Bacillus Coagulans – Know the Facts
In the vast universe of probiotic bacteria, Bacillus coagulans stands apart as a highly beneficial, yet surprisingly often overlooked microorganism.
While its more famous Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus ‘relatives’ grace the labels of natural yogurts and dietary supplements of all shapes and sizes, Bacillus coagulans remains a more particular probiotic component.
Why so? Well, on the one hand, it is sometimes wrongly marketed under the name Lactobacillus sporogenes. On the other hand, it is preferred in industrial uses, which often becomes reflected in the studies focused on it as a beneficial bacterium in the first place.
The question to be further on asked is the following: is this evasion of Bacillus coagulans inside the probiotic community a justified one or not? If so, why? If not, why and how could we use Bacillus coagulans to our advantage in the modern living world?
Why do we need probiotics?
It’s more or less impossible not to have heard about probiotics in this day and age, especially with all the positive advertising surrounding them. And, in all truthfulness, these ‘friendly’ bacteria do deserve their fame: not only do they create a symbiotic relationship at the level of the gut which is responsible not only for gastrointestinal wellness (from food decomposition to nutrient assimilation and bowel motility), but they also regulate immune and allergenic responses, cardiovascular health, and even promote increased mental stability.
Unlike ‘bad’ bacteria (viruses, microbes, fungi, etc.), probiotics aim at helping your body by breaking down hard to digest substances (as is the case with lactose intolerance, for example), as well as creating and antiseptic barrier for airborne and ingested pathogens or alleviating mental tension (which can be measured through your cortisol levels that rise in the presence of stress).
Consequently, the natural or externally supplemented presence of these ‘friendly’ bacteria within the oral cavity, stomach, small intestine, and colon has been long-time associated with proper gut functionality and, as a consequence, general wellbeing.
The fact of the matter is that these ‘pro-life’ microorganisms (as their name so aptly translates into English) surpass their small nature in terms of benefits by a long shot.
This is exactly why some specialists urge us to consume as many probiotic-infused foods and dishes as our lifestyle regime allows, in the idea that we can use them as a valid instrument towards achieving better health and happiness alike.
Where can we get our probiotic supplementation from?
One of the major advantages linked to probiotics is that they can be very easy to come across in a number of sources – if you know where to look for them, that is.
For instance, dairy products offer us a wide spectrum of options when it comes to beneficial bacteria of the Bacillus coagulans type. Probiotics actually constitute one of the driving forces behind the fermentation activity of milk sugars into lactic acid (via various enzymes), which then contributes to the transformation and maturation of natural yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and cheeses such as Gouda, Mozzarella, Cheddar, and Emmental.
The same goes for fermented vegetables, which usually rely on probiotic colonies in order to kick-start and maintain the preservation process within optimal levels. From sauerkraut and Sicilian green olives to any kind of brine pickle combination you can possibly imagine, these foods represent an accessible way of ensuring you reach your probiotic cut in a tasty and varied manner during each meal.
Lately, the international cuisine has witnessed an increased interest in Asian staples such as Kimchi, Miso soup, Kombucha tea, and Natto, (side) dishes that are full of ‘good’ bacteria and interesting flavors as well. Stay clear of vinegar-based pickles, though, since their acidity does not bode well for the proper development of ‘friendly’ microorganisms.
An equally important aspect to keep in mind in the case of both dairy and fermented foods is that most manufacturers pasteurize their products before selling them to the wider public.
Although probiotics are known to withstand higher temperature and pH variations, they are most likely killed off alongside the unwanted bacteria during this thermal treatment.
As a result, it is important to be on the lookout for brands which add probiotic cultures before commercialization (like Dannon, let’s say) so as to make sure you get your ideal probiotic intake on a daily basis.
Of course, there is also the most practical solution of probiotic dietary supplements. In the past couple of years, we have witnessed a dramatic boom in the market for dietary enhancers of all shapes and size, with the probiotic category taking a definite lead in terms of both diversity and quality.
This means that these days you are more likely to find a supplement that fits all your required health needs – from price range to strain blend and number of CFUs (colony-forming units or a number of live bacteria to be found in each serving).
What is Bifidobacterium coagulans?
Having briefly explored what probiotics are and where they can be found, it is the time we take a closer look at Bacillus coagulans and what it has to offer us in terms of general wellbeing.
As previously mentioned, this probiotic is not as ‘famous’ as some other strains of beneficial bacteria (take Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum as relevant examples). But why so?
Bacillus coagulans was first isolated as a probiotic in the early decades of the 20th century by B.W. Hammer.
In the years following this discovery, Bacillus coagulans went through a number of incorrect classifications by being placed at the ‘threshold’ between the Bacillus and Lactobacillus genera in terms of characteristics.
In fact, Bacillus coagulans has been wrongly marketed as Lactobacillus sporogenes up until 1974, with some companies still keeping to this denomination during our present times. This might be one of the reasons why Bacillus coagulans has not gained that much momentum up until now since it has been so long surrounded by a certain degree of indeterminacy and misclassification.
To make matters worse, this occurred during a particular period of time when probiotic studies had really started gaining momentum and recognition all around the world, hence leaving Bacillus coagulans with some ‘catching up’ to do in the modern age in terms of scientific background.
