Probiotics are fast becoming one of the top-selling supplements available—and for a good reason! Research is establishing a powerful link between what happens in the gut and the rest of the body. Alterations in the microbiome are confirmed to be associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, asthma, cervical dysplasia and even obesity.

Spread completely flat, the intestines have the surface area of a tennis court. In contact with this surface, and in fact “communicating” with it, are about 100 trillion bacteria; that’s 10 times the number of cells in the human body! It is now known that these bacteria are incredibly important players in the activity of your entire immune system and they also influence the amount of inflammation your body will generate.

But are you taking a probiotic? And if you are is it actually doing anything?

The fact is that 80-90% of the bacteria found in most consumer-available probiotics are killed in the stomach, never making it to the intestines. This is quite significant because for a probiotic to modulate or change immune system function the supplemented bacteria must make it to your small intestine in numbers that exceed the population that already resides there.

Let’s summarize these two important concepts:

1) A probiotic must be able to supply bacteria that can survive the low pH of the stomach.

2) A probiotic must deliver to the intestine numbers of bacteria that exceed resident populations of the same bacterial species, otherwise there will be no significant change in immune function.

If we look at the average over-the-counter probiotic supplement there are typically 4-8 different types of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacter organisms that claim to provide up to 50 billion total bacteria. As mentioned, however, only about 10-15% of organisms (sometimes zero organisms) survive the stomach. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that all of the bacteria survive the acidity of the stomach. That means that 50 billion Lactobacilli and Bifidobacter make it to the intestine where there are already 20 trillion of these same bacteria in residence! That’s correct…even if all of the supplemented bacteria find their way to the intestine they will number less than 3% of the resident population of the same bacteria. Referring back to the second “important concept” enumerated above, you’ll see that a probiotic must deliver numbers of organisms that exceed the same type of bacteria in order for the modulation of immunity to occur. Thus, the impact of most probiotics that rely on Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter species is in serious question.

Why Spores?

Unlike the bacteria in most probiotics, spore-forming bacteria survive the stomach 100% intact. They are found in all environments including soil, vegetation, dust, rocks, and in the digestive tracts of insects, marine life, and mammals. The most widely studied spore-producing bacteria are the Bacillus spores.

Bacillus spores were the first prescription probiotic in 1958 (Enterogermina™, Sanofi-Aventis, Italy). They are used extensively in agriculture and aquaculture, allowing the mass farming of poultry, fish and shrimp without the use of antibiotics.

Bacillus spores have a number of beneficial qualities with regard to the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT):

Spores produce a significant number of potent antibiotics that control bacterial overgrowth in the GIT.
Spores competitively exclude pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms to help maintain microbiota balance. Competition is accomplished either by competition for space and nutrients and/or by eliciting a host response that causes the host to eliminate the invading species (i.e. spores help your immune system kill the invaders!).
Spores have the ability to increase the numbers of healthy GIT residents including Bacteroides and Lactobacilli.
Bacillus probiotics produce enzymes that help with the digestion of food products to alleviate bloating, cramping and discomfort.
Bacillus indicus produces high levels of carotenoids in the intestine where they can be easily absorbed. These highly bioavailable antioxidants include lycopene, astaxanthin, zeaxanthin, beta carotene and lutein.
Spores have been shown to neutralize toxic compounds encountered in the gut.

The spore-based probiotic that I use in my practice is MegaSporeBiotic™, the only mega dose, all spore probiotic. MegaSporeBiotic™ contains 4 billion spores of the Bacillus species indicus, subtilis, coagulans, licheniformis and clausii (typical numbers of GIT-resident Bacillus are 20 million). A culmination of research shows that these spores would confer the following beneficial effects:

Immune modulation to reduce asthma and allergies
Immune stimulation to fight colds, flus and infections
A decrease in the frequency of urinary tract infections
Reduced inflammation associated with IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Improved digestion of food and improved nutrient absorption
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
Reduction of cholesterol
Detoxification of the intestinal tract

My advice is to try MegaSporeBiotic™ for one to two months while observing the changes in your gut function and overall health. Benefit more with probiotic spores!