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Why Soil-Based Organisms (SBO) Aren't the Best Probiotics

Why Soil-Based Organisms (SBO) Aren't the Best Probiotics

In the last several years, probiotics have become a primary weapon on the road to wellness — and for good reason. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the human immune system resides in the cells of the gut.[1] Probiotics can help support and enhance this immune system.

If you've ever shopped for probiotics, though, you know exactly how many varieties are available. The two most common classes of probiotics are soil-based (SBO) probiotics and gut probiotics. The bad news is that SBO probiotics might not be your best option to support digestive health.

The following is an overview of what you need to know about soil-based probiotics.

What Are Soil-Based/Spore-forming Probiotics?

Soil-based probiotics are a relatively new class of probiotic supplements. Soil-based probiotics utilize soil-based, spore forming probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis which supporters say improve the bacteria in the human digestive tract and help create a more balanced gut microbiome.[2] They are derived from the probiotics that occur in the soil, and may also be called "spore forming probiotics," "spore based organisms," "soil probiotics," "homeostatic soil organisms," "bacterial soil organisms" and "soil organisms."

Most soil-based organisms used in probiotics are spore-forming, meaning that they create small spores when they replicate. These spores are highly resistant to acid, heat, and most antibiotics. This makes them much more likely to survive the environment of the gastrointestinal tract, allowing them to reach the large intestine more easily than typical probiotics. In a way, soil-based probiotics are better than traditional probiotics because they can survive in much harsher environments including heat, dehydration, and exposure to stomach acid.

Benefits of Soil-Based, Spore Forming Probiotics and Gut Probiotics

Soil-based organisms (SBOs) probiotics are fundamentally different from the types of bacteria that usually live in the human gut. After all, these organisms are coming from the soil and not vegetable and dairy products (Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium) or fruit (Saccharomyces boulardii).

However, this does not mean the soil-based probiotics do not have any benefits. Studies show that certain proteins derived from soil-based organisms may have the potential to improve cell-mediated immunities and support antibody production.[3]

SBOs have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years (think about the small amounts of soil you ingest when you eat a garden-fresh carrot or potato). However, a probiotic formulation should not contain mostly SBOs, as they traditionally have made up a small proportion of the human diet.

sbo probiotics

Why Soil-Based Probiotics May Not Be as Good as Other Probiotic Supplements

SBOs can serve as a natural immune-booster when they are ingested in small portions. Because human exposure to SBOs has naturally decreased as humans have moved away from agricultural societies and into more urban ones, our gut flora may actually interpret high levels of SBOs as an imbalance.

The fact is, as a modern society, we eat and prepare foods differently. Our prehistoric ancestors were exposed to a greater mix of bacteria, both good and bad, because of how they ate and lived. Hunting and gathering necessitated eating any root or fruit that fell to the ground, and the lack of running water meant washing fruits and vegetables was not possible, which meant a greater exposure to ingested probiotics—not to mention the lack of hand washing. This naturally resulted in the consumption of soil-based organisms.

Some experts believe that soil-based organisms proliferate far too rapidly because of their spore-forming nature, which may cause them to push out your existing gut microbes and result in dysbiosis.[4]

This imbalance of gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, can manifest in a variety of ways including upset stomach, nausea, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and/or mood problems.[5]

Certain spore-forming organisms have the potential to cause direct harm to your health. For example, the spore-forming organism, Clostridium difficile, is known to be very resilient and causes diarrhea when normal probiotic populations are wiped out with antibiotics.

What's the Best Probiotic Supplement

If you are looking for a way to support the health of your gut microbiome, probiotics are the way to go. Most probiotics contain only 1, 2, or several probiotic species. Research has shown that probiotics containing multiple species may be better. This becomes obvious when you examine the normal gut flora of the human gut. It does not contain 1, 2, or several probiotic species but many species working together. 


Therefore, an ideal probiotic should contains the probiotic strains already found in your intestine such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species since they make up the normal gut flora.

 Along with specific strains, pay attention to the CFUs, or colony forming units. This essentially measures the number of organisms present in a probiotic supplement. The exact number of CFUs required varies based on your personal needs, but a dose of at least 10 billion CFUs is known to reduce the duration of diarrhea.

Furthermore, look for probiotic supplements with a special delayed release coating. While some probiotics are acid-resistant, many probiotics have trouble surviving the harsh digestive acids in the stomach. This makes taking probiotics useless if they can’t even reach the large intestine, as that is where most of your gut microbes exist. Enteric coatings ensure that the probiotic strains survive through the gastric acids to colonize the gut.

Again, if you want to take SBO probiotics, soil-based organisms should make up a smaller percentage of the probiotic you take. DrFormulas® Nexabiotic® Advanced is formulated with this in mind, as it contains mostly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species with some SBOs, such as Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans.

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