease
- Inflammatory disease
- Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections
- And the list goes on and on…
From what I can tell from the research, 3 of the most critical SBOs for health are bacillus subtilis, bacillus coagulans and saccharomyces boulardii.
- Bacillus subtilis – An important component of the fermented food Natto, it has been reported that subtilis is completely harmless and cannot cause any adverse effect in people. This is actually quite interesting because it packs quite the punch against dangerous pathogens, according to a study published in the Journal of Ganan Medical University. I feel that this is a very important point because SBOs have an amazing God-given ability that’s oftentimes overlooked: they were specifically designed to help heal and promote life in human, not cause sickness or death. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to restrict B. subtilis consumption because several studies confirm these findings.
- Bacillus coagulans – Postgraduate Medicine printed the results of a study in 2009 that highlighted coagulans’ ability to increase immune function, particularly in response to viral respiratory tract infections. The data uncovered that the probiotic significantly increased T-cell production, in spite of inherent challenges these types of supplements must overcome to reach the point in the GI tract to benefit the body (manufacturing conditions, harsh gastric conditions, etc.). Some even suggest that B. coagulans is unique in this ability. According to Ken Alibek, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D.,
“No other probiotic has the ability like that of Bacillus coagulans to survive the challenges probiotics face in reaching the intestinal tract where they can do good” and added “once there, no other strain is as prolific in producing the beneficial by-products responsible for many of the benefits of probiotics.”
- Saccharomyces boulardii – In 2012, Therapeutics Advances in Gastroenterology highlighted an interesting fact about the live yeast boulardii; it reproduces protective effects of normal healthy gut flora and can help in chronic as well as acute GI diseases. This is possible because S. boulardii has been shown to:
- Regulate intestinal microbial homeostasis.
- Interfere with the ability of pathogens to colonize and infect the mucosa.
- Modulate local and systemic immune responses.
- Stabilize the gastrointestinal barrier function and induces enzymatic activity favoring absorption and nutrition.
When you get right down to it, this is quite spectacular because few substances on the planet can produce such profound physiological effects like this!
Importance of the SBO Probiotics
Here’s a question that has ran through my mind a few times.
Why do little children have a tendency to put everything into their mouths?
It’s actually downright disgusting to look at, but maybe I can’t help but think that there’s a reason why every baby on the planet instinctively puts everything that they can get their hands on into their mouths. I love this quote from a New York Times article that offers an unusual explanation:
Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you. In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry
As a whole, America’s immunity is weak at best and inoperable at worst, and these studies provide some key insights as to why immune system disorders have steadily been on the rise the past several decades.
And eating dirt is the solution?
According to microbiology and immunology professor Mary Ruebush,
“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment, Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”
Americans’ obsession with living in sterile, clean environments veritably makes it impossible for this to happen. In the words of (6) Dr. Joel V. Weinstock (7) – Director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston (8) – “Children raised in an ultra clean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.”
And this, my friends, is why we need to supplement with SBO probiotics!
Not sure where to get SBO’s? Personally, I highly recommend getting them through probiotics in a supplement form or from food at farmers market and your local garden. Try it out and see how your health shapes up!
- NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body. Internet. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm
- Bittner AC, et al. Prescript-assist™ probiotic-prebiotic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: A methodologically oriented, 2-week, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study. Clin Thera 2005; 27(6): 755-61.
- Brody JE. Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You. Internet. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?_r=0
- Baron M. A Patented Strain of Bacillus coagulans Increased Immune Response to Viral Challenge. Internet. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24245284_Original_Research_A_Patented_Strain_of_Bacillus_coagulans_Increased_Immune_Response_to_Viral_Challenge.
- Tompkins TA, et al. A comprehensive review of of post-market clinical studies performed in adults with an asian probiotic formulation. Beneficial Microbes 2010. 1: 93-106.
- Zhong YT, et al. The bacteriostatic effect of Medilac-Vita on enteric pathogen and conditioned pathogen and their bacterial L form. Journal of Gannan Medical University 2006. 26: 487-488.
- Hosoi T, et al. Improved growth and viability of lactobacilli in the presence of Bacillus subtilis (natto), catalase, or subtilisin. Can J Microbiol. 2000 Oct;46(10):892-7.
- Kelesidis Tl, et al. Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;5(2):111-25.