You’re probably familiar with the probiotic trend. Whether you take probiotics daily or know someone that does, people everywhere are jumping on the probiotic bandwagon – supplementing their diet with healthy gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus.
Probiotics have been shown to improve digestion and intestinal functioning, while also supporting and strengthening the immune system. Like probiotics, homeostatic soil organisms are gaining popularity as the next best miracle worker for the gut. Essentially, proponents of such organisms claim that they offer additional microorganisms not found in common probiotic formulas that provide even greater intestinal support.
So what exactly are homeostatic soil organisms? Commonly referred to as HSOs, homeostatic soil organisms are supposedly found in rainforests and other untapped, untouched regions of the world where pesticide and fungicide usage is not commonplace. The soils where we grow our food, however, apparently do not have these bacteria because of modern agricultural practices. In theory, HSOs make sense – our ancestors were far less cleanly than we are today, and regularly stored meat and other valuable food products within the soil and dirt, and they managed to survive just fine. *Primal Defense Probiotic by Garden of Life is the most notable HSO’s in the marketplace.
Theory aside, research on the Internet does not indicate the types or names of the organisms, and evidence in support of the organisms is sparse. Some individuals swear by the miraculous abilities of homeostatic soil organisms to treat and ultimately cure Crohn’s Disease. On the other hand, many doctors are more skeptical, and some even believe that HSOs are just another health scam.
Did our ancestors have better intestinal health because they regularly consumed healthy bacteria? Could we learn a thing or two from primitive eating habits? More research is necessary to find out, but truth may lie in the idea that today’s standards on cleanliness and anti-bacterial views could in fact be keeping many of us from ingesting healthy, gut-friendly bacteria.
Here’s an excerpt from an article in Scientific American I found interesting:
The idea that, in most cases, eating dirt is probably a way to get rid of toxins could explain why people and animals so often prefer claylike soils to other kinds of earth. Negatively charged clay molecules easily bind to positively charged toxins in the stomach and gut—preventing those toxins from entering the bloodstream by ferrying them through the intestines and out of the body in feces. Detoxification might also explain why some indigenous peoples prepare meals of potatoes and acorns with clay—these foods are bitter because they contain small amounts of toxins.
Don’t recommend this, but fascinating:
Women in sub-Saharan nations and in the southern U.S. have reported that they consume clay to alleviate this discomfort. Some researchers have proposed that morning sickness purges the mother of toxins that might harm the fetus. Perhaps geophagia and morning sickness work together to protect the developing fetus. Because clay can bind bacteria and viruses, it may also protect both mother and fetus from food-borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae.
Overall, the evidence presented and the descriptions provided to back up HSOs are vague. More research is necessary to determine whether homeostatic soil organism formulas cause any clear improvement within the intestinal tract. Should the evidence come out in favor of HSOs, they may end up as a great gut supplement in addition to regular probiotics.
As I’m always recommending: consuming 1-ingredient foods + using specific nutraceuticals like those found in the Digestive Health Detox, are key to optimizing digestive health.