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Gut Health

“A Primal Probiotic?” By Kiran Krishnan


It’s been called “Foundational Food” and is certainly regarded as a critical nutrient. We all know that modern, processed foods are stripped of most of their nutrient value, but one other factor stripped out that gets less attention is the beneficial bacteria – probiotics.

It’s important to remember that our ancestors got their probiotics from the foods they consumed. They ate off the land and much of the food and liquid they consumed was brimming with mega doses of environmental bacteria. Most of those bacteria died as it passed through the harsh gastric system (gastric barrier), but some didn’t. These specialized strains developed an outside, protective shell known as an endospore which enabled them to both survive in the outside environment, as well as to then successfully pass through the acidic gastric system and ultimately thrive in the intestines – these became nature’s true probiotics.

With thousands of years of exposure to these specialized strains of commensal organisms, humans have actually come to require the presence of these strains for proper, healthy function of many of our biological systems. With this ability to live and reproduce in two very different environments (outside the body and inside the body), these strains are said to have a “biphasic” lifecycle.

The most well-known, well studied and widely used biphasic probiotics are from the bacillus species. In particular bacillus subtilis, bacillus clausii and bacillus coagulans; Just Thrive™ brings you all three of these strains in clinically relevant doses, in addition to a recently discovered strain: Bacillus Indicus HU36. This is the first strain of probiotic shown to produce antioxidants in the digestive system where the body readily absorbs it, along with the other probiotic functions.

We have evolved to gain constant exposure to these strains from our food sources; however, in this modern age of sterilized food systems, these essential strains have been nearly eliminated and our exposure to them is very limited. This make supplementing with them a very important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Just Thrive™ is built around the Bacillus Subtilis HU58 strain that has been isolated, studied and verified by Royal Holloway London University. The product is then rounded out by the three other very powerful bacillus strains – bacillus clausii, bacillus coagulans and Bacillus Indicus HU36.

Bacillus clausii is arguably the most widely used probiotic in history as it has been used in two prescription drugs, in over a dozen countries, since the early 1950s; one of those products (Enterogermina®) is still on the market today. Its safety and efficacy with regards to GI defense is undeniable and that is why it has found its way into Just Thrive™. As part of the strain development program at London University, the entire genome of the strains chosen for Just Thrive™ has been sequenced, published and deposited into the International strain archive as a validated Bacilli species of the sub-class subtilis. This type of verification and identification is crucial to the assurance that a product is delivering the strains it claims to on the label. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that a large proportion of probiotic supplements in the market contain mislabeled strains and even unknown strains (sometimes pathogens) that are not listed on the label. (Gibson, G.R. et al 2005; Elliot, E. et al 2004; J.M, et al 1999; Hamilton-Miller, et al 1999)

What makes it Primal?

Following the principals of the Paleo/Primal/Evolutionary Diet, we understand that a nutrient supports our genotype if that nutrient was available to and consumed by our ancestors over the thousands and even millions of years of evolution. For a probiotic to claim to fit the Paleo/Primal paradigm, one has to prove that the strains in the product were abundant in the environment our ancestors evolved in.

A simple literature search seeking published studies on the prevalence of the bacillus species will reveal the fact that bacillus seems to be a universal probiotic. Bacillus species are quite abundant in the environment and subsequently found as commensal, transient organisms in the gastrointestinal systems of mammals, insects, invertebrates, birds, marine life and even reptiles.

Although they have always been classified as “soil organisms”, studies are starting to reveal that they are actually digestive tract organisms that use the soil as a vector for transfer from host to host and they have been doing this for thousands and based on some strong evidence, for even millions of years.

Further research into the prevalence of bacillus species in the prehistoric periods reveals that bacillus species even pre-date early humans before the Paleolithic era. Certainly early humans such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus were abundantly exposed to bacillus, but the data suggests that perhaps even dinosaurs enjoyed the probiotic benefits of this amazing species.

