The concept of ‘scobiotics’ is the brainchild of Evan Hayes, the MD at Australia-based Bioclinic Naturals ANZ. The company, which only supplies to practitioners, is part of the Factors Group of Nutritional Companies.
Hayes and his team spent about two years formulating the ‘scobiotics’ products, working with institutions such as the University of Sydney.
They have recently launched six ‘scobiotics’ vegetarian capsules products for supporting small intestinal health, healthy digestive function, enhancing immune function, and decreasing mild gastrointestinal tract inflammation.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Hayes explained that the idea of ‘scobiotics’ came from the layer of living organisms on top of kombucha called scoby – comprising of yeast, bacteria, and single cell organisms.
“That’s how we coined the term ‘scobiotics’, because this is a synergistic combination of probiotics, prebiotics, plus other living organisms such as yeast, and the blue-green algae,” he said.
The role of the ‘scobiotics’ is thus not only to supply probiotics to the body, but to provide the most optimal environment for probiotics work, including feeding probiotics with the right prebiotics to produce the right metabolites.
“The traditional thinking is you give somebody a probiotic and then that helps, but we are not entirely sure how that helps.
“Probiotics feed on food and excrete waste products, based on this logic, by just addressing the probiotic, you may not address the problem because you are not giving the correct information to the probiotic, or you are not getting the correct output from the probiotic,” he said.
The team has thus researched on how a particular probiotic uses a prebiotic to produce a particular desired metabolite.
Aside from the conventional prebiotics such as inulin, the team in some cases, has used ingredients such as spirulina, the blue-green algae, for better outcomes.
Giving the example of its ‘scobiotic’ for addressing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Hayes said that spirulina, instead of prebiotics, was used alongside the lactobacillus probiotic strain.
This is because the good bacteria from the probiotics do not stay for long in the small intestine. As such, the prebiotics will be utilised by the parasites growing in the small intestines instead.
In this case, spirulina was chosen as a nutrient source.
“If you have small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, you are nutritionally deficient and so, the probiotics cannot survive in that environment, because they then become nutritionally deficient.
“Providing spirulina has the vitamins and minerals that allow the probiotics to thrive,” he explained.
Whereas in the case of a ‘scobiotics’ for easing allergies such as hayfever and mild eczema, the firm has chosen the combination of bifidobacterium bifidus as the probiotic strain and inulin as the prebiotic. The aim is to produce the secondary metabolite butyric acid.
In the immune probiotic, fungi were used as prebiotic.
The prebiotic having utilised by the probiotics will produce beta-glucan and bring about an immune response.
“Depending on the product that we want to use, we choose the right probiotic plus the right food source that will produce the right secondary metabolites. They are inter-related,” he said.
When the right ecosystem is achieved in the body, the beneficial bacteria could replicate at a faster or optimal rate, in turn reducing the amount of live bacteria required in a ‘Scobiotic’ product, according to the findings from Hayes and his team.
The current understanding is that probiotics replicates exponentially within a certain amount of time and a disarray gut will require a longer time to replicate the same amount of beneficial bacteria as compared to the normal ones.
Thus, even a minute difference in the replication time can lead to a big difference in the amount of beneficial bacteria produced.
As such, Hayes said that the ‘scobiotics’ formulations required a lower amount of live bacteria as compared to other probiotics product.
“We did a lot of work in showing that using the right ecosystem, you can get the most optimum replication for the bacteria so that it produces more bacteria faster, which is key to understanding why some products work and why some don't.
“When you do it in the right way, you will need to add much lesser probiotics than you normally would, because you are working in the right system, rather than just shoehorning something in,” he said.
‘Noise’ clearance and system maintenance
The range of ‘scobiotics’ at present can be used for maintaining gut health or addressing more serious issues such as inflammation.
For products targeted at inflammation, the purpose is to clear the infection, in Hayes’ words “clear the noise” which in turn, will allow health practitioners to address the root cause of the inflammation.
As a follow up, health practitioners can prescribe the ‘scobiotics’ for general maintenance to keep the gut flora in balance.
Key challenges in making the ‘scobiotics’ included ensuring shelf life stability, selecting the right probiotic strain.
To ensure that the right probiotic strain is selected for an intended health benefit, the firm conducted both DNA and RNA profiling on the bacteria.
“What Factors Group does that many companies don’t is that we have own our lab in Canada where we do DNA and RNA testing on the probiotics.
“We select the right strains, work with the manufacturers on that and then we DNA and RNA profile the strains, so we have a complete database of the probiotics for strain selection purpose,” Hayes said.
The next step is thus to ensure shelf life stability, which is normally achieved through ‘overage’ at present.
‘Overage’ requires manufacturers to add in live bacteria in excess of the stated label claim so as to ensure that the product remains valid during the shelf-life period.
Instead of doing so, the firm found from its research that changing the manufacturing process could improve shelf life.
“The probiotics essentially got 'shocked' during the production, so we used a gentler manufacturing process and a staged manufacturing process.
“And so, we work on blending the ingredients without activating the probiotics and introducing the right ingredients at the right time,” he said.
The firm also needed to figure out the right food required for a particular probiotic strain.
Moving forward, the company has identified several research priorities, including the relationship between the microbiome and metabolism, the gut-brain axis, and ‘scobiotics’ role in detoxification of heavy metal.