Probiotics: beneficial or spore taste?

Written by Special Contributor, Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN

Spore probiotics are spore forming bacteria or soil-based organisms (SBO’s) that come from Mother Nature. Synergistic in nature, they come from the soil and are found in animals as well. Spores are like tiny seeds that blossom in the warm, humid climate of our intestines. It is generally believed that in modern day we have lost touch with the earth (literally) and therefore we could be lacking in these beneficial bacteria that may offer a wide array of benefits. The most widely studied spore species may arguably be Bacillus subtilis, however there are MANY more!

B subtilis is a spore commonly found in the soil around the root and grass level. It is known as one of the most resistant gram-positive bacteria. B subtilis started its journey as a supplement in 1958 when an Italian company began using it as a treatment for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. SIBO is a condition where bacteria start to grow in an unwanted territory- the small intestines. Risk factors for SIBO include chronic constipation, low stomach acid, multiple rounds of antibiotics, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, or prior bowel surgery. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, distension, constipation, diarrhea, gas/belching and malnutrition.

Spore probiotics’ biggest claim to fame is their durability: they are heat stable and can survive a low pH. There is also much science indicating they can resporulate.  All of this means they transport well in supplement form (no fridge needed!), they have a better chance of making to the intestines and they may actually re-inoculate the gut with their beneficial selves.  However, repopulation may not always be the end goal. SBO’s have been known to induce gas and other unfavorable GI symptoms. They may also stimulate the immune system, which could be beneficial for some, but not others.

Regular probiotics are native to the human body; be it in the gut, skin, nose, mouth, etc. Most effective probiotics list a genus, family and strain. A common example would be Lactobacillus (genus) rhamnosus (family) GG (strain). Probiotics with good science behind them almost always list the strains. Specific probiotics are good for specific symptoms, and the strain is what helps indicate what that particular one will do. Unfortunately probiotics are delicate bugs, so they have the highest chance of survival if taken first thing on an empty stomach, preferably with something like yogurt (for powders or open capsules).

Their delicacy brings up the point of refrigeration. Is it necessary? Why do some survive a box on the shelf and others don’t? It really just depends on the strain. Some are more delicate and require certain climates to remain stable; making it imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Probiotics are also transient, and they do not repopulate. This does not take away from their strength of action. When specific strains of probiotics are correctly matched to the appropriate symptom for enough time, their effects can be seen far and wide. 

The take away here is that they are both beneficial, it just depends on what outcome you are looking for. Research (and experience) indicates certain spore forming probiotics can helpful for patients with IBS or allergies, and taken concurrently with antibiotics. Taking them for 3 months to one year may suffice.


More about the author:

Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN, is a wife, mother of two perfect little ones, and a functional/clinical nutritionist currently living and helping people navigate their way to health in Naples, FL. 

Vaccines: History, Culture, and Countermeasures


This will be a full length three-part lecture on the topic of vaccines beginning in the origins of vaccines, then taking us to current state of social discontent, and concluding with a discussion on the measures you can take a concerned parent.  We are currently seeking an appropriate Naples based venue for the event.  Please RSVP early, or ask to be kept informed about the event by calling us and giving us your contact information.  We will be collecting ticket revenue for this event to offset the costs of the venue with extra revenue being donated to a local children’s based charity.  We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the lecture.

The Cold & Flu Vitamin

In January 2018 a study was published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal demonstrating something I have been sharing with my patients, family and friends for years.  Vitamin D is a cold and flu killer.  The study focused on infants with influenza but results are similar for older children and adults, too. The multicenter, randomized, controlled, clinical based trial showed that  low and high dose vitamin D was effective and safe in treating infants with influenza A. In both groups common symptoms like fever, cough, and wheezing were shorter, but significantly shorter in duration for the high dose group.


10 years ago Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, put forth the idea that vitamin D deficiency may be a root cause of influenza.  Subsequent studies based on this hypothesis did show that individuals who were vitamin D deficient experienced significantly more colds and flu.  In February of last year Time Magazine wrote an article “Here’s How to Avoid Catching Colds and Flu” which summarizes the findings of a meta analysis of 25 studies covering 11,000 people.  Daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation reduced colds and flu by half in those with the lowest level of vitamin D.  Even people with the highest level of vitamin D saw a 10% reduction in respiratory infection including colds and flu which makes it as effective as the flu shot.


