As our understanding of the gut-brain axis and the gut microbiome deepens, the more we appreciate—and seek out—probiotics. Whether you’re already taking a supplement or seeking out probiotic-rich foods, you’re likely doing so to support a healthy gut. In an earlier post I explored the purpose and value of traditional probiotics. Now it’s time to explore a type you might not have heard of: Sporebiotics.
What Are They?
Sporebiotics, or spore-based probiotics, are soil-based probiotic strains that occur naturally in soil. Historically our ancestors naturally benefited from these helpful strains by eating root vegetables, tubers, and fruit, as well as by drinking water from wells or natural springs, and even by walking barefoot on the ground. But as we moved indoors, started wearing shoes, and farming and decontamination practices have evolved, our natural intake of these probiotics diminished drastically. Thankfully, we can still access the healing powers of these powerful probiotics through high-quality supplements.
Traditional Probiotics Versus Sporebiotics
Although both are probiotics, traditional and spore-based probiotics differ in a few key ways. The first is their strains. Traditional probiotics contain lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains—those that occur naturally in the body and that can be found in probiotic-rich food. Sporebiotics are typically a blend of bacillus strains, those that occur naturally in the soil. Common strains include:
· Bacillus clausi
· Bacillus coagulans
· Bacillus indicus
· Bacillus licheniformis
· Bacillus subtilis
· Clostridium butyricum
· Enterococcus faecium
Another key difference between the two is that sporebiotics can naturally withstand the harsh environment of the gut and make it fully alive to the large intestine where they activate. This is because they contain an endospore—that is, they have a thick outer coating that helps them bypass all that harsh stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes. This makes them naturally shelf-stable, meaning they don’t require refrigeration like traditional probiotics do.
Third, traditional probiotics help restore a healthy and stable “good” bacteria population that can multiply and sustain itself, whereas sporebiotics increase diversity and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. They can even locate and kill harmful gut bacteria already in your system! Sporebiotics stay in your gut between three and four weeks before being expelled in your bowel movements. Amazingly, they’re not finished there. They go dormant as they return to the environment where they can be used again.
Sporebiotics for SIBO and Leaky Gut Syndrome
According to Cleveland Clinic, it is suspected that up to 80 percent of people with IBS also suffer from SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). The statistics on “leaky gut,” AKA intestinal hyperpermeability, are less concrete, but the syndrome is associated with not only digestive disorders like celiac’s, Crohn’s, and IBS, but may potentially be linked to autoimmune conditions and other health issues that stem from chronic inflammation.
Sporebiotics are particularly effective in treating these conditions for a couple of reasons. In the case of SIBO, bacillus strains don’t overfeed the overgrown lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium colonies in the small intestine, which is how traditional probiotics can worsen the problem. For leaky gut, sporebiotics’ ability to reach the intestines alive makes them much more effective at healing the gut. They balance bacteria strains, strengthen the intestinal barrier to make it less “leaky,” and they help regulate the immune response in the GI tract thereby calming inflammation.
A Diverse Range of Health Benefits
In addition to successfully treating SIBO and leaky gut syndrome, researchers are learning just how far-reaching sporebiotic benefits are. Some examples include:
· Treatment of acute or chronic diarrhea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea.
· Improved IBS symptoms. Spore-based probiotics help reduce inflammation and reduce gas production by balancing gut flora.
· Reduction in respiratory illness in children and the elderly.
· May potentially improve cognitive function in older adults.
· Reduction in depression and anxiety. By improving the health of the gut, you also can improve the overall health of your brain, due to the gut-brain axis. Sporebiotics may help change and improve the bacteria in your gut leading to an improvement in mood-related symptoms.
Although most spore-based probiotics will contain a variety of strains, you may wish to seek out a blend based on your health needs. Some strain-specific benefits include:
BACILLUS COAGULANS, which is most commonly used to treat constipation and IBS, though a small study found that it also improved symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients. In addition to increased mobility, patients also showed a reduction in C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
CLOSTRIDIUM BUTYRICUM may be beneficial to diabetes patients as it has been shown to support a healthy blood sugar response.
ENTEROCOCCUS FAECIUM has been studied for its potentially positive impact on metabolism as well as immune function. Not only does it boost immune cell function and elevate the body’s fat-burning capacity, it also produces folate which is crucial for cell metabolism and synthesizing vitamins and amino acids.
BACILLUS SUBTILIS has many health benefits in addition to healing digestive disorders and treating antibiotic-induced diarrhea. Research shows that it can also treat bacterial vaginosis, candida vaginal infections, UTIs, and ulcerative colitis.
BACILLUS CLAUSI is the most common spore-based probiotic strain in the world. It boasts numerous health applications including the treatment and prevention of intestinal bacterial flora disorders as well as potential infection prevention in “preemie” newborns. It is also used in the treatment of nasal allergies and upper respiratory infections in children.
Are Sporebiotics Right for You?
With so many proven health benefits, you may be wondering if you could benefit from spore-based probiotics. Chances are, the answer is yes! If you suspect that you may be suffering from SIBO, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, or another digestive disorder, please contact me. I can help you identify your gut health issues, restructure your diet, and help you find the right probiotic for your needs.