If you wonder, “Is my probiotic really helping or not?”, today we'll get to the bottom of that question for those who worry that they may be spending a lot of money for nothing.
You'll learn about a supplement that's available now, it's a probiotic AND an antioxidant. (Click here if you just want to know where to get it — use the code KOP for a discount — if you order 3 or more, it's an even better deal than their auto-ship option + you'll get free shipping!) Read on for all the details from Joanie… (Or catch these newer posts: This Mom will make you cry, how ONE change made all the difference for her son… and Can Leaky Gut be Healed? Find Out HOW: Study Showed Reversal in 30 Days)
Is My Probiotic Really Helping or am I Wasting Money?
By Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
“It's well known in the medical world that the live microflora in probiotics and fermented foods are all killed by stomach acid.”
My jaw dropped when my boss at the supplements company told me that way back in 2004! And he was not just my boss, but also an exceptional nutritional researcher and formulator, naturopathic physician with a clinical practice, and a teacher at the naturopathic college nearby. I trusted his opinion implicitly!
“But, how can that possibly be when people clearly experience benefit from probiotics?” I asked.
After all, I'd been in the natural foods and products industry my entire life and sold (and personally consumed) more than my fair share of these expensive bottles of capsules.
The doctor gave me a thoughtful look. “The mechanism is not clearly understood, but the medical guess is that possibly the bacterial dead cell bodies provide some kind of nutrition for the live microflora already there. But what you consume definitely doesn't survive to the intestines, or at best,” he held his thumb and forefingers tightly together, “it's a miniscule amount. We know that for sure.”
As a person with lifelong gut problems, this was shocking to me. Granted, I didn't personally feel that much different when I took probiotics, but, crap (no pun intended), weren't they at least doing something?!?
Since that conversation more than a dozen years ago, it hasn't been that I entirely forgot what the good doc said…
However, over the intervening years, as a health coach and retail vitamin specialist who has regularly heard testimonials about conventional probiotics helping some symptoms, I decided that taking them appeared to be better than doing nothing at all, especially for specific, acute conditions, like food poisoning, nausea from antibiotic use, and healing some digestive disorders (especially when used with the GAPS Diet).
The newest science… (keep reading, the breakthrough is coming!)
The most recent science shows that we do, indeed, support a huge community of microflora in our gut. I think of my intestines as a major metropolitan area, comprised of trillions of bacteria, and, probably because I'm originally from the east coast, I picture them accomplishing enormous amounts of work, while gesturing to one another and talking in a fast-paced, New York City accent. 🙂
Just like in an urban area, there are many classes and functions to these bacterial workers. Some bacteria are high level communicators who direct others in their work. Others are more like the worker bees in the hive. But since it's in the best interest of our probiotic bacteria that we humans, their “container,” stay healthy, they all work hard together to help us thrive. This is why there is actually more neural communication from the gut to the brain than the reverse.
We have also recently learned that the average microbiome of a western industrialized human is far weaker, having fewer quantity and less diversity of microflora, than those of rural, nonindustrialized populations.
Why? In large part it's due to our exposure to:
- Pesticides, notably glyphosate (Roundup) Read more: Why Glyphosate is Dangerous
- Most pharmaceutical medications, including birth control pills — read more: The Dangers of the Birth Control Pill
- A more sterile environment (think hand sanitizers)
- Antibiotics, both in food as well as prescribed as a medication, which can impair our gut microbiome for up to TWO YEARS… or more and
- “Unnatural” birthing practices like caesarean sections and bottle feeding — read more: The BEST Way to Protect Your Immune System – It's Not What You Think!
These all can and DO kill the bacteria in our gut.
Ok, where's the “breakthrough” you promised?
Strains of protective probiotic bacteria that survive digestive acid to actively colonize the gut have actually been in use for decades, both for humans as well as farm animals. Unfortunately though, for the U.S., most of us here have not had access to these particular strains.
