Friday, December 5, 2014

Swanson Soil-based Organisms: A Worthy Supplement?

This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a past blog of mine active from 2013-14.

While my grandma was visiting me this past summer when I still lived in Korea, she inquired about my digestive health. This discussion resulted in her telling me something so huge that I wondered why I hadn't heard about it sooner.

She said my cousin (all right, a second cousin's son if we're being precise) had bad digestive problems for many many years, recently started taking some supplement, and his symptoms have totally left! Of course I asked what supplement it was, so she e-mailed his mother and got an answer within the day.

What did he take? Swanson soil-based organisms. Yeah, I know I've publicly sworn off supplements here on the blog before, but when you hear a success story like that from someone you know and trust—a relative—it's hard to ignore. So as soon as I got back to the states last month I ordered a bottle online. And at $9.99 per bottle of 90 capsules, it was an easy purchase to make.

Let's take a closer look at what's in these guys:

Swanson Ultra Soil-based Organisms

This dietary supplement is meant to promote "regular bowel function and immune system health." It has 15 strains of beneficial microorganisms and digestive enzymes. Here's the product blurb from the Swanson Health Products site:
"Regain the missing ingredient lacking in so much of the food grown today and enjoy steadier energy levels, easier digestion and improved bowel function. Modern farming techniques that impoverish soil together with cooking and heat processing destroy the microscopic soil-based organisms (SBO) that give our food its full nutrient potential. With over 5 billion live organisms per serving, plus digestive enzymes and 72 trace minerals, SBO will improve your intestinal absorption of nutrients and speed the body's synthesis of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful first-line-defense antioxidant. The SBO retain full potential until you consume them, only activating upon exposure to liquid."
And here's the complete ingredient list from the bottle label: (Click the label to see it bigger and clearer)

[Image lost during move from Have Your Health]

Other ingredients: Gelatin, stearic acid, may contain one or both of the following: magnesium stearate, silica. Suggested Use: As a dietary supplement, take one capsule per day with water or juice. WARNING: Consult your healthcare provider before use if you are pregnant or nursing.

My Experience with Swanson Ultra Soil-based Organisms

You're supposed to take one capsule a day with water or juice, but I'm not great at swallowing pills (hence my Dr. Mercola's powder probiotics I used to take). And believe it or not, when you're out of practice you don't get any better.

The first day I was pleasantly surprised that I actually got it down on the second try! Maybe I could become a capsule-swallowing pro after all. All hope dwindled on the second day when I just couldn't swallow it no matter how many swigs of water I took. Soon the capsule started disintegrating in my mouth—which tastes oh so very great as you can imagine.

So I improvised and have been able to swallow a capsule with my first bite of bagel when I have breakfast. For some reason it's completely doable when I'm swallowing with food. But when that capsule is floating in my mouth with a bunch of liquid, my body just does not want to swallow it.

So I take it with food, and then drink a few swallows of water before continuing to eat my bagel. I hope this isn't affecting the results, though I did see one customer comment saying that you should take this supplement with food (but if that's the case, then why wouldn't they instruct it?).

So can I notice a difference? It's been several weeks now, I'd say, and I take one capsule every morning. The first few days I didn't notice anything, though a couple more days in and I noticed new smells and colors (hint of green) leaving me. So something was changing, at least; with the Dr. Mercola probiotics I used to take regularly, I never once noticed any changes.

And then after maybe a week I noticed a heftier change in my BM one day. All of a sudden that morning something solid left me! Small parts, but solid nonetheless. I was really excited that day, could this be it? Was this all I had needed to introduce into my gut ecosystem? And then things returned to "normal" the following day (my normal=liquid), and ever since.

I also noticed back when I first started taking the supplement that I wasn't very hungry. Normally when I'm home all day (which I am now, working from home), I'll snack and snack. Especially to procrastinate. But at the start I'd fill up on less than normal and not feel like eating until I'd be hungry again, which wouldn't be until significantly after American meal times (a good thing though, I think, to only eat when you're hungry).

So I'm not sure if that had to do with the supplement or not. I'd say maybe I'm still eating less than my "average" now, but it could be due to my new environment, new food, the winter season, new exercise routine, etc. I'm tired too, but I think that has more to do with the winter season, lack of light, and working as an editor (it's draining!) more than anything.

Supplements Aren't "the Solution"

I know that you can't just take supplements and expect things to magically be fixed, which was part of my reasoning last April to not take them anymore in the first place. Rather, you must change what you eat if you want to see changes in your health. Remember, in the words of Patty Yeager:

[Image: Patty Yeager health quote from "Food Over Medicine" - Have Your Health]

That said, I'm going to keep on taking the supplement every morning for now, hoping it will help my body grow a healthy flora as I experiment with food choices. I'm well aware that what I choose to eat always impacts my health—with or without the supplement. I'll be sure to update in another month or so regarding these soil-based organisms, and whether there's been any change or no change at all.
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