Anytime I discuss supplements, some readers balk. For them, if Grok didn’t do it, we shouldn’t either. And you know what? If that describes you, I get where you’re coming from. Ideally, optimal health develops organically — from the food we eat, the sun, sleep, and movement patterns we follow, the lifestyles we develop. But we don’t live in Grok’s world any more. We don’t have access to the same nutrient-dense plants and animals he did, and we face entirely new stressors and endure novel deficits previous generations never have. These new challenges call for new solutions, and supplements can be one of these solutions. As a supplement maker, I always take cues from Grok’s behaviors, physiology, and requirements and use modern day science to produce quality products. I’m not just making them to sell something. I’m meeting a need and filling a deficit. Usually my own!
The funny thing about science is that it’s a moving target. It’s evolving, and if the science evolves, so too must the supplements based on its findings. To stay abreast of it all, I’m always researching and listening to advisors and other experts to make sure that my formulations are optimal. Gut health as a health topic has exploded in recent years, as has the amount of research being done, and what we know about how the foods we eat, behaviors we do, and supplements we take affect our guts has evolved. I recently updated the Primal Flora formulation to reflect the latest developments. It now contains an (almost) entirely new set of probiotic strains. Below I’ll explain what these are, how you can benefit, and share my own experience using the new formulation.
But first, I need to explain a few concepts. You are probably aware that most common probiotics and fermented milk products contain primarily lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species. The reason I elected not to focus on those is because these species are already very prevalent in our guts – there are probably over 20 trillion – so adding even 20 billion more CFU (colony forming unit) is only boosting the population by one one-thousandth. And that’s if they even survive the harsh acidic environment of the stomach (which most probiotics don’t). Instead, what I wanted was a number of well-researched species that I could deliver to the GI tract where they could colonize and do their unique jobs. To do this, most had to be what we call “spore formers” that remain dormant until they reach the appropriate parts of the gut, undamaged by stomach acid. These needed to be the species and strains that were proven effective in years of solid research, in many cases signaling to other bacteria to increase or decrease. Finally, to make the formula even more effective, I put them in “time release” veggie capsules that won’t disintegrate until past the stomach. Now, instead of delivering 40 or 60 Billion colony forming units that are DOA, we can deliver a smaller dosage of far more potent (and living) probiotics. In fact, less may be more in this case.
Ever eat natto, the sticky, pungent Japanese fermented soybean? Despite its unique smell, texture, taste, and soy-ness, I’ve grown to enjoy natto — all thanks to Bacillus subtilis. When you inoculate soybeans with that particular strain, great things happen. Vitamin K2 production ramps up (natto is the best source of vitamin K2, a nutrient important in bone mineralization, cancer prevention, and protection from heart disease). The soy proteins grow less allergenic. The soy is transformed into a beneficial nutritional powerhouse.
Turns out that Bacillus subtilis may have profound effects as a probiotic in our bodies, too; combined with antibiotics, it’s been shown to lower urinary pH and reduce infections in patients with stones-associated UTIs. Perhaps most beneficial are its abilities to hydrolyze nutrients, convert antinutrients to beneficial compounds, manufacture vitamins, and make allergenic proteins less so:
It produces phytase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down phytic acid into inositol and improving mineral bioavailability.
It converts vitamin K (the version found in leafy greens that’s less biovailable to us) into vitamin K2 (the version found in natto, goose liver, and aged cheese that’s far more bioavailable).
It can hydrolyze wheat proteins, soy (as mentioned above), and casein, potentially making them less allergenic.
Bacillus subtilis is omnipresent in soil, so it likely populated the ancestral human gut and definitely belongs in yours.
In Europe, Bacillus clausii supplementation has gained notoriety as an effective therapy for patients with diarrhea (including antibiotic-related diarrhea), hay fever, and IBS, and as a preventive measure against upper respiratory tract infections. Bacillus clausii may even help treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (PDF). These wide-ranging effects are likely due to its ability to boost innate (or “general”) immunity, and several human trials suggest major efficacy:
Among kids attending germ factories (also known as daycare), Bacillus clausii reduced the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.
