Note: This article was originally published on December 5, 2016 on ProHealth: http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=29725
According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” (1) Typically, when people think of probiotics, they think of probiotics called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. These are the types of probiotics we most often find in yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods. However, there is another group of probiotics out there that holds great therapeutic promise in the treatment of numerous health conditions, and it definitely deserves more attention! This group of probiotics is called Bacillus, and it includes a highly diverse spectrum of bacteria that are among the most widespread microorganisms in nature. Despite the lack of attention received by Bacillus in the health media, there is a large body of scientific research indicating the health-promoting effects of these microorganisms. From producing their own natural antibiotics, to lowering cholesterol and healing gastrointestinal infections, Bacillus microorganisms demonstrate therapeutic potential in the treatment of numerous health conditions.
Background Information on Bacillus
Bacillus microorganisms are widespread in nature, and can be found in soil, water, and air. Since they are present in soil, they often make their way into food products. Some species of Bacillus are used to produce alkaline-fermented food products. Interestingly, they can also survive high-heat treatments such as baking and pasteurization. Bacillus are resistant to stomach acid and bile, meaning they can survive the journey all the way to your intestines, where they make themselves at home. Some researchers consider Bacillus to be one of the dominant microbial components of the normal human intestinal microflora, and may even be comparable in quantity to the number of Lactobacilli in the intestines! (2)
Beneficial Effects of Bacillus
There is plentiful scientific research indicating the potential health benefits of consuming Bacillus microorganisms. Here is a summary of some of the most important findings regarding Bacillus:
- Bacillus produce antibiotics. 795 antibiotics have been identified as being produced by Bacillus (3) Many of these antibiotics work against Gram positive or Gram negative bacteria, but some are antifungal and antiprotozoal.
- Bacillus subtilis (a subspecies of Bacillus) produces lytic enzymes, which destroy bacteria. The lytic enzymes in subtilis are especially effective against Porphyromoas gingivalis, which causes periodontal disease. (4)
- Bacillus bacteria assist with digestion by producing enzymes. Bacillus bacteria may help with the digestion of amylose, pectin, cellulose, proteins, and lipids. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
- Proteolytic enzymes produced by Bacillus degrade antinutrients such as phenols and tannins. (10) Since the enzymes can break down these antinutrients, ingestion of Bacillus probiotics could help people who have developed sensitivities to food chemicals, as in salicylate and phenol intolerance.
- Enzymes produced by subtilis stimulate the growth of Lactobacilli in the gut. Therefore, Bacillus may help support the integrity of the intestinal microbiome as a whole. (11)
- Some Bacillus strains reduce LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat accumulation in the liver. (12)
- Bacillus may support intestinal health by protecting intestinal epithelial cells from injury and loss of intestinal barrier function. (13)
- Bacillus subtilis stimulates the immune system and may therefore help defend the body against infection. (14)
- Bacillus coagulans reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and improves recovery. This effect may be due to coagulans’ proteolytic-enzyme producing properties; proteolytic enzymes help to improve the digestibility of protein, thus providing athletes with more muscle-building protein from food sources. B. coagulans also improves the health of the gut lining, which reduces inflammation. Reducing inflammation is key for assisting in recovery from exercise. (15)
- Bacillus coagulans reduces bloating, discomfort, and gastrointestinal pain associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (16)
- Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis are effective in the treatment of Clostridium difficile (17)
- Bacillus coagulans decreases symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by modulating the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines by immune cells. (18)
- Bacillus coagulans has antifungal properties. (19) It may be useful in the treatment of fungal infections.
Safety of Bacillus
Human beings have evolved among Bacillus microorganisms for our entire existence. Toxicity tests performed on Bacillus indicate that these microorganisms are safe for human consumption.
Bacillus microorganisms exhibit a wide range of health-promoting benefits, and may be useful in the treatment of a number of different health conditions that currently affect many individuals. Different strains of Bacillus exert different effects, but the good news is that there are Bacillus probiotic supplements currently available that contain several species of Bacillus; this ensures that the consumer will be able to reap the benefits of several of the most beneficial and well-studied types of Bacillus. “Just Thrive” probiotic is an exclusively Bacillus-containing probiotic that contains four different species of Bacillus, and has a great body of research behind the strains included. MegaSporeBiotic is another bacillus-containing probiotic, but it also contains a prebiotic, which can cause digestive upset for some people. Finally, Bacillus coagulans single-strain probiotics are another good option; I like the Bacillus coagulans supplement from Thorne Research:Thorne Research - Bacillus Coagulans - A Unique, Stable Probiotic Supplement to Promote GI Health - 60 Vegetarian Capsules
For more information specifically about Bacillus coagulans, check out my previous blog post:Bacillus Coagulans: A Probiotic for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mold Illness, and More!
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