I have done a lot of research into this supplement to see if it can live up to its promise to help; you overcome SIBO-C. Many of my clients have used Atrantil with great success, and if you search the Facebook groups for reviews of the supplement, most of them are positive. My research uncovered some pros and cons associated with the supplement. So what are archaea, and why would you want to reduce their colonies if you are suffering from SIBO-C?
All About Archaea and The Issues They Cause When Dysbiotic
Many different microorganisms make up your intestinal microbiome, including bacteria, archaea, yeast, parasites, and viruses. Archaea are different than bacteria; they are single-celled organisms that lack a nucleus. Archaea in our digestive system feeds off of hydrogen that bacteria produce during fermentation within our gut. Archaea then produce methane as a metabolic byproduct under anaerobic conditions. The more hydrogen gas that is produced from fermentation by a dysbiotic bacterial microbiome, the more methane archaea will produce. Cows flatulate more methane than humans because they consume fermentable foodstuff (grass, for example) in larger quantities and have more archaea by volume in their digestive systems. Most of the available research on archaeal dysbiosis comes from bovine research and studies. If archaea dysbiosis occurs in cows, it can lead to severe gas bloat syndrome, and they can have a gastrointestinal rupture and die unless the gas is relieved. Rarely, a trochar and cannula have to be inserted into the cow’s digestive tract to relieve the pressure. Methanobrevibacter smithii seems to be the most dominant of the archaea species in our gut, compromising at least 90% of our archaea flora.
Decreased motility and upper gut dysbiosis (hydrogen-producing bacteria within the upper gut, produce hydrogen further up our digestive tract that feeds the archaea and allow their colonies to grow) have been correlated with an overgrowth of archaea within the digestive tract. Decreased motility leads to gastroparesis and constipation, leading to slower transit time and increased fermentation. Motility in our digestive tract comes in waves that are controlled by the migrating motor complex. Decreased motility leads to an increase of hydrogen and methane concentrations within our gut, which causes excessive bloating since the body does not have mechanisms to quickly eliminate large volumes of those gasses. People with archaeal overgrowth are also more likely to have a reduction of serotonin produced by their microbiome within the digestive tract, further slowing motility. The following study concluded: “Compared with hydrogen producers, methane producers had significantly lower postprandial serotonin levels. These data—although derived from a very small (N=18) study—suggest that methane-producing IBS patients have reduced postprandial serotonin.” Serotonin (5-HT3/5-HT4) is one of the neurotransmitters produced in our gut and is associated with regulating proper gut peristalsis by triggering intestinal muscular contractions. Lower amounts of serotonin in our gut equates to lower motility because of less muscular contractions that would explain the cause of chronic constipation in methane dominant SIBO. Lowered activation of 5-HT3 receptors in the ileum significantly slows down emptying of the small intestine, allowing for more colonies of bacteria to remain and grow which may lead to dysbiosis.
It is more difficult to relieve archaeal dysbiosis because they tend to be more antimicrobial-resistant and form thick biofilms. Many conventional antibiotics fail to reduce archaeal overgrowth. Thankfully Atrantil works in multiple ways to alleviate archaeal dysbiosis.
So What About Atrantil and How Can It Help Relieve Archaea Dysbiosis?
I had to dig deep into its possible patent to figure out Atrantil’s proposed mechanism of action. I also reached out to Dr. Brown so that he would provide his explanation of why Atrantil works. I will post the information that I found and some of my interview with him to help you determine if this supplement is right for you.
What I found was promising in theory, but there was not a lot of human in vivo studies of two of the main ingredients:
- Red quebracho tannins (150 milligrams of quebracho extract)
- Saponins possibly obtained from horse chestnut
Red Quebracho Tannins
Red quebracho is a tree that is found in South America and is a natural source of tannins. Tannins are water-soluble polyphenols that are found in plants and can be quite bitter. Tannins can also bind to proteins and therefore enzymes as well. Conventional sources of tannins in our diet are berries, beer, chocolate, nuts, smoked meat, tea, and wine. Tannins are very astringent, so when we consume a food or beverage that contains them, our mouth becomes dry, and we pucker our lips. Tannins are an important ingredient in the process of tanning leather. Tannins help to break down hide protein structures, making them more durable and also stains the leather. Tanbark from the quebracho tree is still in use today in tanning processes. Saliva in our mouth inactivates tannins reducing their ability to interfere with endogenous digestive enzymes and digestion.
Tannins are used in Atrantil to bind, shrink proteins that bacteria produce, and reduce the populations of both protozoa that may be in the gut and methanogenic archaea. It is possible for different bacteria/archaea to be resistant to the antimicrobial effect of tannins; it is unknown if it will work or not with your type of dysbiosis. Tannins in theory, in a few in vitro studies, and ruminant in vivo studies can inhibit archaea significantly and seem promising in helping people with SIBO-C.
In the interview with Dr. Brown; he mentioned the mechanism of action for the tannins was:
The tannins “Form covalent hydroxyl bonds that bind to free hydrogen.”
He later goes on to state that:
“The Archaebacteria (a methanogen) require hydrogen for methane synthesis. By binding to the free hydrogen, the Polyphenol removes much of the fuel source for methanogenesis.”
Tannins also bind to dietary fiber during digestion, reducing its fermentation. Less hydrogen produced from fermentation would cause a further reduction in archaea leading to hopefully improved motility. Tannins also have an antimicrobial effect against many hydrogen-producing bacteria which may further help to relieve upper gut dysbiosis as well.
