BY BENJAMIN MAKEHAM October 29, 2020
Did you know that one of the most important functions of our stomach acid is to destroy pathogenic bacteria that we ingest?
It’s part of our first line of defence against infections. Stomach juice is extremely acidic with a pH of 1.5-3.5, which quickly destroys many microorganisms that come into contact with it.
Unfortunately, this is bad news for many probiotics. Although they are beneficial bacteria, they are still bacteria nonetheless and the stomach acid does not distinguish between friend and foe.
Probiotic bacteria are only beneficial when they reach our colon alive. The colon, also known as the gut, is the home of our own commensal gut microbiome and it’s where probiotic bacteria need to be in order to exert their health benefits.
This means they need to endure the hostile environment of the human upper gastrointestinal tract in order to reach more comfortable lodgings in the colon. Stomach acid isn’t the only roadblock in their way. From saliva in the mouth to the mechanical churning of the stomach and the bile in the small intestine, these digestive juices and processes knock microorganisms and probiotic bacteria around and kill many of them in the process.
For example, five minutes of exposure to stomach acid has been shown to lead to one million times the loss of probiotic bacteria when left to their own defences. Other studies have demonstrated that up to 80% of any one dose of probiotic bacteria can be destroyed by stomach acid. This is because Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, which make up many of the bacteria found in probiotics, are particularly susceptible to acid.
Probiotic bacteria therefore require a helping hand to survive this perilous journey- that’s where microencapsulation comes in.
Although many already come in capsule form, microencapsulation is quite different. This refers to technology that encapsulates each individual bacterium (or smaller groups of bacteria) to offer them additional protection. It’s like fitting each bacteria with its own coat of arms.
For example, Microbac™, the microencapsulation used by Activated Probiotics, coats each individual bacterium with a plant-based lipid that stays intact within the stomach, is digested by bile and lipase in the small intestine, and releases probiotic bacteria into the colon alive. Microbac™ allows up to 5x more probiotic bacteria to reach the colon alive compared to traditional, uncoated probiotic bacteria.
Clearly, microencapsulation plays an important role in protecting probiotic bacteria from the degradation that our digestive system was designed to do. It ensures they can stay viable through to the colon and, most importantly, benefit our health the way they are intended.