Other studies have revealed that it requires 40 people to be treated with a flu vaccine to prevent one case of flu, 33 people treated with vitamin D to prevent one case of flu, and only 4 people if they are vitamin D deficient to prevent one case of flu.  Therefore, for those who are vitamin D deficient a vitamin supplement is 10 times more effective than the flu shot.


Vitamin D is produced naturally from exposure to sunlight rendering us  most susceptible to vitamin D deficiency in the winter months when the days are shortest and it may be too cold for outdoor activities.  Working indoors, wearing sunscreens, or having darker skin pigmentation can further reduce our vitamin D levels which should be taken into account when considering supplementation.  Some people may require as much as 6000-10000 IU of vitamin D3 supplementation to maintain a healthy levels of vitamin D.  One may further consider increasing vitamin K2 and magnesium which help optimize vitamin D levels.



Adults: Vitamin D3 50,000 IU once a day for three days.

Children: A proportional fraction of vitamin D3 50,000 IU based on an average adult weight of 150lbs. For example a 30lb child would receive 1/5th of the adult dose or 10,000 IU once a day for three days.

The vitamin D3 should be started within 24-36 hours of the onset of first symptoms.

You should consult with your physician before initiating this protocol as you may have a medical condition precluding vitamin D at these doses.

6 Must Try Ancient Herbs & Medicinal Plants

For thousands of years health and wellness treatments were collected, curated and shared from generation to generation until families began to breakup and drift apart while at the same time breaking their sacred relationship with the earth.  Instead of living together with nature mankind felt a need to tame and conquer her.  Over time ancient medicines were lost, hidden, or destroyed.

Here are six of my favorite medicinal herbs and foods.

1) Korean Ginseng

Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in the Far East as a medicinal herb for over 2000 years. While American Ginseng is in the same family they are distinctly different.  Korean Ginseng is very slow growing and is harvested traditionally at 6 years for the greatest health benefits. Ginseng that grows naturally in the wild is thought to provide further health benefits and can fetch a great value to the person who finds it.  This has lead to modern treasure hunters who comb the mountainside for naturally growing Ginseng that can fetch over $50,000 for a decades old plant.  Ginseng is widely used as an adaptogen thought to strengthen the body against environmental assaults and emotional stress. The active ingredients are part of the plants own immune system that the body absorbs and uses to to strengthen or normalize its immunity.  Ginseng is further used to recover vital energy, improve blood flow, assist with mental function, help with fertility and erectile dysfunction, and lessen the effects suffered by menopausal women.

2) Eleuthero

Commonly called “Siberian Ginseng” is not in fact ginseng. However, it does carry many of the same great medicinal benefits as true ginseng and it is highly sought after for that reason. Eleuthero root is believed to enhance energy, mental function, stamina, normalizes physiological processes, improves stress response, exerts protective qualities onto the heart, and promotes antioxidant activity. Eleuthero root is also known as Wucha in China.  An ancient herbalist once said, “I would rather have a handful of Wucha than a cart of gold and jewels.”

3) Elderberry

The use of elderberry is traced back to the stone age in Europe, to recipes in ancient Egypt, and Hippocrates called it the “Medicine Chest.”  Not only does elderberry effectively treat colds and flu but it tastes very good.  Elderberry tinctures, syrups, juices and wines are a delight to have in your house.  They also help with blood sugar levels, sinus infections, relieving arthritis, and improving antioxidant activity.

4) Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” or more dramatically referred to as “Strength of the Stallion.”  Ashwagandha is not a true ginseng.  However, it’s many potent medicinal benefits and powerful adaptogenic qualities let it stand on its own as a top contender for traditional herbal medicines.  It is very capable at helping your body respond to stress. It supports the thyroid and adrenal glands which is probably why it is taken for energy and mood.  Ashwagandha is also believed to protect neurological health from decline, boost immunity, and help with glucose metabolism.  This all explains the recent popularity of Ashwagandha in supplements and natural health food stores.

