Soil-based organisms (SBOs) are bacteria that naturally occur in soil. Over the last few decades, these microorganisms have captured the interest of the health and wellness community, thanks to their potential to act as probiotics, beneficial bacteria that may help promote the gut microbiome and support overall health.* These soil-based probiotics have sparked intrigue and speculation about their unique biological properties and possible advantages over traditional probiotics. In this article, we will examine the history of SBO probiotics, their biology, their potential as supplements, and other interesting facts.
History of SBO probiotics
Our relationship with soil-based organisms can be traced back to our ancestors who were in constant contact with soil and dirt. They would consume unprocessed foods, often with residual soil and bacteria, inadvertently incorporating SBOs into their diets. This constant exposure allowed for a symbiotic relationship to evolve between humans and these organisms, potentially playing a role in the development of our immune systems.
The concept of probiotics themselves was introduced by Russian biologist and Nobel laureate, Elie Metchnikoff, in the early 20th century. Metchnikoff suggested that consuming beneficial bacteria could improve health and longevity. However, the term "probiotics" wasn't coined until the 1960s.
It was only in the latter part of the 20th century, with advancements in microbial research, that the potential of SBOs as probiotics was recognized. SBOs, with their distinct resilience and potential health benefits, were identified as possible therapeutic agents and were introduced into dietary supplements.
Biology of SBOs
SBOs comprise a diverse group of bacteria, including Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Streptomyces species, among others. Unlike traditional probiotics that are often derived from human or dairy sources, SBOs are hardy organisms that can survive harsh environmental conditions. They form endospores - tough, protective shells, allowing them to endure extreme heat, cold, radiation, acidity, and even the rigorous manufacturing processes of supplements.
Furthermore, SBOs are facultative anaerobes, meaning they can thrive in both oxygen-rich and oxygen-deprived environments. This makes them particularly suited to withstand the journey through the gastrointestinal tract, where they may reach the colon intact and become active.*
SBO probiotic supplements
The ability of SBOs to survive in adverse conditions has made them attractive as probiotic supplements. Unlike many traditional probiotics that may lose their potency due to unstable environmental conditions, SBO probiotics might potentially be able to survive and proliferate in the gut.*
SBO probiotics are believed to help promote gut health by maintaining the balance of the gut microbiota.* They are suggested to support the abundance of beneficial bacteria, promote the integrity of the gut lining, and the immune system.*
Several studies have shown potential benefits of SBO probiotics in supporting digestive health and immune function, and promoting nutrient absorption for specific individuals. More rigorous and larger-scale clinical trials are needed to substantiate these findings and fully understand the potential benefits associated with SBO probiotic use.
Interesting facts about SBO probiotics
Spore-forming nature: The spore-forming nature of SBOs allows them to go into a dormant state when conditions are unfavorable, only to reanimate once they reach a conducive environment, such as the human gut. This property is unique to SBOs and differentiates them from other probiotics
No need with refrigeration: Unlike many traditional probiotics that require refrigeration to maintain their viability, SBO probiotics do not. This is due to their endospore structure, which protects them from harsh environmental conditions, making them more shelf-stable and travel-friendly.
Natural presence in the environment: SBOs are found naturally in the soil and are part of the human diet when consuming home-grown, garden-fresh produce. With industrial farming and the extensive use of pesticides, the amount of SBOs in the modern diet has significantly decreased.
May support immune function: SBO probiotics are believed to help promote immune function. They can stimulate the production of secretory IgA - an antibody that may play a role for supporting gut health.*
Ancestral connection: The use of SBO probiotics brings us back to our ancestral roots, mimicking the natural microbial exposure that humans evolved with over thousands of years. This is often referred to as the 'old friends' or 'hygiene' hypothesis - the idea that decreased exposure to microbes, including SBOs, has led to a rise in autoimmune and allergic diseases in modern, hygienic societies. You may also want to read about the relationship between skin health and probiotics.
Soil-Based Organisms (SBOs) represent a compelling frontier in the world of probiotics. Their unique survival mechanisms and potential health benefits have elevated their status in the health and wellness community. While preliminary research suggests several potential benefits from SBO probiotic use, it's critical that further, rigorous studies are conducted to fully understand their properties. As always, individuals should consult with their healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement regimen.