HSO’s Part 1 – My Stance on HSO (Spore Forming) Supplements

HSO's Part 1 - My Stance on HSO (Spore Forming) Supplements

One of the largest pieces of misinformation exchanged in the natural health blogosphere is the notion that HSO organisms are 100% safe. HSO stands for hemostatic soil organism and they are used in many different “probiotic” supplements. Many HSO’s have been implicated as the cause of infections and can cause many health issues, even those that are taken in “probiotic” supplements. Ingestion of HSO’s can occur when one has eaten soil,1 consumed food fermented with HSO’s,2 taken HSO probiotics, or eaten improperly washed vegetables and fruits. It has been theorized that these HSOs have always colonized human intestines because ancient humans did not properly wash and sanitize their fruits and vegetables. Ancient man always consumed dirt! The consumption of large quantities of dirt by ancient man has been widely debunked, and you can read more information about it here. Finally, most HSO’s that we ingestion passes through the digestion system without germination and colonization. For most people, any improvement from taking a HSO probiotic would be a immune reaction to the spores and not from the HSOs becoming healthy flora through colonization.3 4

Though I have issues with the use of some HSO’s as probiotics, I avoid the stance that none of them have any value and that they should be completely avoided. I do also, recognize that some people’s health has improved with their use. My issues with HSO’s are that most people in the health blogosphere do not state that they can cause issues as well, they only report the positives and that they are 100% safe. The statement that HSO organisms are 100% safe is not only incorrect but downright harmful. In the comment section throughout the HSO series, you can read how the organisms have helped some people and caused serious issues for others.

Digestive Author Jini Thompson’s Change of Heart on HSOs

Jini Thompson gives her opinion of HSO’s in her following blog post:

“On page 108 of the IBD remission diet, I suggest that readers may want to try a product called Primal Defense after they’ve been completely healed for 3-5 months. I learned of this product from numerous readers who wrote in to let me know how well it’s worked for them. Since I couldn’t try the product myself (I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for four years and counting), I questioned numerous respected naturopaths, microbiology professors, and gastroenterologists for their opinion on the product and all said it looked fine.

However, since meeting the founder and president of Natren, Inc. (top quality probiotic manufacturer), Natasha Trenev, I must change my opinion of bacterial soil organisms. Natasha is a world-renowned expert on microorganisms and maintains one of the largest research libraries on that topic in the world. She has sent me an entire CD-ROM of articles, research, and clinical data, and other scientific studies (most done outside of North America) outlining why it is not safe to consume bacterial soil organisms (like those contained in Primal Defense and numerous other products).

To summarize the research briefly, soil organisms (SO) are spore formers, so they make good competitors for yeast, fungus, and other pathogens. This is why so many people taking soil organisms will initially experience very favorable results. However these spores are extremely difficult to kill, surviving sterilants, disinfectants, acceleration forces, heat, pressure, radiation and many antibiotics. Strong antibiotics — like Vancomycin — can suppress certain spores. Spores are so persistent in the intestines that another round of germination may occur after the the drug is stopped. Soil organisms can also adapt loose genetic material and incorporate it into their cellular structure — the ramifications of which are yet unknown. Various soil organisms can also produce harmful peptides, affecting hemoglobin in the blood. It’s important to keep in mind that virtually all antibiotic drugs were initially developed from soil organisms and as antibiotics become more potent, they cause more damage to the host, not just in the immediate gut environment, but systematically as well.

In the EU (European Union) the use of soil organisms in animal feed is being stringently controlled and questioned at this time. There are simply too many questions and unknowns to sanction the use of soil organisms for human consumption and one certainly cannot qualify them as safe at this time.

I’m very sorry for any confusion this may have caused you. To be honest, this is the very first time I’ve recommended a product that I’ve not tried and tested exclusively myself — I admit I was swayed by so many good recommendations from readers. Rest assured that I will not do so again!”

My sincerest apologies,

Jini Patel Thompson

July 2003 5

Now granted, a later update made to her blog post mentions that she is “somewhat” okay with recommending Primal Defense as a probiotic. The change of heart may be because the only HSO organism left in the probiotic supplement is Bacillus subtilis (they removed B. lichenformis).

HSO’s are not without fault and the ignorance in the natural health community about the issues they can cause is why I wrote the following blog series. Educate yourself and make an informed decision if they are right for you.

13 Comments
  1. First, changing your mind as a result of any interaction with Natsha Trenev tells me you know little to nothing about one of the most ruthless and agenda oriented people in the supplement world. Second, does everyone seem to forget that soil organisms are innate in the soil…where most of our food grows. We are constantly ingesting them as a direct result of their role in healthy soil and plant growth. So where are all the sick people that validate your assumptions that soil organisms are in some way toxic? Do you have even one example of someone who suffered some kind of harm as a result of ingesting these organisms? Put up or shut up.

    • Read the rest of the series and read the comments of people that HSO’s made them ill. Why do not you read the studies of people getting infections from the organisms. Hell, I know someone personally that was effected by an HSO “probiotic” and almost died, one, Jason Hooper, contributor to Fix Your Gut. I have also coached people where they were made ill from them. So why don’t you put up or shut up?

      • Could you recommend a different kind that could do good for a celiac, candida patient? This doesn’t jive well with me…

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