The earliest identification of bacillus sp. on earth was published by Vreeland R.H., et al (2000) in the journal of Nature. The researchers were able to isolate and then grow viable bacillus cells from a brine inclusion within a 250 million-year-old salt crystal from the Permian Salado Formation. The second earliest identification of bacillus sp. published in the literature was by Cano R.J., et al (1995) where the researchers isolated and identified a viable bacillus species from the abdominal contents of extinct bees preserved for 25 to 40 million years in buried Dominican amber. This finding is significant in two respects; first that bacillus was found to be present 25-40 million years ago and second, that bacillus was found in the gastrointestinal system of the extinct bee – evidence of ancient probiotic function!

Moving forward on the time scale, Gilichinsky et al. (2008) published research showing the identification and characterization of bacillus species in Siberian and Antarctic permafrost samples dating back 3-5 million years old. Besides the age, it is significant to note that bacillus has managed to span the globe from pole to pole – this further shows evidence of its abundance in the early earth environment including the period of human evolution. Further, Christner B.C., et al (2003) isolated and characterized bacillus species from ancient glacial ice-cores of the Qinghan-Tibetan plateau in Western China dating back 750,000 years old. This period in time is a crucial time for human development from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens and sure enough, bacillus was present.

Moving further ahead, Christner B.C., et al (2000) published a more in depth analysis of microbial existence in various locations and age range of ice-cores ranging from 5 to 20,000 years old from China, Bolivia, Peru, Greenland and Antarctica. The researchers found bacillus to be abundant in all samples spanning all the regions and periods tested. Further significance of their findings were that they identified bacillus subtilis specifically in all samples and time periods and were able to compare the genomic make-up of the ancient samples to validated bacillus subtilis genome of today – the researchers found 90% and greater homology between the current and ancient strains. Considering that bacteria mutate and replicate very quickly, it is amazing to think that this species (bacillus subtilis) has remained the same for tens of thousands of years. This indicates that the organism is supremely adapted to its environment and function as a transient gastrointestinal microbe and there are no selection pressures favoring a new genotype.

Among the most interesting findings on the prevalence of the bacillus species, is the work of Horneck, G. et al (1994) on the survival of bacillus subtilis in space. The researchers demonstrated that bacillus subtilis was able to survive in space for six years despite the harsh radiation, vacuum, temperatures and other conditions that typically do not support life. In fact, Horneck, et al. and other scientist postulate that bacillus endospores are the most likely candidates to support the Panspermia hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, comets and planetoids by interstellar and interplanetary collisions. Studies show that bacillus subtilis is able to survive an interplanetary lithopanspermic journey. This outlines the possibility that not only is bacillus a probiotic (meaning “for life”), but perhaps the source of life itself on our planet.

Bacillus and Bacillus subtilis have functioned as probiotics since life spawned on this earth and certainly throughout the time that humans evolved. We have a highly ordered co-evolution with the species as is demonstrated by their function in the human GI and the molecular specificity with which they interact with human cells.

  • We share genetic material with them for human cellular protein synthesis and we are dependent on them for the proper development of our immune system. A number of studies have shown that bacillus subtilis plays a key role in the tutoring/training of the immune system and in mitigating a systemic pro-inflammatory and autoimmune state.
  • We rely on them for proper digestion and assimilation of our food and we need them to detoxify our highly exposed gastrointestinal system.
  • They produce over 24 different antibiotics in vivo that help defend our GI from invading species and even over-growth of our own bacteria.
  • Lastly, we count on them for the production of key nutrients (i.e. vitamins, enzymes, carotenoids, lipids, etc.) right at the sites of absorption where we experience the highest bioavailability.

They are not a luxury in a healthy lifestyle, they are a necessity. They are truly “Foundational Food” that our ancestors co-evolved with to bring us to our evolutionarily most fit genotype and phenotype. Clearly, Just Thrive™, with its verified and tested strains of bacillus, is the epitome of a Primal Probiotic.

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