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Can probiotics survive stomach acid?
Great question. In short, most probiotics cannot survive stomach acid.
I say most because there is a technology out there, that when used, protects probiotics from stomach acid. However, most probiotics do not use this technology.
If a probiotic company does state they use technology which is supposed to protect the probiotic from stomach acid, there are still countless other factors that are important beyond if probiotics can survive getting past stomach acid. I will go through these factors which are needed in order to make an effective probiotic.
What is an effective quality probiotic? Basically, what makes the best probiotics?
The best probiotic survives stomach acid, reaches the small intestine, makes a residence there and provides the benefits that we all hear are so great.
That said, there are a ton of probiotics that definitely are not effective, nor quality. Many probiotics are merely marketing gimmicks or placebos or, on the other hand, can be actually harmful.
You definitely get what you pay for in probiotics. Here is why.
  1. A probiotic must have protection from stomach acid. This begins to answer your question. I will go in more detail a bit later. The bottom line is most probiotics do not have any protection from stomach acid. Thus, if one takes a probiotic on an empty stomach, the benefit you are getting is very minimal at best; however, it is likely you may not be getting any benefit. There are ways to improve the chances of getting the probiotic past the stomach acid. If you take a probiotic at dinner time, the dinner protects the probiotic from some of the stomach acid but still a lot gets destroyed as increased stomach acid is made during meal times. The best probiotic must have some form of enteric protection in order to be most effective and pass through the stomach to the GI tract. If they do not, I would not purchase it.
  2. A probiotic may contain completely dead bacteria at the time of purchase. Testing is not required by the FDA to ensure the label claim of potency agrees with what the lab finds inside the capsule.
  3. A probiotic may contain harmful strains of bacteria due to poor lab practices. This is called probiotic contamination. Read more about probiotic contamination here. Lab testing the strains of bacteria are not required by FDA so you have to rely on the company to do it. If a company is breeding bacteria and the procedures are not strictly adhered to and quality control is not up to speed, one may easily find harmful strains of bacteria in a probiotic. This entirely defeats the purpose.
  4. To ensure a probiotic can create colony formations in the GI tract, the probiotic must contain many billions, not millions of beneficial bacteria. The reason being is your GI tract contains trillions of bacteria. Imagine if you want to make an impact on a huge rocky beach. The area is a mile long and mile wide. If you bring in two dump trucks of sand and dump them on the beach, the beach is still rocky. However, if you bring in a 1000's of dump trucks and dump the sand on the rocky beach, you begin to see sand and enjoy the benefits of it.
  5. A probiotic should have a prebiotic. A prebiotic is basically beneficial bacteria nutrition. If one takes an enteric coated, multi-billion probiotic but it is without a prebiotic, the beneficial bacteria will die as they have no food to eat. Thus, the lasting effect of the probiotic without a prebiotic is minimal to none.
  6. The best probiotic should have multiple strains, not just one or two. I was working with an autistic child and I ordered a lab test to find out what biochemical problems were occurring. The child's lactate levels were sky high. I reviewed my biochemistry books and discussed with the lab experts why this occurred. It occurred because the child's father, with full positive intent, was providing his son a probiotic with only Lactobacilius acidophilus. This caused a severe imbalance of bacteria in the child's GI tract and elevated lactate levels. What do elevated lactate levels do? The cause speech impairment. Since then, I firmly believe that people who take a probiotic to support their daily health should never take a single strain or single family of bacteria.
  7. The best probiotic should be free of flow agents such as magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, preservatives, colorings or artificial ingredients. I wrote an article about magnesium stearate which you may find interesting.
  8. The best probiotic should be dairy free. The reason behind this is most people who have digestive problems or immune dysfunction have a sensitivity to dairy. Read a research abstract about dairy allergy and probiotics. Dairy allergy is not one to take lightly especially in children as dairy is a main cause behind ear infections, colic, skin problems, immune dysfunction, rectal bleeding, sinus infections, irritability, constipation, stomach upset and others. Here is one study that discusses dairy allergy, rectal bleeding and probiotics in kids. Research shows that people who take a high potency probiotic benefit greatly from recurrent ear infections, recurrent sinus infections, recurrent vaginitis, autoimmune disease and digestive complaints. On the other hand, research and clinical studies show people who have all these problems typically also have a sensitivity to dairy. So why create a probiotic that is grown on milk? Doesn't make sense.
