We’ve all taken supplements or medicine at some stage in our lives. They are usually in the form of pills or capsules, but occasionally liquid tonics or powders. Usually we don’t think too much about it. After all – as long as it goes down, what does it matter what form it’s in?
That’s not the case with probiotics!
Probiotic supplements are available in many different forms, from capsules and pills to powders and liquids. Each form has its own benefits and disadvantages, and some are far better than others.
The most important feature of a probiotic is not necessarily the number of bacteria mentioned on the label, but how well those bacteria are able to reach your gut.
If the probiotic bacteria are destroyed by stomach acid, they will be unable to reach your gut and start improving your health.
Research shows that the survival rates for some probiotic strains are as low as 20%, due to the acidic environment in the stomach.
Other tests on vegetable capsules have shown that up to 96 percent of probiotics die upon contact with stomach acid.
Simply put: if the probiotics aren’t protected properly, those precious bacterial strains will be killed off before they have a chance to do their work in your gastrointestinal tract.
That’s why survivability is one of the most important factors when choosing a probiotic.
Let’s take a look at the different ways you can take probiotics – and how they compare!
Vegetable capsules are by far the most common delivery mechanism for probiotic supplements. Vegetable capsules are made of hypromellose, a polymer formulated from cellulose.
However, while opting for vegetable capsule might seem a healthy alternative to gelatin-based capsules, it may not be enough to protect the bacteria from your stomach acid.
Test have shown that up to 96% of bacteria in vegetable capsules are killed by stomach acid.
This means that those health-promoting live bacteria won’t survive the passage to your intestines, and they’ll do very little for your health.
Powdered probiotics are popular with those who don’t like to swallow pills or capsules. They also work well with children.
However, without any form of coating, the bacteria are even more vulnerable to the stomach acid.
A powdered probiotic must be taken with food or while the stomach is full in order to allow it a better chance of reaching the intestines without being damaged. Even then, survivability is bound to be very low.
Powdered probiotics also have a shorter shelf-life, as the bacteria will be exposed to moisture and air that can cause them to break down. Their efficacy will also be affected by the foods you take them with.
Delayed-release capsules are made of a synthetic material that is better able to survive the harsh conditions of the stomach. These capsules are usually enteric-coated, which aims to prevent the release of their contents until the capsule has passed through the stomach.
An enteric coating is a special polymer barrier. The surface is usually made of a material that is designed to remain stable at the highly acidic pH present in the stomach, but will quickly break down in the gut. When the capsule reaches the intestines, the neutral or alkaline environment causes the coating to dissolve and allows the probiotic bacteria to be released.
While these special coatings can help with keeping the bacteria alive for longer, most delayed-release capsules still only last for around 45 minutes.
This is usually not long enough for the probiotic to travel through your stomach! It can take much longer than 45 minutes for your stomach to empty fully.
The other downside of enteric coating is that the capsule contains air, and the coating may contain moisture.
Exposure to moisture and air can cause the beneficial flora to degrade and lose their potency, even while they are sitting in the bottle.
Bottom line? Both vegetable capsules and enteric coated capsules can lead to the destruction of the bacteria inside, rendering the supplement useless. Powders, liquids, capsules and even certain dairy products retain only a small percentage of their sensitive probiotic contents as they pass through the stomach.
This new method of protection and time-release technology has been shown to increase the survival rate of probiotic bacteria to an amazing 60% (compared to only 4% for capsules!)
That's exactly why we chose to use it for our probiotic.
The probiotic bacteria are freeze-dried and compressed into a tablet using a patented manufacturing process named LiveBac.
Then, when you swallow the tablet, it is moistened by gastric fluids. This causes a gel matrix to form around the tablet, creating a barrier that protects the probiotic contents from the harsh environment of your stomach.
This gives our time-release probiotics the protection they need to pass through your stomach intact. The tablet then moves out of your stomach and into your intestines.
Once your BIO-tract probiotic reaches your intestines, the probiotic bacteria are released at a consistent rate, over 8-10 hours.
Here's a diagram showing the difference in survivability between our probiotic and a typical probiotic in vegetable capsules.
All this also means that a single dose of a BIO-tract probiotic has a much better chance of colonizing your gut than regular vegetable capsules or even enteric-coated capsules.
It’s the most effective way to take a probiotic and get real results for your health.
For a highly-effective example of a BIO-tract probiotic, check out our Balance ONE Probiotic. It delivers 15 times more bacteria to the gut, releases those bacteria over 8-10 hours, and is shelf-stable.