How Probiotics Are Made
You’ve heard that probiotics can help build your immunity and improve your health, but now as you navigate your options, you want to know how probiotics are made and what differentiates one supplement from the next.
Metchnikoff Reveals the Benefits of Probiotics
Although fermented foods, which contain the good bacteria we know as probiotics, have been a part of the human diet since before recorded history, it wasn’t until 1906 that the Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff put forward the idea that probiotics could be used to replace harmful microorganisms in the gut.
It would be decades before scientists learned how to put this concept effectively into action, but today, we enjoy a wide selection of probiotic supplements that help replace and support the good bacteria lining our intestinal tract, fighting off harmful pathogens.
While not all probiotic manufacturers produce their supplements in exactly the same way, most share the same basic processes.
Like the good bacteria that develops from fermented foods, the probiotics that end up in your supplements are living microorganisms that begin their journey through fermentation. The first thing that happens in the manufacturing process is that technicians add a little of that bacteria to a growth medium rich in nutrients. This medium is engineered to promote rapid and abundant growth. Once the bacteria reaches a certain growth level, it can be harvested. To separate the bacteria culture from the medium, it is placed in a centrifuge. The resulting concentrated bacteria allows for an end product high in potency. Technicians will make a count of the microorganisms present to ensure potency.
At this stage, long-term storage is made easier by freeze drying the bacteria. A cryoprotectant is added that allows the probiotics to survive the freezing process. Once the probiotics encounter the heat and acid of your stomach, they return to life. To ensure that the probiotics survive long enough to reach the parts of the digestive tract where they are most needed, manufacturers can put them inside of a capsule made of vegetable cellulose, which delays the release of the probiotics in your system until the appropriate time.
Here is an overview of the basic process most manufacturers follow when making probiotic supplements:
- Bacteria are added to a growth medium.
- After a growth period, the mixture is separated in a centrifuge.
- A count is made.
- Cyroprotectants are added to protect the bacteria in the next step.
- The probiotic is freeze dried to allow ease of storage.
What to Avoid in Probiotic Supplements
There are a number of shortcuts that some manufacturers choose when producing probiotic supplements. Make sure you know what to look for so you can select the most effective and highest quality supplements.
Some manufactures add certain chemicals or artificial ingredients that can impede the body’s natural detoxification processes. Additionally, some manufacturers operate their machinery at the highest speeds. To do so, they have to use flow agents and lubricants, such as maltodextrin, which can contaminate your supplement. Avoid probiotic supplements that include:
- Artificial Ingredients
- Flow agents and lubricants
Understand How Your Probiotics Are Made
Manufacturing probiotic supplements involves the delicate process of growing living microorganisms and getting them into a long-term delivery mechanism (like a capsule), all while avoiding the dangers of heat, humidity, light and oxygen. As manufacturers navigate this complex process, there are methods for ensuring a quality product that some companies adhere to better than others. By getting a better understanding of how probiotics are made, you can make an informed decision about what to look out for in the supplements you select for your own health regimen.