The soil beneath our feet is rich with millions of bacteria - some harmful, some good.
This is the story about the good guys - Bacillus spore-forming probiotics.
Bacillus probiotics are spore-forming bacteria that are heat stable and able to survive passage through the acidic stomach & make it to the gut where they offer unique health benefits.
While Bacillus strains have been used in probiotic formulations in Europe for at least 50 years, they have only become popular in the United States in the last 10 years with products such as Megasporebiotic (Microbiome Labs) & Prescript Assist (Enviromedica).
If Bacillus probiotics like Megaspore are a fad...this is a fad as old as dirt.
Humans have interacted with soil since the beginning of time - eating food covered with it, filling our lungs with it, and getting our hands and bodies dirty with it.
It’s not surprising that the human immune system has adapted to derive some health benefits from the soil. Bacillus microbes should be seen as part of our natural flora. Our body expects them, knows what to do with them, and, their absence may disrupt normal immunity & metabolism.
Unlike most probiotics, Bacillus probiotics make it through stomach acid, and then the spores germinate, grow and proliferate in the small intestine. Eventually, they form spores again & are passed through the gastrointestinal tract with low potential for harm to the host, while offering a number of benefits (5; 6; 7; 8; 9).
These are gut bacteria that get into our guts by routine exposure to dirt.
Other probiotics may still work if you have high enough dosage...if you store and transport it properly....& if your gut lining and mucosa are healthy enough for the probiotic to bind and colonize.
Spore organisms are virtually indestructible, will germinate readily in the intestines, stick around for 7-21 days, reform spores, and are excreted their way back into the soil.
The growth of other probiotics should be maintained by our diet - that is, eating diverse fibers and "prebiotics" that feed and support their growth.
The spore forming bacteria like Bacillus are intended to be supplemented routinely - traditionally as a result of living in & around dirt.
Unless you're a farmer (who happen to have lower rates of autoimmune & allergic disease), we don't work or live around dirt consistently to get enough Bacillus in our guts.
You can supplement with dirt based probiotics instead.
Species most common to spore probiotic formulations include: Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus clausii, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus coagulans (Lactobacillus sporogenes) and Bacillus licheniformis (10).
Bacillus Spores - Gut and Immune Health:
The gut is an important center of immune activity for the whole body. It strongly maintains the interface between the “outside” & “inside” world - supporting the “good guys” & keeping “bad guys” out.
It’s been known for at least 50 years that Bacillus subtilis strains can produce a variety of antibiotic compounds that help crowd out potential pathogens (11).
Bacillus spores may have direct immune supportive properties that help support the development of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). GALT promotes healthy and balanced immune function, while also keeping the intestinal lining robust & healthy. A happy gut leads to a happy and balanced immune system.
Spore probiotics may also stimulate the production of key immune cells such as macrophages, interferon and natural killer cells that protect us against pathogens.
As such, Bacillus probiotics may safely help to reduce the incidence and improve our response to allergy and infection, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, as well as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea commonly associated with gut dysbiosis and irritable bowel syndrome (12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21).
The spore itself, independent from antibacterial compounds produced, may help crowd out pathogenic microbes in the gut, simply by stimulation of gut & immune tissue (7). The immune stimulation may be useful against viral exposure as well (22).
As a group, Bacillus species are able to product at least 24 different known antibiotic compounds.
Bacillus coagulans can produce bacteriocin, an antibacterial compound that may help with urinary tract infections (23; 24; 25).
Bacillus subtilis is also able to produce antimicrobial compounds such as “amicoumacin A” that may help control overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori (26). Additionally, Bacillus supplementation may help reduce side effects of those H. pylori patients taking conventional antibiotics (27).
Anti-Aging and Heart Health
Bacillus species are also able to produce antioxidant compounds known as carotenoids such as lycopene that may help protect from oxidative stress which is involved in cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer, and aging (28; 29; 30).
Bacillus subtilis is also involved in the production of natto - a traditional food in Japan made from fermented soybeans. In the presence of Bacillus subtilis, various active compounds such as nattokinase are found that can help with blood clotting and cardiovascular health risks. Natto is also one of the best sources of menaquinone K2-7 - a special form of vitamin K made by Bacillus subtilis.
And, if I didn’t get your attention yet, the Bacillus-produced products found in natto may even help with hangover symptoms by helping to clear alcohol & aldehyde build-up (31).
Safety of Bacillus Supplements
Safety studies have examined strains of B. indicus, B. subtilis, B.coagulans and B. licheniformis with no adverse effects aside from a handful of case studies of opportunistic infections.
These few cases of infections appear strain-specific and are commonly related to a surgical introduction or specimen contamination (with dirt). It is worth noting that opportunism is not an exclusive concern of Bacillus as many non-Bacillus organisms (that are otherwise considered non-pathogenic) can become opportunistic in surgical procedures & immune-compromised individuals as well (10; 32).
While strains of Bacillus anthracis & Bacillus cereus can & do pose threats to human health, the human immune system has co-evolved with non-pathogenic, non-toxin producing Bacilli for thousands of years.
As you and I live in very sanitized living conditions, we are likely deficient in soil based organisms. I personally supplement with them & frequently recommend them to clients.