How do probiotic yogurts measure up against probiotic capsules?
Yogurt probiotics were the original source of probiotics to be studied scientifically.
It was the finding that the probiotics within yogurt were associated with improved digestive function, nutrient uptake, and weight loss which led to the commercialization of probiotic yogurts and supplements we see today.
But is one more effective than the other?
The Short Answer: Capsules
Although some yogurts do contain probiotics, the United States does not require yogurt to contain any live cultures. In fact, even if a yogurt claims to contain probiotics there is zero regulation on the minimum amount of probiotics which that product has to contain. For example, a yogurt could market itself as being a ‘source of probiotics’ even if it has a single culture of a single strain in it.
Even if a specific number is given, most companies that give a number report the viable cell count at the date of manufacture, a number probably much higher than existing at the moment of consumption. This is because the probiotics of yogurt are further limited by the associated shelf life and cold storage needs of yogurt. Also, many individuals might find it difficult to consume a sufficient amount of yogurt to meet your digestive tract’s probiotic needs – especially while trying to meet their caloric needs.
Another factor that detrimentally affects the viability of the live cultures is stomach acid. Whether it’s yogurt, kombucha, or tablets, the probiotics are exposed to stomach acids during their journey to the gastrointestinal tract. This results in the probiotics converting to paraprobiotics that will just produce gases and provide little to no benefits in the body.
Now this is where the importance of taking a product that has been enteric coated comes into play, it ensures viability and improves the deliverability of the probiotics. How do enteric coated capsules work? Here’s how…
Enteric coated capsules are typically made from polymer or plant cellulose. These compounds are able to resist the stomach’s harmful acids. For example enteric coating will not dissolve in the body until it reaches an environment that does not have a high ph.
When the capsule reaches a less acidic environment which is when the capsule makes it to the gastrointestinal tract, is where it’s actually able to colonize faster and more efficiently, overall this helps the life of the probiotics so they can do more in our bodies, helping our everyday function.
If you are seeking benefits from probiotics, it’s always best to choose a probiotic supplement for a variety of reasons, most likely a supplementary form will be enteric coated, contain a wider selection of strains, have a higher CFU and be formulated to target more problems that we deal with everyday.
On average yogurt only contains 4 strains of probiotics and is only 1 Billion CFU, while the average probiotic supplement contains 8 key strains of probiotics and is 40 Billion CFU on average. Each probiotic strain has a variety of its own benefits to offer to the body so widening the range of strains is going to be more effective.
This may not sound like a big difference but take this into consideration, there are literally billions of more good bacteria in a supplement than yogurt! And this makes a huge difference in supplement form the probiotics are able to colonize at much faster rate, allowing them to eliminate the bad bacteria faster than yogurt will.
The same probiotic strains you are found in yogurt can also be found in most probiotic supplements, but at a much higher rate.
One of the most common reasons people will choose yogurt over capsule form is because sometimes capsules will contain common allergens many of us suffer from, however the supplement industry has caught on to this problem and most companies have made the switch to gluten free dairy free capsules, free of most common allergens, allowing a larger group of individuals to take probiotic supplements.
If yogurt does not stay refrigerated it detrimentally affects the quality of the live cultures (live-probiotics) this is even a problem in many probiotic supplements, but most of them have caught on and started freeze drying their products so the live cultures can remain viable. Once freeze dried a probiotic supplement can remain viable up to 2 years if stored out of direct sunlight, and the best part is it no longer requires refrigeration, this makes the probiotics great for having on hand when traveling, working, or occupied with daily activities. Overall we recommend finding a probiotic supplement rather than trying to get the recommended dose of probiotics by consuming yogurts, in a supplement the amount and variety of probiotics will be there and will host the benefits more efficiently.
When it comes to the delivery of probiotics, enteric-coated capsules are the superior option, although both can be effective.
Enteric-coated capsules protect the probiotic microorganisms on the journey through the digestive system. The enteric coating protects the probiotics from stomach acid (which can kill them) and allows them to reach the intestines, which is where they need to reach in order for them to have health benefits.