January 26, 2017

Silver Fern Probiotics

Silver Fern Probiotics

After taking my course on gastrointestinal imbalances, I considered myself kind of a probiotic snob (though this is completely absurd because there’s just SO much to learn about the gut). So when I found out about Silver Fern Probiotics, I was excited to pick their brain about their product, employing some of what I had just learned in my class. To be completely honest, I expected this thread of emails to go nowhere, as I’m extremely picky about my supplements. I was kind of just excited to show them how much I knew and about some of the research had I come across.

So I followed up the email with three questions, feeling confident the company wouldn’t only not be equipped to answer my question, but that their product was something I would pass up. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

  1. I recently read a few studies noting the adverse effects of stevia on the microbiome (like this one). Can you speak to this and/or provide studies that negate this research?
  2. Can you send along what the plan is so that I can review it and compare it to what I am learning in my Master’s program? I’m currently taking a class on gastrointestinal imbalances, and would like to see how your program holds up against my course material.
  3. What are your credentials / who developed the program?

I was immediately directed to the CEO of Silver Fern, who not only thoroughly answered my questions, but forwarded my email to the chief science officer who researched and designed the probiotic, and who, as noted in the email “is a frequent lecturer on the Human Microbiome at Medical and Nutrition Conferences.” He is a frequent expert guest on National Radio and Satellite radio and has been a guest speaker on several Health Summits as a microbiome expert. He is currently involved in 3 novel human clinical trials on probiotics and the human microbiome.

Question 3: check.

My initial prejudices began to slip away. This was further confirmed when I was also directed to a material safety data sheet regarding the safety of the supplements as well as a few studies and pamphlet regarding the purpose of the probiotic. As I mentioned in my previous post about gut health, probiotics are strain specific, meaning certain strains work better for certain ailments or irregularities. The Silver Fern strain contains bacillus coagulans and bacillus subtilis, amongst others. The coagulans strains is used to help increase metabolism by creating short chain fatty acids. SCFAs are responsible for helping create a healthy colonic environment by decreasing luminal pH. Some SCFAs (like butyrate) are used as energy sources by colonocytes (essentially, they feed the gut cells).

The Silver Fern probiotic also contains the Bacillus subtitlis strain, which is useful for overall gut health, antibiotic-induced diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection (UTI), and candida vaginal infections. This strain ( HU58™ Bacillus subtilis) has superior sporulation and germination efficiency, meaning it is stable at extreme pH levels and high temperatures, and can survive dessication, antibiotics, challenging storage/manufacturing conditions, and the gastric environment in the stomach. Basically, it survives harsh conditions (environmental, stomach acid, antibiotics), and is able to reach the colon to have its intended clinical effect.

In addition, HU58 produces something called Nattokinase, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and reduce excessive clotting by fibrinolysis. Furthermore, bacillus subtilis strain is an immune stimulator and produces a number of other nutrients that have systemic health benefits such as B vitamins and Vitamin K2.

The company also releases a magazine called the Silver Fern Elevated Plan. While this plan is centered on weight loss, which isn’t my area of focus, it features articles like how to choose a probiotic, as well as emphasizing reducing sugar and refined carbs, eliminating artificial sweeteners, and eating more fiber. All of these tenets have been emphasized in my Master’s program, so it was refreshing to see this information being put into action.

Some of the articles in the magazine touch on why we crave sugar and refined carbs, in that bad bacteria in the gut not only feed but thrive on sugar. When you originally stop eating these things, the brain still craves them, therefore sending signals to eat even more sugar and perpetuate the craving cycle. Having the wrong composition of gut microflora can result in easy weight gain and difficult weight loss, whereas individuals with healthy guts have stronger metabolisms that burn fat, therefore making it easier tolls weight. This is confirmed in my own studies in that obese individuals have drastically different microflora composition than “thin” individuals, or those with healthy weight.

As I mentioned in my own blog post, Silver Fern notes that artificial  sweeteners, high sugar diets, sanitized food supply, antacids, and antibiotics further negatively alter the microbiome.

Question 2: check. 

I was very pleased upon learning this information, especially because it lined up so directly with what I was learning in my own classes. I noted, however, that their strand of probiotic had 8 billion CFU, and I had learned that clinical efficacy only comes with brands that have 10 billion CFU. CFU basically just means number of strains. My previous strain (Floramyces – a strain of mixed saccharomyces) did have this amount, so I was wary to switch to a brand that had LESS strains.

Here is the response I received:

“We get a lot of questions about live strain probiotic products that contain 15 billion CFU to 30 billion CFU. Our general response is that the quality, survivability, and functional benefits of what we offer is better than a dozen different strains and 30 billion CFU that are likely to die before arriving in the intestinal tract. Instead of using 10 billion CFU of that one strain our formulator/chief science officer/microbiologist (Kiran Krishan) formulated a maximum benefit probiotic with a variety of potent strains. Further, the Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic was formulated for fat loss and metabolism change. Only bacillus strains have been proven to do that.”