Luckily, later technological and DNA-based advances have allowed specialists to correctly classify Bacillus coagulans as a member of the Bacillus genus and therefore study it more carefully regarding potential benefits.
You will often come across this ‘good’ microorganism being described as a ‘soil’ probiotic as a direct consequence of its ability to form endospores under harsh external conditions. Endospores resemble hard, resistant outer shells which protect the bacterium against fluctuations in heat, acidity, and other unfavorable factors.
This protection mechanism is the reason behind why Bacillus coagulans is to be considered a lactic-acid producing bacterium, but not a lactic acid probiotic in itself (since the latter category cannot produce endospores naturally).
In addition, Bacillus coagulans is also a motile microorganism, meaning it can ‘travel’ throughout the gastrointestinal tract and not become damaged by this process.
As the name implies, Bacillus coagulans exhibits the capacity of triggering the coagulation process in substances such as milk, for example, which explains its usage as a starter culture for various dairy products including yogurt, buttermilk, and cheese.
Why is Bifidobacterium coagulans important for human health?
Despite its bumpy beginnings within the nutritional world, recent studies focused on the effects of Bacillus coagulans within the body of mammals (and implicitly humans) show us that this ‘underdog’ probiotic has countless health benefits to offer us through regular consumption.
The most obvious and natural of these advantages is that of gastrointestinal motility, which Bacillus coagulans can actively improve through regular consumption.
Studies have proven that this ‘good’ bacterium has the ability to regulate gastrointestinal rhythms by boosting internal microflora, normalize bowel movement patterns, and even ameliorate the health readings of your fecal matter (reduced pH, fewer occurrences of internal pathogens, diminished odor, etc.).
Additionally, one 2009 experiment focused on a set of subjects who presented persistent lower GI issues, revealing that they experienced far fewer instances of distention (bloating), gas, flatulence, and abdominal discomfort during and after treatment with a proper Bacillus coagulans diet.
The same goes for patients suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), who displayed a considerable recovery in terms of visceral bloating, pain scores, and overall comfort while being subjected to a Bacillus coagulans supplementation as opposed to their normal dietary regime.
Another major issue of IBS is, of course, that of extended and painful diarrhea episodes, with Bacillus coagulans being reportedly associated with fewer daily bowel movements for these individuals, alongside regularized stool consistency and intensity of their symptoms.
An amazing and equally valuable aspect of probiotics (Bacillus coagulans included) is that they actually help maintain immune screening within optimal readings inside the organism. A normal level of probiotic colonies throughout the gastrointestinal system – that is, starting with the oral cavity and throat and ending with the colon – has been shown to create significantly diminished occurrences of plaque formation, respiratory infections, and that of Helicobacter pylori infections.
Moreover, Bacillus coagulans can exhibit similar anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating properties in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, with studies showing improved readings regarding mobility, capacity to exercise and general pain assessment.
Aside from the gut, probiotics can also be found within the urinary and genital systems, where they also eliminate pathogen colonies and keep local microbiota healthy even under harsher conditions.
By producing an antiseptic substance called ‘bacteriocin’, Bacillus coagulans is, therefore, able to suppress yeast and fungi overgrowths (like Candida albicans, for example) that otherwise cause painful UTIs and cases of vaginosis which involve itching, a burning sensation, excessive discharge, etc.
Can Bifidobacterium coagulans cause any side effects as well?
The general consensus within the medical and nutritional community of the present time is that Bacillus coagulans constitute a perfectly safe and viable probiotic that can be used for human consumption over extended periods of time, without any major side effects emerging during this period.
At most, a healthy individual starting a Bacillus coagulans supplementation regime can notice some abdominal discomfort within the first couple of days of usage (in the shape of bloating, gas, and abdominal distention), but which most likely subsides just as quickly once the probiotic colonies become settled within the G.I. tract.
Nevertheless, there are certain particular cases in which this probiotic can turn out to cause more damage than good to your health. The most vulnerable of these situations appear if you are suffering from short bowel syndrome or from a weakened (even compromised) immune system: because Bacillus coagulans is motile and can form endospores, you become at a higher risk of developing life-threatening infections such as sepsis, for instance.
Caution is also advised if you are undergoing various treatments involving immunosuppressants and/ or antidepressants since certain substance combinations definitely interfere with Bacillus coagulans.
Consequently, a visit to your doctor or personal physician is more than advised during these circumstances, as is the case with pregnancies, nursing, being under the age of 18 years, etc.
As a general rule, not all Bacillus coagulans strains are of a probiotic nature and neither have all of them been cleared for human utilization, so it is best to check with a specialist before resorting to a bacterial type you feel uncertain about from the get-go.
When it comes to health, it’s always good to put facts first and commercial hype last in order to be sure you at least remain as well as you started out in the beginning.
Bifidobacterium coagulans and human wellness
While not at the forefront of the probiotic limelight, it has become obvious by now that Bacillus coagulans definitely maintains its ground when it comes to gastrointestinal health, immune protection, and general wellbeing alike.
Therefore, you shouldn’t refrain from giving this probiotic a try next time you are in search of a strong wellness boost, more so since you have so many safe and practical options to choose from regarding Bacillus coagulans supplementation (fermented and dairy foods, dietary enhancers, etc.).
As you will see, going the probiotic route towards a healthier lifestyle comes only natural with Bacillus coagulans – and the positive differences won’t take long to show up either!