By Lindsay Christensen
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 microorganisms. (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 B. 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 B. 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 B. 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 infection. (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
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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.
1. Mack, D.R. (2005). Probiotics: Mixed Messages. The College of Family Physicians of Canada, 51(11): 1455-1457. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1479485/.
2. Sorokulova, I. (2013). Modern status and perspectives of Bacillus bacteria as probiotics. Journal of Probiotics and Health, 1: e106. Retrieved from http://www.omicsonline.org/modern-status-and-perspectives-of-bacillus-bacteria-as-probiotics-2329-8901.1000e106.php?aid=21586.
3. Berdy, J. (2005). Bioactive microbial metabolites. The Journal of Antibiotics, 58(1): 1-26. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/ja/journal/v58/n1/pdf/ja20051a.pdf.
4. Lee, H.S. & Lee, H. (2011). Purification and biochemical characterization of bacteriolytic enzyme from Bacillus subtilis YU-1432 active against Porphyromonas gingivalis. Applied Biological Chemistry, 54(4): 600-605. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.3839%2Fjksabc.2011.090#page-1.
5. Sharma, A. & Satyanarayana, T. (2013). Microbial acid-stable -amylases: Characteristics, genetic engineering and applications. Process Biochemistry, 48(2013): 201-211. Retrieved from https://promathmedia.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/2.pdf.
6. Khan, M., Nakkeeran, E., and Umesh-Kumar, S. (2013). Potential application of pectinase in developing functional foods. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, 4: 21-34. Retrieved from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-food-030212-182525.
7. Guncheva, M. & Zhiryakova, D. (2011). Catalytic properties and potential applications of Bacillus lipases. Journal of Molecular Catalysis B: Enzymatic, 68(1): 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S138111771000233X.
8. Maki, M., Leung, K.T., and Qin, W. (2009). The prospects of cellulase-producing bacteria for the bioconversion of lignocellulosic biomass. International Journal of Biological Sciences, 5(5): 500-516. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726447/.
9. Gupta, R., Beg, Q.K., Lorenz, P. (2002). Bacterial alkaline proteases: molecular approaches and industrial applications. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 59(1): 15-32. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12073127.
10. Ulloa Rojas, J.B., Verreth, J.A.J., Amato, S., & Huisman, E.A. (2003). Biological treatments affect the chemical composition of coffee pulp. Bioresource Technology, 89(3): 267-274. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852403000701.
11. Hosoi, T., Ametani, A., Kiuchi, K., Kaminogawa, S. (2000). Improved growth and viability of lactobacilli in the presence of Bacillus subtilis (natto), catalase, or subtilisin. Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 46(10): 892-897. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11068675.
12. Paik, H.D., Park, J.S., & Park, E. (2005). Effects of Bacillus polyfermenticus SCD on lipid and antioxidant metabolisms in rats fed a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 28(7): 1270-1274. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15997112.
13. Fujiya, M., Musch, M.W., Nakagawa, Y., Hu, S., Alverdy, J., Kohgo, Y., Schneewind, O., Jabri, B., & Chang, E.B. (2007). The Bacillus subtilis quorum-sensing molecule CSF contributes to intestinal homeostasis via OCTN2, a host cell membrane transporter. Cell Host and Microbe, 1(4): 299-308. Retrieved from http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/abstract/S1931-3128(07)00078-9?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1931312807000789%3Fshowall%3Dtrue.
14. Lefevre, M., Racedo, S.M., Ripert, G., Housez, B., Cazaubiel, M., Maudet, C., Jüsten, P., Marteau, P., and Urdaci, M.C. (2015). Probiotic strain Bacillus subtilis CU1 stimulates immune system of elderly during common infectious disease period: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Immunity and Ageing, 12:24. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669646/.
15. Jäger, R., Shields, K.A., Lowery, R.P., De Souza, E.O., Partl, J.M., Hollmer, C., Purpura, M., and Wilson, J.M. (2016). Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery. Peer J, 4: e2276. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963221/.
16. Urgesi R, Casale C, Pistelli R, Rapaccini GL, de Vitis I. (2014). A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial on efficacy and safety of association of simethicone and Bacillus coagulans (Colinox®) in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 18(9): 1344-1353. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24867512.
17. Fitzpatrick LR. (2013). Probiotics for the treatment of Clostridium difficile associated disease. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology, 4(3), 47–52. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3740259/.
18. Mandel DR, Eichas K, & Holmes J. (2009). Bacillus coagulans: a viable adjunct therapy for relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis according to a randomized, controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine [online]. Retrieved from http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-10-1.
19. Wang HK, Shen FD, Xiao RF, Zhou YC, & Dai YJ. (2013). Purification and characterization of antifungal compounds from Bacillus coagulans TQ33 isolated from skimmed milk powder. Annals of Microbiology. 63(3): 1075-1081. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13213-012-0564-y.
About the author: Lindsay has her Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Science, with an Emphasis in Nutrition, from National University of Health Sciences. When she is not studying nutrition or researching and writing, Lindsay enjoys working out, rock climbing, hiking, skiing, and having adventures outdoors. She is also quite passionate about her camera and taking nature photography. You can read more about Lindsay’s Lyme disease experience, as well read all her latest thoughts and research on health, by visiting her website and blog, Rock On Nutrition, at https://rockonnutrition.me/.