5) Astragalus

Likely the most widely used herbal medicine within traditional oriental medicine.  The root of this perennial plant is used to support the immune system for immune deficiency as well as autoimmune disease.  Astragalus is used for cold, flu, and respiratory infections.  It is used along with modern cancer treatments to support white blood cell counts.  The root is rich in flavonoids and polysaccharides which significantly contributes to the medicinal qualities of the plant.  It is common to find Astragalus as a tea, capsule, or powder.

6) Ginger

Ginger is from the same plant family as turmeric. It is an oft used ingredient in asian cuisine that is both aromatic and spicy do to the presence of ketones.  It is a commonly used medicine for everything from colds to cancer.  It was known to the Middle East, China, and India for 5000 years. Ginger can be powdered, eaten fresh or cooked, sometimes fermented as when served with sushi, candied, or made into a tea. Ginger appears to have antioxidant properties, have radio-protective effects, anti-inflammatory effects, helps with nausea (superior to dramamine with motion sickness), have anti-cancer effects, and possess cardiovascular protective qualities.

Antibiotic Alternatives

A friend shared her story about her most recent visit to a pediatrician.  She was the last patient of the day in a typical 5000 patient practice. She said she spent about 45 seconds with the doctor.  In those brief moments, the doctor explained that her child had an ear infection and prescribed an antibiotic. Thanks and goodbye.  She felt frustrated and let down.  She could not get more information from the doctor, had no time to ask questions, wasn’t able to voice her concerns about antibiotics, and couldn’t discuss alternatives with the doctor.


1 in 5 pediatric sick visits result in a prescription antibiotic.  It is an open secret that we as the medical community can do better when it comes to antibiotic usage.  30 percent of antibiotics are medically unnecessary.  Healthcare providers commonly prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory infections like common cold and flu, sore throats, bronchitis, asthma, allergies, and sinus and ear infections– caused by viruses and not responsive to antibiotics.


By the age of 20, the average American child will have had 17 courses of antibiotics contributing to physician-caused problems and bacterial resistance to antibiotics, as well as leaving lasting effects on our children’s immune system, gut microbiome, and metabolism. A well-cited and recognized study shows that a single antibiotic administered to a baby before a year old significantly increases that child’s risk of developing asthma.


What are your options?  While it is torture to see your child suffering in sickness, sometimes a wait and see approach is best. Instead of practicing the popular mantra, “Don’t just sit there, do something,” we should consider the opposite as more powerful, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” A host of natural approaches that may be applicable for a first-line treatment are available. We also recognize antibiotics are vital life-saving drugs serving a critical need, however, their overuse will render them ineffective when they are most needed.


If you have visited my office with a sick child the odds are you have left here at some point with a bottle of Biocidin. What is biocidin and why do we use it? Biocidin is a well researched, well tolerated, and effective botanical blend with proven antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It’s ingredients include:


Bilberry extract (25% anthocyanosides), Noni, Milk Thistle, Echinacea (purpurea & angustifolia), Goldenseal, Shiitake, White Willow (bark), Garlic, Grapeseed extract (min. 90% polyphenols), Black Walnut (hull and leaf), Raspberry, Fumitory, Gentian, Tea Tree oil, Galbanum oil, Lavender oil (plant & flower), Oregano oil (plant & flower).


We use Biocidin before turning to antibiotics for mild to moderate broad spectrum infections. While this works for my practice where we have more time to educate patients and patients have greater accessibility to allow for follow up visits, it may not be right for everyone and you should talk to your healthcare provider.


Here are a few more common visits and possible alternatives to consider. It is important to keep in mind that about half of all children’s ear infections will resolve without use of antibiotics.  Dr. Rusty who has been practicing medicine with a natural approach for over 40 years says that 80% of ear infections will be self-limiting and subside within about 72 hours. His first line treatment for ear infections is a mix of garlic and mullein oil with 1-2 drops in the ear followed by applying warmth.  Depending on the patient he may recommend Motrin for pain relief. Sore throats are another common culprit of childhood sickness and pediatric visits.  80% of sore throats are caused by viruses. Elderberry syrup is an effective treatment with broad-ranging health benefits and immune support for sore throats. Dr. Thornburg will use high dose vitamin D3 once a day for three days along with symptom relief strategies.


Share with us which homeopathic and natural treatments work for you and your family because we are a connected network of families committed to health and wellness.