After being in the trenches for 10 years studying medicine and working with patients, I have used countless probiotics. There are some good probiotics out there but there was always room for improvement. I kept looking and looking for the best probiotic for infants, adults, children, general health and for serious health conditions. I couldn't find them.
I didn't give up. I merely designed my own probiotics to my specifications.
When you are not happy with what others provide, provide it yourself. So that is what I did.
I developed three different types of probiotics.
I designed the best infant probiotic called ProBiota Infant. ProBiota Infant reduces exposure to infants and toddlers from environmental toxins, food allergies, immune dysfunction, skin disorders and harmful bacteria colonizing in their digestive tract. ProBiota Infant is the best infant probiotic because it is dairy free, multi-strain, lab tested, meets or exceeds label claims for potency, contains a prebiotic to nourish the beneficial bacteria, protected from stomach acid using a specific technology and contains 10 billion beneficial bacteria per 1/4 teaspoon - all that and it tastes great as well.
ProBiota 12 capsules is the best probiotic designed for those needing general health maintenance for chronic digestive, vaginal or immune dysfunction. Two capsules contain 50 billion beneficial bacteria, 12 strains of bacteria, contains a prebiotic, multiple families of bacteria, dairy free, lab tested, meets or exceeds label claims for potency and protected from stomach acid.
For those in acute flare-ups, I developed the probiotic, ProBiota 12 Powder. ProBiota 12 Powder is useful for acute flare ups found in conditions such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, chemical sensitivity, lupus, crohn's, bacterial vaginosis, yeast vaginitis, candida, irritable bowel disease or others.
The difference between ProBiota 12 Powder and ProBiota 12 capsules is the potency and the delivery type. ProBiota 12 Powder contains 200 billion beneficial bacteria per 1/2 teaspoon while ProBiota 12 capsules contains 50 billion per 2 capsules. ProBiota 12 Powder is also just that - a powder. Powders are typically more cost-effective per dose than capsules and ProBiota 12 Powder is more cost-effective that ProBiota 12 capsules; however, the capsules are easier to take on a long-term maintenance program.
ProBiota 12 Powder is also designed to be taken during acute conditions or acute flare ups. ProBiota 12 Powder should be taken for a maximum of three months while ProBiota 12 capsules are designed to be taken as long term support for chronic conditions.
To address your question specifically about stomach acid destruction of probiotics, I was always told by leading probiotic manufacturers to take their probiotic at dinner time. We know that is because the probiotic is protected more by the food. Significant numbers of probiotic bacteria can be destroyed by gastric acid and digestive enzymes when trying to pass through the stomach. Protecting the fragile beneficial bacteria is needed which is why I employed the use of InTactic®, which is an innovative acid-stable technology. InTactic®, uses a natural highly purified polysaccharide material of marine plant origin which forms a gel-like matrix that surrounds and protects the probiotic bacteria from destruction by gastric acid. InTactic® allows the benficial probiotics to survive stomach acids and be delivered alive into the small intestines. The beneficial bacteria found in probiotics do not have any benefit until they arrive and stay in the small intestines. Once in the small intestines, the probiotics are released intact exerting their numerous health promoting functions. That said, you can see how important it is to have protection from stomach acid.
Without protection from stomach acid, I believe most probiotics are placebos.
Don't take a placebo. Take the ProBiota line of probiotics.
Questions, thoughts, comments? Do post below. I, or one of my team members will respond.
Again, thank you for your question. It is one that I wanted to address for a long long time.
In health,
Dr Ben
Disclaimer: All information relating to medical and health conditions, products and treatments, is for informational purposes only. The information provided is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician.