The Role of Product Format in Probiotic Function

If You were a probiotic how would you rather party? Probiotic products come in different formats and these all have an effect on the way probiotic bacteria function or ‘behave’ in our digestive system. Formats range from probiotic bacteria contained in freeze-dried capsules, powders and sachets, to food and drinks, including dairy. These different product formats are the ‘transporters’ or transport system for probiotic bacteria. Some manufacturers have gone one step further and used more unusual foods such as chewing gum and ice-cream as a product format for probiotics.

Depending upon which format is used will affect how the probiotic bacteria cope with the stomach environment, whether any probiotic activity takes place in the small intestine, and what happens to probiotic bacteria that make it to the large intestine. The role of strain and numbers are also important factors to take into consideration for probiotic function. However, for the purpose of this Post, we’re going to focus on different product formats only and what this means for us.

A freeze-dried probiotic party … A group of freeze-dried bacteria hung around at the entrance waiting to be knocked back with a gulp of water. They had no idea what was really going on around them because let’s face it, would you, if you’d been subjected to a dehydration process and numbed to around -80°C? Freeze-drying is typically used to preserve a perishable material or make the material more convenient for transport – in this case delicate probiotic bacteria.

A smart-looking capsule, attempting to look the business, was next up at the door. Greeted with a glass of water, it was catapulted into the party and began its journey through the digestive system. Inside, other probiotic powders and sachets were milling around, some looking slightly the worse for wear. These probiotics had reached the ‘Crush Room’ or stomach – a hostile environment for any type of probiotic bacteria. Attempting to get rehydrated and escape their capsule, the cocktail of gastric juices in the stomach were beginning to have an effect on these multiple strains of probiotic bacteria. Several hours later, feeling battered and bruised, some of these delicate bacteria managed to escape. Passing straight through the small intestine, they reached the ‘Harmony Bar’ or large intestine, having passed many lurkers along the way. Relieved they had managed to escape in one piece, and having avoided the fate of their probiotic mates who’d become too intoxicated with gastric juices, they were finally able to hang out where they felt happiest, begin to party and start multiplying.

A dairy probiotic ‘singles’ party … Looking colourful, silky smooth and loaded with ‘extras’, a line of single strain probiotic yoghurts stood waiting expectantly at the door. All of a sudden, a human peeled back the foil curtain and the probiotic bacteria were transported to the stomach on globs of yoghurt. Feeling shaken and less than stirred they were now attracting all sorts of attention. It was hard to see where the interest was coming from at first. However word soon got out it was the gastric juices that had been sent on a mission to break down what was seen as food. The probiotic bacteria just didn’t have a chance and were getting zapped from every angle. Beginning to feel isolated and short on numbers, those that survived, escaped, passing straight through the small intestine. Weakened, some crashed or just gave up along the way, and the rest headed down to the large intestine. Those that made it were extremely grateful to have reached the gentle comfort of the gut but before they could start to party – it was time to leave.

A Symprove probiotic party …The scene is set, a red-carpet affair and there’s a real frisson of excitement in the air. All 4 strains of live activated probiotic bacteria are expected and due to arrrive at any moment. The crowd lets out a roar as the first serving turn up in a next generation probiotic ‘transporter’. Alive and activated, these multi strain probiotics were already partying in their state of the art transporter. It provides great conditions for these party goers – delicious food, limitless drink and a fantastic air con system to keep them all happy. Diving on in, they enter the digestive system talking and laughing. These are the movers and shakers and this is their sort of party. Passing straight through the “Crush Room” these multi strain probiotic bacteria know they’re safe as the stomach won’t see them in their water-based transporter. Feeling giddy with excitement they head on to the “Private Lounge” or small intestine. Mingling, they’re eager to see who’s there as it’s not frequented by many members. Then it’s party, party, party. Everyone’s eating and drinking and having a great time and before they know it they’ve started multiplying. It doesn’t take long – within 20 minutes – and happens again and again. Now they’ve really got the buzz and some Symprove probiotic bacteria head off down to the large intestine. It’s the same all over again – party, party, party. The place is filling up as the hours go by and more and more probiotic bacteria begin to multiply. Party on Down!

Whilst this is clearly an analogy, it’s important to note that probiotic ‘transporters’ or formats affect how probiotic bacteria ‘behave’ and function from the moment they are swallowed. Most probiotics fail to establish in the small intestine where they are required whilst others find it a challenge to reach the large intestine or gut. So what needs to happen to help probiotic bacteria get to their target area and become effective quickly?

Great conditions in the first place where delicate probiotic bacteria have not been ‘messed up’ by a production process. Live and activated right from the start. A ‘transporter’ or format that is not seen by the stomach as food first. No artificial ‘extras’. These characteristics provide the format for science-based next generation probiotics.

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