Is the Delivery System Important for Probiotics? PART 1: The Perilous Journey From Manufacturer to the Store Shelf

In the first of this two part series, we focus on an issue that is taboo in the probiotic market – the perplexing challenge of delivering live probiotic cultures to health food stores after stifling hot, cross-country journeys in delivery trucks.  (In Part 2, we will learn about the second part of the harrowing journey for our probiotic  – the trip from our mouth, through our stomach – filled with probiotic killing acid – to the safe, final thriving environment of our gut).

It can be confusing, can’t it? 10 Billion Cultures, 50 Billion, 200 Billion! Two strains, 6 strains, 12 strains…with 4 sub-strains! It sounds like more is better…is that right?

But before we can have that discussion, we should first be concerned whether the product even survived its perilous journey from the manufacturer to the health food store. Sadly, some products do not.

Prior to you ever placing a probiotic product in your mouth, it has traveled from the manufacturer to your store shelf, or been delivered to your front door. Probiotic bacteria do not like extreme temperature changes; in fact, it kills them. Creating a way to deliver probiotic products that protects the bacteria from the 150-degree heat found in the back of the UPS or FedEx delivery truck, all the way to a sun-baked loading dock, and then to the shelves of your favorite health food store, is critical. When you take that product from the store shelf, how can you know for certain that it hasn’t already endured a three day, 1,000 mile trek in the back of that sauna-like truck and is not, in fact, dead?

Because it is difficult to create a stable delivery environment where the probiotic is kept at a cool, consistent temperature throughout the journey to the store, some products focus instead on culture count and strains. Much time is spent advertising those numbers, but what we should really be asking is how have the probiotics been protected from the deadly heat inherent in our over-the-road door to door delivery. Probiotic capsules filled with dead bacteria because of overheating in a delivery truck – just like cultures that die in a sea of stomach acid – may not be the best use of your money.

Fortunately, there have been notable advances in manufacturer-to-store delivery in recent years. It is now possible to protect the probiotic cultures all the way to the shelf. If the product is packed in ice inside a properly insulated box, the probiotics maintain a consistent, cool temperature throughout the journey to the health food store or your home. This is done for other products in other industries to ensure freshness.

But herein lies the dichotomy of our marketing-based probiotic marketplace. We have all been led to believe that more cultures are better. What that really means is that some delivery systems are porous and imprecise, that adding more billions of cultures merely increases the chances of at least some surviving challenges, like the delivery to the store or home, and the delivery through known obstacles in the digestive system like stomach acid (covered in part 2).

If you could ensure that all of the cultures would be delivered to the health food store alive (and then had a capsule/vessel that ensured it would survive the trip through the acid-rich stomach, the very important topic we will cover in part 2), you wouldn’t need 50 or 100 billion cultures.

The first step could be an ice packed, and properly insulated, box for delivery of a product to the store shelf. A next step could be a scientifically validated delivery system that can aid in surviving stomach acid and other obstacles (thus releasing the probiotic cultures into the gut). If that were true, a manufacturer could produce a 10 billion culture probiotic and still deliver more live cultures to the gut than a 50-100 billion culture product that might not have these protections.

In doing so, the manufacturer may be able to make using a probiotic more effective, while being mindful of the cost to the consumer.  If you consider the bacteria as alive, and create a thoughtful approach from manufacture to store and then from store to your gut, you will be able to achieve more success reaching your desired goals.

So, emphasizing the creation of a delivery system that ensures the probiotics “arrive alive” to the health food store makes a lot more sense than loading up the cultures, then crossing fingers that the capsule survives the perilous over-the-road journey to the store shelf, and then again to our gut.

The saga we just described is the story that founded Probulin, the digestive health company that has perfected the ability to transport probiotics in a consistent, cool environment all the way to the store shelf using a specialized insulated box that uses recycled blue jean textile waste material that has the same R rating as Styrofoam but is friendlier to the environment (Part 1 of this series), and then safely deliver all those cultures alive to your gut using the patent pending MAKTrek 3-D Probiotic Delivery System (Part 2 of the series).

Until next time, “Be Well and Stay Healthy”!