These robust strains are costly to manufacture, so most probiotic companies selling to the public in this country chose to concentrate on the less expensive lacto, bifido, etc forms commonly found in 99+% of all retail probiotics.
Well known in Europe and Asia for decades, the hardier strains were marketed primarily to and through physicians abroad, and so were largely only available by prescription there (as they still are today). Physicians prescribed them along with antibiotics, to be taken at the same time. See my article The ONLY Probiotics to Take With Antibiotics (This May Save Your Life Some Day).
These “breakthrough” probiotic strains are called gut commensal spore bacillus and learning about how they function in the gut has entirely changed the way I look at what a microbiome needs to remain healthy.
It is true that the majority of the bacterial population in the human gut is made up of lacto and bifido strains. However, the strains of lacto and bifido that thrive in our gut are NOT exactly the same as ones that grow in lacto-fermented foods or in probiotic pills. Why not?
Because the strains in our gut are ANAEROBIC, that is, they thrive in an environment that has no oxygen.
The strains in fermented foods, or those grown in a lab, have been produced an oxygen-exposed environment. This exposure genetically alters them into the AEROBIC version and, therefore, unable to bind to the correct receptor sites in the intestines.
Without that binding ability, conventional strains (aerobic lacto, bifido, etc.) are unable to colonize the gut.
Instead, microbiologists say our newest technology clearly shows that, even if some miniscule amount manages to remain alive through stomach acid, conventional bacteria simply pass through the intestines in a matter of hours to be excreted in the bowel movement.
If all they do is pass through, does that mean the lacto and bifido strains from fermented food or probiotic pills are worthless?
Absolutely not! Because we also know that we get well-documented immune benefit from consuming these kinds of non-colonizing bacteria, even if microbiologists, at this point, don't fully understand the mechanism for how.
Sandor Katz, author with Sally Fallon of the fermentation classic, Wild Fermentation, in a panel discussion on May 11, 2016 at UCLA called Microbes: From Your Food to Your Brain offered a possible explanation.
One scientific guess, Katz said, about the origin of the benefit of fermented foods is that there may be an advantageous genetic exchange between the alive microbes residing in the gut with the dead transient microbial passersby as they move through the intestines. Or another possibility, as my doctor friend suggested, is that the dead cell bodies of the consumed microbes provide nutrition for the live bacteria.
Bottom line? We just don't know enough yet to state definitively how the bacteria in live, fermented foods can produce benefit to the immune system; we just know that to a degree they do.
So how do the spore bacillus function differently?
Spore bacillus is a family of bacteria that has naturally evolved over time to be particularly hardy by developing a shell. This outside spore not only protects it against extremes like moisture and dehydration, heat and cold, and the harsh acids of the bile and stomach, but also enables it to naturally survive in environments that are both oxygen-rich, like air, as well as anaerobic, like the human intestines.
This allows the gut commensal spore bacillus to safely exist in our external environment for eons in their inactive spore form, literally just waiting for the chance to be inhaled, drunk or consumed by, oh, say… a human.
And once they reach the small intestines, because they are of the gut commensal family (meaning the gut is their natural home), the shell falls away so the bacteria can bind to the correct sites.
Designed by nature to be our gut cleaners, these gut commensal strains then immediately begin killing pathological strains and supporting beneficial ones. At the end of about 3-4 weeks, they have moved down the entire length of the gut, correcting and rebalancing the microbial population wherever they travel.
I learned this by getting exposed to a new probiotic that has only recently launched here in the U.S. Ten years in the making, this is the first 100% gut commensal spore probiotic to be sold at the retail level in this country. It has been shown in third party gastric survivability testing to arrive 100% alive in the intestines, actively colonize the gut, and produce antioxidants.
There are now 5 questions I ask when choosing a probiotic.
1. Is this probiotic comprised of gut commensal spore bacteria?
Clinical studies show that Just Thrive's spore-based bacteria (Bacillus indicus HU36, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis HU58) have a 100% survival rate.
