Some of you may remember a series of articles I wrote last summer called, “Eat, Pray, Bugs.” These articles were the background research for a study that we were conducting here at LifeSpa. The study was a small pilot study to see if the American microbiome would gain microbial diversity (which we, as Americans, greatly lack) when exposed to European foods and colonizing probiotics for 2-4 weeks.
We measured the microbiome of ten American adults 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after a 2-4 week European trip. To add a twist to this study, I wanted to see if LifeSpa’s Flora Restore MAX, a colonizing probiotic, would boost the microbiome diversity and maintain that diversity for 2 weeks after the European trip – which would suggest the proliferation of new microbial residents was maintained.
This is important because there is little science suggesting that probiotic supplements actually make permanent changes to the microbiome thus, to get the benefits, you must continue taking them. I was interested in confirming the science that suggests that the microbe strains in LifeSpa’s Flora Restore, Flora Restore MAX, and Gut Revival are actually colonizing vs. transient probiotics. (1)
To accomplish this, half the group took a colonizing probiotic (Flora Restore MAX) during their trip, and the other half did not take a probiotic during their trip.
The genus lactobacillus found in Flora Restore MAX, a colonizing probiotic, increased in 100% (4 out of 4 people) of those taking the probiotic who had not been taking that probiotic prior to the study. These findings poke all sorts of holes in the rumors that probiotics don’t make it past the stomach and are destroyed by stomach acid.
The first question in our study as to whether or not living and eating in Europe would increase the microbial diversity had an interesting result. Across the board, everyone who visited Europe saw an influx in new microbes, on average 116 new genus of bacteria. At first glance, you might think this was a huge influx in microbiome diversity, but diversity would be gaining more new microbes than you lost. The actual results were that 60% of the probiotic group saw an increase in diversity, whereas only 33% of the non-probiotic group saw an increase in diversity. This is very interesting because it indicates that traveling to Europe on its own did not increase microbial diversity – instead you swapped out old microbes for new European microbes. However, these results also imply that taking probiotics might create a more suitable environment for microbial diversity, which would explain the increase in microbial diversity among the probiotic users.
- 3 out of 5 (60%) in the probiotic group experienced increased microbial diversity
- 1 out of 3 (33%) increased microbial diversity in the non-probiotic group
Traveling to Europe exposes you to a huge host of new microbes, but you also lose microbes when transitioning to such a different environment. It seems that taking colonizing probiotics helps you maintain more microbes, rather than simply having the new microbes push the old microbes out the door, thereby increasing overall diversity. Ninety-nine percent of the probiotics on the market are transient in nature, rather than colonizing, meaning that while they do offer health benefits, they do not contribute to a new stable of permanent and beneficial bacteria. Drilling into the genus of the probiotic strain that was administered, 100% of the participants who were not previously taking the probiotic saw an increase in that particular genus (4 out of 4).
We’d like to very much thank Research and Testing Laboratory for providing all of the test kits for the microbiome samples and facilitating the Microbial Diversity Analysis. We couldn’t have put this together without them!