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Just when you thought you’d mastered shopping for probiotics, there’s a new buzzword on everyone’s lips: SBOs. So what are they? Celeb nutritionist and Ayurveda expert Kimberly Snyder is here to give you the bacteria-based intel you need.  

As a nutritionist, I’ve always been fascinated (okay, borderline obsessed!) by the digestive process. After all, you’re not what you eat, but rather what you digest. With this, I have constantly been searching for ways to naturally improve digestion at a core level, which is where probiotics came into the picture.

If you’re like nearly every health seeker I’ve ever met, you’ve had experience with probiotics, whether it be fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and so on)—or supplements. I’m also betting you probably didn’t notice much of a difference from consuming those foods or taking them.

Most probiotics can’t survive through the stomach acid, or are transient versus resident-forming (i.e. they do some temporary good but don’t actually implant in your gut).

Sadly, as I’ve dug deeper on this subject, I quickly realized that most of the probiotic products—be it food or supplements—don’t contain the most important individual strains. The majority of them also can’t survive through the stomach acid, or are transient versus resident-forming (i.e. do some temporary good but don’t actually implant in your gut).

What are you supposed to believe or buy into? There are a zillion different products out there! This was a light-bulb moment for me. It turns out that nature, as it often does, holds the perfect solution: soil-based organisms (SBOs). They’re found in the dirt and is how our ancestors used to get their probiotics naturally, and that is why I am so passionate about them.

Here’s what you need to know about SBO probiotics—and why I’m so excited about them.

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Graphics: Abby Maker for Well+Good

What are they?

SBO probiotics mimic the perfect mix of bacterium in pristine, healthy soil. Our earliest ancestors were exposed to a large number of bacteria through the way they lived and ate. The food was eaten as it was found, without washing. No running water back then! Soil-based bacteria would’ve been on anything that had contact with the ground: roots, low-growing leaves, and any fruits that fell to the ground.

Even people’s hands would’ve had soil-based bacteria from having contact with dirt, and they often ate with their hands (without washing or scrubbing them multiple times a day, to boot). They ended up ingesting all those wonderful SBOs, alongside the freshly pulled carrots, bok choy, or whatever veggies our various ancestors had access to. Again—so simple! This is how our ancestors got their probiotics, from being in direct contact with the earth, and it’s the perfect, natural probiotic mix to nurture our entire well-being.

I’ve found that SBOs are “good” bacteria that can:

• Aid in digestion
• Assist in nutrient absorption
• Support a healthy immune system by triggering antibodies that act as our main defenders
• Support healthy energy levels
• Support mood and mental health

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Why are SBOs now becoming a thing?

In 2010, the Human Microbiome Project published an analysis of 178 genomes from bacteria that live in or on the human body. Ten thousand different types of bacteria in the human body have been identified, many of which serve functions in human health and disease. The vast numbers of bacteria discovered appear to provide benefit to the human body.

As scientists map the human microbiome, they’re beginning to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes involved in shaping the diversity of the human gut flora.

Proper bacterial balance provided by SBOs helps restore our natural vitality, by putting us back in close touch with nature. And really, you can’t get any closer than essentially eating dirt—or at least the important mix of bacterium found in pristine soil.

Well+Good Council member Kimberly Snyder, CN, is the New York Times best‐selling author of The Beauty Detox SolutionThe Beauty Detox Foods and The Beauty Detox Powerand co-author of Radical Beautywith Deepak Chopra. Her popular beauty blog, KimberlySnyder.com, features Ayurveda-inspired recipes and products—and she’s also the creator of Glow Bio, an organic juice, smoothie, and cleanse company.

What should Kimberly write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to [email protected]