*Do conventional lacto/bifido strains survive to the intestines?
LESS THAN .01%
*How do you know whether or not your probiotic contains gut commensal spore bacteria?
Look on your bottle. If the name of the strain starts with lacto or bifido, it is NOT an spore forming probiotic.
Spore forming strains are all start with the word Bacillus and are followed by the latin name of the family. Anything else is one of the fragile, non-spore strains.
*If a probiotic is so delicate it must be refrigerated at 50 degrees in order to survive to the day it is sold, how can it possibly successfully reproduce at 98.6 degrees in the human body?
There are some companies who claim that their conventional bacteria strains have some kind of coating which creates a delayed release.
Look on the label or marketing literature for any references to clinical testing proving that their strains not only survive digestion, but actively colonize the gut. If you don't see any… think twice.
2. Are all the strains safe, human-derived and gut commensal?
Don't be confused!
- Gut commensal spore bacteria can be found in soil in their inactive, spore shell, but they are NOT “soil-based organisms” (SBOs). They are of the gut commensal variety, meaning the gut is where they come alive and reproduce.
- Always ask for safety studies! Just because a strain is included in your probiotic doesn't necessarily mean it has been verified as safe. For example, there are some soil-based strains that have never been tested or characterized as safe for human consumption. If it doesn't naturally belong in your gut, do you want to consume it?
Characteristics of SBOs (or bacteria designed to live in the soil):
- Reproduce in the oxygen-rich earth, thereby making the soil fertile – and farmers happy!
- Consist mostly of non-spore bacteria. A few are spore-based, but they are not the gut commensal variety.
- Can be beneficial to the human gut microbiome, while some are harmful, but most do nothing at all. Ask for studies proving benefit in the human microbiome.
Also keep in mind that the phrase “soil-based organisms” is NOT a correct scientific term. It was coined years ago by a probiotic manufacturer when it began adding soil bacteria into their product. However, microbiologists and research scientists never use that description.
I prefer to use the more scientifically accurate phrase “gut commensal spore bacteria” when describing the spore-based bacteria that are natural to our gut.
And when describing the lacto/bifido, etc. strains commonly used in most conventional probiotics, I use the microbiologically accurate term “vegetative” meaning a bacteria that has no protective shell. Virtually all conventional strains are permanently vegetative because they lack the ability to develop a spore shell.
Please note: Once a gut commensal spore bacteria reaches the intestines, because it is now “home,” it de-sporulates and remains in its vegetative state until it finishes traveling the length of the intestines. When it senses it is returning to a “hostile” environment, this vegetative gut commensal spore bacteria then re-sporulates before being excreted back into the environment.
In a “perfect world” that would mean landing back into the soil from which it could hopefully, once again, catch a ride on a growing plant and be eaten by an animal… So the cycle starts once again!
Just Thrive is the first and currently only 100% gut commensal spore probiotic in the retail market.
3. Are the strains used “smart” and highly effective?
As I said, bacteria are extremely varied in terms of the jobs they perform in our body.
As a comparison, when an area has been destroyed by a natural disaster, highly trained personnel are always brought in first. Why? Because they have the ability to most effectively instruct the rest of the workers in how to fix the disaster.
Similarly, the strains in Just Thrive were carefully chosen as the most “intelligent” of the bacillus world.
All four strains use “quorum sensing” to discriminate between harmful versus beneficial strains for the host. They respond appropriately, selectively killing only the pathological microbes, while at the same time making nutrients to assist probiotic strains to regrow and thrive.
Unlike lacto and bifido strains, the four forms of bacillus in this probiotic perform like “smart” gardeners, cleaning and correcting the gut microbiome for up to 4 weeks by selectively pulling out unwanted weeds while simultaneously adding amendments to enhance the growth of desired plants.
This is why these particular strains create a disproportionately large impact on both diversity as well as total numbers of the intestinal population.