Finally, Dr. Brown mentions the antibacterial properties of the tannins:
“The polyphenol binds to and weakens the cell wall of the archaea and bacteria, disrupting the integrity of the “S” layers of the cell wall.”
Breaking off those layers weakens the archaea to the next ingredient in the supplement.
Saponins (that I believe are from horse chestnut) are the next ingredient in Atrantil.
Horse Chestnut is a type of tree that is found throughout the world in temperate climates. Its use is mainly known for increasing vascular health from a compound found in the seed of the tree known as aescin. A Saponin is a class of plant compounds that are known to have soap-like foaming actions.
Dr. Brown mentioned in the interview about the anti-archaea properties of saponins in Atrantil:
“The polycyclic peptide’s amino acids target receptors on the cell wall of the bacteria; form pores by preventing cell wall synthesis resulting in lysing of the bacterial cell.”
He also mentions that the saponins can reduce methane production by the archaea itself:
“Second, the saponin, penetrates the compromised cell wall of the archaea and bacteria (by the flavonoid). Once inside of the archaea, the saponin binds to methyl-coenzyme M reductase halting methane production within the archaea itself. This prevents the metabolism of the known methanogen and halts methanogenesis.”
There are studies to back Dr. Brown’s claims in ruminant animals and in vitro studies.
Peppermint oil in the supplement is an antispasmodic agent and slows down motility so that the other ingredients have more time to reduce archaeal dysbiosis. I wrote about menthol extensively in Fix Your Gut and on my blog.
Peppermint is a hybrid mint plant. It is a cross between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint is native to Europe, but the herb has now grown widely throughout the world. People everywhere value mint for its strong pleasant scent, its cooling sensation on our skin, and its flavoring capabilities in baking, candy making, and drink preparation.
Peppermint has a long tradition of herbal use and is used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and the Europeans for medicinal purposes. Peppermint has been studied intensively for its use in the treatment of IBS and other intestinal disorders. Peppermint works very well for pain relief, reduces intestinal spasms, and can reduce hemorrhoids.
I believe peppermint oil is a double-edged sword for SIBO-C. Dr. Brown thinks that it would slow down motility in the small intestine so that the saponins and tannins can do their job efficiently. It does, however, concern me that slowing motility can cause further digestive issues in some people with SIBO-C. Generally, with SIBO-C, you want to increase motility, not decrease. If Atrantil works the way that it is proposed to, the brief motility reduction should eventually be overcome by reducing archaeal overgrowth. Proper serotonin production in the intestines by re-establishing proper flora should occur, relieving constipation and restoring motility. All of this being said, for some people, Atrantil can worsen their constipation further, and if that happens for more than two to three weeks while you are taking the supplement, I would recommend discontinuing it. The peppermint oil in the supplement might be causing more issues by worsening constipation then it is helping.
Atrantil Final Verdict
I like Atrantil. Will it work for everyone with SIBO-C? Maybe not. But I do recommend it to some of my clients that I feel would get the most benefit from its uses who have SIBO-C. I have seen it improve their symptoms in most recommended cases.
I do appreciate the openness of Dr. Kenneth Brown in our e-mail communications and his interview. He does believe in his product and believes that it will improve people’s lives who are suffering from SIBO-C.
That being said, I do have some small reservations that I mentioned in the above review. I wish there were more human clinical trials with Atrantil and people suffering from SIBO-C. Dr. Brown, however, has published two studies on the use of Atrantil in people suffering from SIBO-C. The first study, published in 2015, was double-blind placebo-controlled and lasted for two weeks. In the study, sixteen people, mainly females who had IBS-C for years, were randomized into two groups. Eight received the supplement Atrantil, and eight received the placebo. After two weeks, the people that were taking Atrantil had remarkable improvements in motility and bloating and those taking the placebo showed no improvement. The first study yielded a reported 88% success rate. Atrantil’s second study lasted two weeks and included twenty-four subjects (again, mostly women). The study was published in 2016 and, unlike the last study, was not a double-blind placebo-controlled study. After two weeks, twenty-one of the twenty-four subjects reported improvements in bloating, abdominal pain, digestion, and constipation, yielding a reported 88% success rate. In both studies, no side effects with the supplement were reported. Atrantil per the studies seems to work well for women; we need more studies to see if it also works well for men that are dealing with SIBO-C or IBS-C.
Finally, Dr. Brown mentions in his Atrantil study that the supplement might help people who are suffering from SIBO with diarrhea as well. “It is possible that the blended extract could also be utilized in patients with IBS-D who have also been diagnosed by breath test with SIBO. Sachdeva et al found that there was a statistical link between patients with IBS-D, female gender, and bloating that was also a predictor of SIBO in effected populations. Therefore, it is possible that the tannins in the blended extract could act as a sink for hydrogen ions generated by invasive bacteria in the small bowel of IBS-D patients. There is also data to support the use of peppermint oil for abdominal pain in this population. It is unknown what effect, however, saponins Conker Tree Chestnut would have on diarrheal symptoms. This would have to be tested clinically in IBS-D patients with SIBO.“
Even with my minor criticisms, I recommend that people consider Atrantil if they are suffering from SIBO-C. I have recommended it to many of my clients with mostly successes. Therefore, you should ask your healthcare professional about using it to improve your digestive health.
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