As noted above, in terms of choosing a probiotic, the company emphasizes quality over quantity, making sure to pay attention to strain verification, billions of CFUs, probiotic quality, and multifuncionality.

What does this all mean?

Strain verification – Recent studies have shown that 90% of probiotic products tested contained strains that were not listed on the label and even had variations in the types of strains found in the product from pill to pill in a single bottle. The fact is, if a product hasn’t been verified by DNA analysis, you have no idea what you are taking.

Billions of CFUs – With probiotics it is all about quality vs quantity. Many companies will try to fool you by loading up capsules with hundreds of billions of very, very cheap bacteria strains – many of which are dead. 1 Billion of a real probiotic strain is far more powerful than 100 billion dead or dying bacteria strains. All pharmaceutical probiotics contain just a few billion of a small handful of powerful strains.

Probiotic Quality – As previously mentioned, with probiotics, quality over quantity matters most. This means you need strains that have studies to prove that they work in the human body and that they influence the 100 trillion other bacteria in your gut in a positive way. The vast majority of strains used in the probiotic industry simply have no scientific validation.

Multifunctional – Many well studied probiotic strains only perform one or two functions in the body. A truly effective probiotic has to be multifunctional or you are simply not getting all the key benefits you should be getting from a probiotic supplement. It should be able to modulate the immune system, help you digest food, reduce gas and bloat, improve acidity, decrease inflammation, shift the balance of bad to good bacteria, support the growth of other good bacteria, produce key nutrients, change your metabolism, help with mood, etc.

Bacillus Species Probiotics –  These are the only strains proven to show the metabolic response with fiber shown to create short-chain fatty acids for long term metabolism change.

Question 4: Check. 

So now I just had one last question, because some of the products in the Elevated program (even though I don’t intend to use those) had stevia. I had presented this problem to one of my instructors in school and was waiting for the reply around the same time I was waiting for the reply of the chief scientist officer from Fern.

What I had gathered from the study linked above was that rats who consumed stevia began to gain weight in ways (weighs lolol) similar to that of artificial sweeteners, meaning that stevia could change the composition of the microbiome.

Here was his response:

“I apologize for my delayed response, but I did want to get back to you regarding the question of stevia and the microbiome. To my knowledge, there are no studies that show any negative effect on the microbiome with stevia use. The study you mentioned below did not show any effect on the microbiome at all, they mention stevia once by citing a rat study that showed that rats given a stevia solution and then unlimited chow gained more weight in a 15 day period over standard glucose solution. This weight gain however was not attributed to any physiological changes and certainly not to any microbiome changes, this was not tested at all. What it was attributed to was a Pavlovian conditioning that causes a rat consuming a stevia solution to not have the same association between sweet taste and caloric consequence and so the rat ended up eating more chow over the 15 days. There is not mention of stevia and impact on the microbiome, they simply state that in the rat experiment (i.e. the Swithers paper) it was shown that rats consuming a stevia solution that was sweeter than glucose, gained more weight over time because it led them to eat more.

When we are dealing with humans that are actively seeking weight loss and making particular food and portion choices, the rat study simply does not apply. Its too big of a scientific leap to make the conclusion that because the rat gained weight due to eating more chow while drinking a stevia solution, that a human in active weight loss mode would do the same thing consuming a drink with stevia in it.

In my opinion, stevia is one of the safest sweeteners with regards to the microbiome thus far.

Question 1: check.

I’ll also add that my professor confirmed this opinion, noting that there haven’t been studies reporting negative effects of stevia on the microbiome.

I show you all of this not to brag, but to share a bit of transparency regarding how I interact and research companies before committing to trying and endorsing them. And to share about a company who is not only proud of their product, but so confident about the quality of research that went into developing it.

Additional questions:

  1. why is there yeast in the product? 

“Kiran is a big fan of Saccharomyces boulardii and there it is used for treating and preventing diarrhea, for general digestion problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), Lyme disease,  and bacterial overgrowth.”

SB is a probiotic yeast and our ancestors got good exposure to the probiotic simply by picking fruits and consuming them. SB is a very important addition as it has several key functions. It acidifies the gut, prevents the colonization of pathogens, helps seal up the gut lining, reduces inflammation in the gut, modulates the immune system and reduces inflammation, prevents bad yeast from growing and even improves enzymatic function to increase digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is a big part of reforming the gut and is very, very well studied and widely used. It would be a HUGE loss to the efficacy of the product if you took it out. In our medical space, we carry an SB product and recommend docs use it with Megaspore all the time. In Izabella Wentz’s NY Times best-selling book on Hashimoto’s Protocol, SB is one of the key probiotics she recommends. 
Here at 2 big tables from a 2012 publication that lists all the SB clinically validated effects and functions. It is quite amazing actually.

2.  I have received comments from individuals who feel more bloated and constipated when taking this supplement. I asked the company what the deal was with this (all about that transparency), and here was the response:

“About 25 out of a 100 people will experience something called a Herxheimer Reaction. This is basically is a short-term (from days to a few weeks) detoxification reaction in the body. These people have microbes that are essentially in control of their bowels.  When the powerful bacteria from the probiotics come in they attack these bacteria which release toxins as they die off (which is why “die off” is often the term used to describe the symptoms).  The symptoms can be either constipation or diarrhea. This is actually a good sign (but probably doesn’t seem so good at the time) that the probiotics are doing what they need to do. In these cases, the suggestion is to go with a lower dose.  Even just half a capsule every other day, slowing moving up to a full dose of 2 capsules a day.  Although Kiran does have some patients that simply can’t handle two capsules and they just maintain the dosage at one a day.  All in all it’s proof of the power in these strains and is worth “fighting through” to establish a healthier balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.”

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  • Karli

    Amazing post! I am so impressed by your commitment to promoting such reputable brands. It’s really inspiring. I’ve personally struggled with gut issues on and off since college. I’ve gone to so many different doctors over the years who have all given me different (sometimes conflicting) advice, all suggesting various supplements/probiotics … they never seem to work. After reading your post, I feel like Silver Fern is absolutely worth my time, wallet and energy. I know you recommend taking your probiotic with a meal. Have you found that a certain time of day works best? And how many do you take per day? I only ask because my last doctor advised taking two probiotics in the evening before bed. Curious to hear your thoughts! 🙂

    • Katie

      Hi Karli!! Sorry for the delay. I asked the founder, just to make sure I was giving the most accurate information. Here is what he said: “For the first week take one capsule per day with meals (preferably high fiber meals or snacks). After the first week, take 2 pills with meals. Kiran and his team have never offered or suggested a “best” time of day.” To note, Kiran is the lead scientist as mentioned above.

  • Emma

    Hey Katie,

    Awesome post! I have been loving all of your content and you inspire me to be a healthier individual 🙂 I wanted to order some of these probiotics however I am in Canada and they don’t ship here. Do you have any other probiotics you recommend?

    Thanks so much!!

    • Katie

      Hi Emma! These are the ones that have worked best for me. Before these, I took the brand Floramyces. Totally depends on what you need probiotics for – different strains work for different ailments. I have a pdf of this info in my blog post called “gut it together” – just type that or gut into the search bar xo

  • Melissa

    Thank you for being you! This post was everything! I was looking for a good probiotic and I am across a picture you posted and did my own research about Silver Fern.. that a long with this post definitely makes me feel like I made the right choice ! Today was my second day taking them hoping for the best !

    • Katie

      That’s awesome, Melissa! Took me a lot of back and forth with the company before deciding if it was something I wanted to incorporate into my daily life, but so happy I did! I’ve been taking them a few months now and feeling way more satiated / craving less sugar throughout the day. Crazy how a well functioning gut can modulated so many things!! xo

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  • Jillian

    Hey Katie!

    What are your thoughts on Garden of Life probiotics? How do you feel they compare to Silver Fern? XOXO

  • sarah

    I see that it has been a few months, are you still taking this product? Are you still satisfied with it? I’m especially interested in decreasing sugar cravings. Thanks!

  • Rafia

    Hi Katie – thanks for this article. I’ve been searching for a new probiotic because boy does my gut need some healing. I’ve been taking Tuzen (a probiotic recommended by my gastro-doctor) for a few years on and off for flare ups, but my recent flare up from accidentally eating gluten (I’m celiac) hasn’t gone away. I’m definitely going to try these out because they ship to Canada (yay!). P.S. thanks for always providing super informed and well researched answers with scientific backing.

    • Katie

      My absolute pleasure, Rafia! Comments like these make it all worth it! If you have any additional questions about the probiotic, please let me know!!

  • Sherri


    Thank you for this very thorough post! After not taking a probiotics for years, I came across this brand and decided after some research to start taking to help reduce sugar cravings. I just finished my 2nd week and I have had very bad bloating all week from it. That is how I came across your post! Trying to decide if I should go back to one a day. Haven’t noticed a difference yet. I eat a very clean diet but my only obstacle has been conquering that sweet craving mostly after dinner. (Dark chocolate is my favorite!) I have had it in check in the past, but lately it has been a challenge. Have you had any experience with bloating and detox? Thanks again for the post!

  • Shari

    I have chronic constipation and wonder if this probiotic will help. If I don’t drink my special tea every night, I just don’t go. I can go weeks without going! Thoughts about this product helping me?

  • Rachel

    Although they are marketing this toward a weight loss crowd, it seems that after reading through the strains that are included in this probiotic, it is still a powerful agent to aid in gut healing for those suffering with allergies. Do you agree?

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