In patients being treated for H. pylori infections, Bacillus clausii supplementation ameliorated antibiotic-related side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and gut pain.
If you regularly consume kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, or traditional milk ferments made by Masai tribesmen, you’re getting Lactobacillus plantarum. But many people don’t eat those foods. I know I certainly get lax about making kraut or drinking kefir, and the fact that this particular strain of probiotic bacteria shows up in such wildly disparate traditional foods made me investigate it as a potential addition to Primal Flora. Needless to say, it made the cut for a number of reasons:
Rather than a bacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii is a strain of non-pathogenic yeast with decades of use in the treatment of inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, both acute and chronic. Acute diseases include:
Clostridium difficile infection
Enteral nutrition-related diarrhea
Traveler’s diarrhea (name a diarrhea, it probably helps resolve it)
Helicobacter pylori infection
Chronic diseases include:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Parasitic infections, like amoebic colitis, giardiasis, and blastocystis hominis
Modulates the host (that’s you!) immune response, both locally and systemically.
Prevents pathogens from adhering to the intestinal lining.
Regulates microbial homeostasis.
Stabilizes gut barrier function.
Those are the four new strains I’ve included in the new formulation, but my research also re-confirmed the utility of two of the strains from the previous version: Bifidobacteria bifidus and Bacillus coagulans.
Every team needs a bruiser, a guy so formidable that he intimidates the opposing players with the mere threat of a physical encounter. The New York Knicks had Charles Oakley (and later Anthony Mason), the Pistons had Rick Mahorn, and every hockey team has a designated enforcer. In your gut, Bifidobacteria bifidus can play a similar role: it’s really good at adhering to the intestinal lining, keeping out the pathogens and protecting against their negative effects. That’s probably why it’s considered an essential human gut commensal starting from infancy (assuming breastfeeding).
In addition, it feeds on gut mucus, which sounds undesirable, but this prompts the secretion of additional mucus and the total amount protecting the gut increases. After injury to the gut lining, Bifidobacteria bifidus can repair the damage and strengthen the intestinal tight junctions. It’s also been shown to alleviate IBS and improve quality of life in patients suffering from IBS.
Many probiotics cannot survive the harsh conditions of the stomach and never reach the gut. Bacillus coagulans, however, is extremely tolerant of acidic conditions and survives transit to reach and colonize the gut (PDF). Once there, there’s evidence that it can do some pretty interesting stuff for us.
In a small pilot trial of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, bacillus coagulans supplementation resulted in several clinical improvements. Compared to the placebo group, patients who got the supplement improved their ability to walk two miles, lowered their C-reactive protein levels, were able to participate in daily activities to a greater degree, and reported less disability.
Four weeks of using Bacillus coagulans also improved GI symptoms in adults with really bad gas after meals.
Bacillus coagulans may modulate the immune response. One study found that the immune response to a viral challenge was upregulated upon supplementation with bacillus coagulans.
It also secretes lactic acid itself, which lowers the pH of the gut and drives out pathogens that can’t tolerate the acidity.
Bacillus coagulans practices “sporulation,” meaning it reproduces once introduced into the gut. This ability seems to grant anti-microbial activity against certain pathogens, as well as help support and bolster its own populations.
As with all my products, I designed Primal Flora first and foremost for myself and my family. I am constantly seeking new ways to help heal my gut after 47 years of not being so kind to it. I have used the new Primal Flora for several months now and am extremely pleased with the results. I know you will be as well. Of course, in the unlikely event that you’re not happy with it, Primal Flora comes with my unconditional 30-day guarantee.
If you decide to give Primal Flora a shot, let me know how it works out for you. I’m really excited about this new formulation and I can’t wait to hear how it’s helping people.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Take care!
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About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.