Protecting Probiotics Through The Stomach
Transporting probiotics safely through the stomach and into the intestines is a complex process. This live bacteria isn’t necessarily designed to survive in acidic (low pH) environments, so the gastric acid in our stomach is a big obstacle probiotics will face on their journey to the intestines.
Gastric acids play an essential role in digestion, specifically by breaking-down food and destroying harmful pathogens. Though the low pH environment of the stomach will deteriorate living probiotics before they can offer any benefit to the body.
This begs the question - how can we make probiotics survive in stomach acid?
As this acidity varies based on food exposure and the time of day, having a strict routine to ensure you consume probiotics at the ideal moment is not always viable. By coupling probiotics with a micro-shield encapsulation that provides feed and resists low pH levels, live beneficial bacteria stands a better chance of survival.
What Does pH Mean?
We use this term a lot. Essentially, pH refers to the ‘potential of hydrogen' and is a measurement used to identify the acidity or alkalinity of a specific environment. On this scale, ph 7 indicates a neutral reading, whereas lower recordings indicate acidic solutions and recordings above indicate alkaline solutions.
The Four Phases Of Digestion
Before discussing the pH levels within the stomach and the impact it can have on probiotics, it's important to understand the digestive process. This process can be broken down into 4 core phases, which have been detailed below.
1. Basal State
In this baseline state, there’s a minor basal secretion of gastric acid between meals.
2. Cephalic Phase
When humans smell, see, taste, or even think about food, gastric acid secretion is initiated. The more that food is desired, the more secretion will occur. This accounts for up to 20% of gastric secretion when eating.
3. Gastric Phase
In the gastric phase, the ingested foods and partly digested portions trigger gastric activity. This activity is activated by stretching the stomach and stimulating receptors to increase gastric acid production. About 50 - 60% of total gastric acid secretion occurs in this phase.
4. Intestinal Phase
Once the semi-digested food (chyme) reaches the duodenum (the end of the stomach), gastric acid secretion begins to slow down. This triggers the release of hormones and nervous reflexes to moderate gastric activity. Only 5-10% of gastric secretion occurs in the Intestinal Phase.
How Does Acidity Change In The Stomach?
Acidic by nature, the stomach has a varying pH typically between 1.5 to 3.5. This acidity is responsible for partial preliminary digestion and destroying any potentially pathogenic microorganisms entering the body.
The stomach’s acidity is controlled by the acid-producing cells in the stomach, which are triggered in response to the presence of food and drink. This means that stomach pH can fluctuate, depending on what it is exposed to.
For example, when the body is in a fasted state and it’s not exposed to food, pH levels remain around an average of 1.3 (not taking into account time of day). However, when food is ingested, the pH of the stomach rises, as high as 5.5 in some instances. The stomach then responds by releasing gastric acids which once again lowers the pH.
Effect Of Food And Liquid Type On Stomach pH
There's not one-size-fits-all approach to understanding the exact pH nature inside an active stomach. For example, studies show that high protein meals increase pH to a higher level than high carb meals. In turn, gastric pH takes a longer time to reach baseline when there is a high proportion of protein within the food consumed.
Up to 90% of liquids typically empty out of the stomach within the first 60 minutes. A clear exception to this however is milk, where only 77% of liquids are emptied within the first 60 minutes.
How Can Probiotics Survive In Stomach Acid?
Probiotics can hold great potential for our health and wellbeing. Strains such as Lactobacillus Casei and Bifidobacterium can help support the human immune system, bowel function and overall gut health. That being said, these strains are only as good as the living CFU count reaching the gut.
To reap the benefits of probiotics, they must first survive through the stomach and into the gut. Probiotics flourish in a setting with a neutral pH of 6 to 8, which is why they thrive in the intestines. However, it is also this reason why probiotics can deteriorate in the stomach’s low pH environment, overall reducing efficacy in the gut.
So, how do probiotics survive in stomach acid? Traditionally, there’s a ‘best time of day’ to take probiotics - though these rigid timeframes can be inconvenient and doesn't guarantee any passage through the stomach. Probiotics with micro-shield technology can help to cement success with probiotics and provide users with more flexibility when it comes to daily supplementation.
PERKii Micro-Shield Technology
Studies conclude 99% of living, non micro-shield probiotics are destroyed within 30 minutes of exposure to a pH 2 - leaving very few to physically reach the intestines intact.
PERKii Targeted Release Probiotics are different. The patented Micro-Shield Technology provides both feed for sustaining the life of the probiotic inside and protection against acidic pH environments. In the same simulated stomach trials, PERKii probiotics survived up to 10,000 times greater, allowing more probiotics to survive the journey through to the gut. This also offers greater flexibility of probiotic consumption, allowing you to consume your daily probiotic supplement throughout the day.
*The information in this article is opinion only, based on readily available information and studies. It is not intended to be a reflection of the specific benefits of consuming PERKii products. Before adjusting your diet, speak with your healthcare professional.