In fact, testing has shown that these four proprietary strains stimulate a 30% change for the better in the microbiome in just about two weeks with one cap daily.
Update: It's now been proven to work — it has been shown to reverse Leaky Gut at one cap daily in 30 days with no other changes in diet or lifestyle. Those results were peer reviewed and published August 2017: Oral spore-based probiotic supplementation. It involved 100 people. Half got the probiotic, half didn't. Everyone who got the probiotic improved, while very little to no change for those with the placebo.
(*For those suffering from depression, keep in mind that 90% of serotonin is produced by specific probiotic strains in the gut. Do you have enough of the right bacteria?)
4. How have these probiotic strains been researched, chosen and manufactured?
Very significantly, this antioxidant/probiotic has been shown in a double blind, placebo-controlled, third party human clinical trial to REVERSE LEAKY GUT using the proprietary strains found only in Just Thrive. See my article Can Leaky Gut Be Healed? Find Out HOW: Study Showed Reversal in 30 Days.
These results have been submitted to the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology for peer review and publication in Fall 2017.
In addition, there are six other ongoing human, clinical trials on Just Thrive's finished product:
- Thyroid conditions/Hashimoto's Disease (headed by internally thyroid expert, Dr. Izabella Wentz)
- HIV/AIDS gut enteropathy (disease) to be conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see Leaky Gut Full of Holes?
- Liver failure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome and
- Leaky gut (a longer, more comprehensive study than the first).
Click here to get the only probiotic and antioxidant I take now, or keep reading to learn more.
Can your probiotics manufacturer answer the following questions?
- If a spore bacteria, is this strain soil-based or gut commensal?
- Has 3rd party testing been done that demonstrates that the strains survive gastric passage?
- Were these strains grown separately or together in a single vat?
- Where is the supplier located?
- How much of each strain is in the product?
- Where did the strains originate from?
- Has DNA analysis been done on each strain to verify label claims?
- Has each strain been published with safety profiles?
- Does each strain have proven clinical benefit to humans?
- Are the strains verified, branded, registered and licensed?
- Can chain of custody as to the origin of each strain be shown?
- Are any clinical trials being conducted on the finished product?
5. Does this probiotic produce high levels of antioxidants?
We think of our best source of antioxidants as being from fruits and vegetables. But…
Could it be possible that most of what we absorb is actually coming from the correct strains of bacteria in our gut? (IF we have the correct strains…)
The four strains in Just Thrive produce a range of nutrients, detoxifiers and antioxidants, including:
- Quinols (as in CoQ10-Quinol, etc)
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin K2 (read my article here about how I was able to rid my teeth of virtually all tartar by getting correctly diagnosed by a microbiome expert as being K2 deficient)
And that's not all!
Just Thrive's patent-pending Bacillus indicus HU36 is completely unique because it makes seven antioxidants in amounts as high as the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) – so not just a dusting, but substantial, measurable levels.
Furthermore, these vitamins and antioxidants are produced exactly at the microvilli site of nutrient uptake, virtually guaranteeing high absorption rates.
Avoiding the body's destructive digestive acids is important to any kind of absorption because, no surprise, stomach and bile acids can negatively impact the nutrients in any supplement or food, not just probiotics.
Bacillus Indicus HU36 produces:
- Alpha carotene
- Beta carotene
So, overall what's the best thing I can do?
My personal approach these days now is, on a daily basis, to take both this gut commensal spore bacillus probiotic as well as at least one serving of live, fermented foods. (Such as real, raw sauerkraut, dairy kefir, etc.)
The bacillus strains in this probiotic function like actual gardeners in my microbiome to:
- Pull weeds (kill the pathological strains) and
- Encourage the growth of new varieties (expand the diversity of beneficial strains) by providing nutrients specifically to the desirable plants.
Consuming fermented foods on top of a gut commensal spore probiotic is like giving compost to my gardeners. I figure I can't lose with that combination!
But, beyond fermented foods, what about purchasing lacto and bifido based probiotic pills?
Testing done in 2015 by researchers at the University of California questions the quality of many conventional probiotics, a concern I heard echoed by microbiologist, Elaine Hsiao, at the recent UCLA panel discussion she shared with Sandor Katz on May 11, 2016.
After testing 16 easily obtained probiotics from off the shelves at local retail stores, UC researchers were only able to find one whose label matched the contents: strains were missing, quantities were lower than labeled, or strains that were not on the label, were, in fact, in the product. See more on this at Quality Control of Probiotics Lacking, Nov, 2015.
In trying to decipher a probiotic label, frequently what you'll see is a “proprietary” cocktail mix of strains. The reason for this is that most combinations are grown by suppliers (often times overseas and/or in China) in a single vat into which all the strains are thrown together.
This mixing of strains can produce cross-contamination and new genetic strains that are untested for safety.
Each of the four strains in Just Thrive is produced in its own vat to prevent genetic cross-contamination.
Furthermore, gut commensal spore bacillus have a long record of safety having been prescribed by physicians for decades in Europe and Asia, largely for the inflammation and discomfort induced by antibiotics.
These spore-based bacillus can be taken at the same time as antibiotics because they survive exposure to the medication. They also encourage the regrowth of the permanent microbial gut residents which, post-medication, are low in numbers.
How do I take this kind of probiotic?
Best with food simply because the bacteria like to eat the food you eat, so taking it with a meal means the repopulation rate is higher. Took it on an empty stomach? No worries! They still survive and make it to the small intestines.
In fact, these strains survive temperatures up to 455 degrees! Not only do they travel well, but the cap can be opened and the powder added to any food or drink, hot or cold, frozen or even baked, and is tasteless, colorless and odorless.
The bacillus strains in Just Thrive will immediately go to work in your intestines killing off pathological strains. The protein cell bodies of these dead microflora and the toxins they contain will need to be filtered out of your system by your detoxifying organs.
Depending on the numbers of pathological strains in your gut, your liver and kidneys may get temporarily overwhelmed. You may experience fatigue, gastrointestinal discomfort, headache or any kind of aggravation of your usual, chronic symptoms.
This is a great sign! It means Just Thrive is doing exactly what you want it to do, which is killing “the bad guys.” You just need to slow the process down to let your liver and kidneys catch up.
If that happens? (Of course consult with your natural-minded doctor, but also…) Drink lots of water and simply back off to one cap every second or third day, or try a half cap, whatever works. And as soon as you feel better, take it again!
The key is to stick with it, but at the pace your body determines. That will keep your health moving in a spiral upwards.
Who can take it? As always, consult with your doctor before taking any medication and/or supplements. However, this has been safely given to pregnant and nursing mothers, infants, toddlers and children, elders and those on medication.
(Use the code KOP to get 10% off.)
Read more on gut commensal spore bacteria and their effect on our microbiome and immune system:
- Here's a beautiful 6-min testimony: This Mom Will Make You Cry: How One Small Change Brought Help and Hope for Her Autistic Son!
- Could It Be This Simple? A Surprising Solution for Up to 64% of Women Who Can't Get Pregnant
- The Best Way to Protect Your Immune System – It's NOT What You Think!
- 15 Ways to Keep Your Child Healthy (That Your Doctor Never Told You)
- 2 Supplements I'd DEFINITELY Consider If I Got Cancer
- I'm Doing All the ‘Right Things'! Why Am I Not Losing Weight?
- What Causes Shingles and 2 Simple Solutions
This was a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, who is a regular writer around here. Joanie is the founder of Follow Your Gut and a health coach who has been in sales and education in the natural foods and products industry since the early 70’s, with six years spent recently as a vitamin specialist in a natural foods store. She is also the Weston Price chapter leader for the Ventura, CA area.
For dietary consultations, Joanie can be contacted here. Joanie’s past articles are located here.