Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (gut microflora) that are normal residents of the human digestive tract. They appear to promote well-being through a number of mechanisms, including their beneficial health effects in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and surrounding immune system.1-5 Probiotics can be found in foods such as: fermented dairy products (yogurt, yogurt drinks, frozen yogurt)1,2 or fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi).6,7

When viable bacteria containing probiotics are taken orally through foods or supplements, they must survive GI transit (stomach pH, bile acid, and digestive enzymes), reach the colon, and adhere to colon cells to exert health benefits and barrier effects against pathogenic microorganisms.2,8 Probiotics can generate lactic acid and butyrate by fermenting prebiotics, fermentable soluble fibers, and lactose, that provide health benefits and exert anti-microbial activity.9-12

Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are the two most researched probiotics, demonstrating evidence for their various health benefits.13 Bacillus coagulans is a more recently studied species of probiotics that is resistant to heat treatment and various processing conditions, so that many food products can contain viable probiotics.

Common Forms

  • Bifidobacteria longum (B. longum): Bifidobacteria is one of the most beneficial bacteria in humans, especially in breastfed infants.2,14 Bifidobacteria are naturally found in the colon since they prefer and survive better in an environment without oxygen but can be grown by culture for use in dietary supplements.15
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus): L. acidophilus commonly known as “acidophilus” is one of the most important and dominant beneficial microflora found in the GI tract as well as the urogenital tract in humans.16 L. acidophilus can survive in an environment with or without oxygen17. L. acidophilus is cultured for use in dietary supplements under stringent laboratory conditions, where it is protected from contamination.
  • Bacillus coagulans (BC): BC are beneficial bacteria that can be prepared to form spores to protect themselves from environment challenges. Spore forming BC can survive during food processing, such as heat or pressure treatments, demonstrating robust viability after baking, extruding, freezing or high speed blending. Because BC spores remain dormant during the shelf life of the food products, BC is preferred to be used in many food and beverage products over other probiotics. BC is “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)” to be used in various food products, such as beverage mixes/beverages, baking mixes/baked goods, dairy products (including frozen products), soup mixes, and so forth.49

Table 1. Stability of Bacillus coagulans (BC) in various food formats

High Speed Blending BC (initially about 1 billion CFU) viability was determined after blender exposure in a CFU enumeration experiment. An amount of 43 gram of Shake powder was mixed with 240 ml of nonfat milk (~4˚C, refrigeration temperature) by shaking or blending with high speed blender. Then count viable cells. Mixing in a high speed blender did not negatively affect the viability of BC.


> 99%

Hot Tea Boil water, immediately place tea bag containing BC into water – steep for 4 minutes – perform cell counts on tea.


Baked Muffin Mix BC into muffin batter – bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes – freeze immediately – store frozen for 14 days – thaw and count cells at end of 7 day shelf life.


High Temperature Short Time Dairy Processing Combine BC with milk – heat to 177 degrees for 22 seconds – chill immediately and count cells.


Extruded product Heat mix to 185 degrees and run through high pressure extrusion equipment.  Allow to cool to room temperature and count cells.


Microwave Oatmeal Mixed BC, 1 serving of oatmeal and water microwave for 1 min 50 second.   Then count cells.


Hot Mixed Granola Bar Mix BC into dry granola mix – combine with 130 degrees wet ingredients and mix – roll to uniformed consistency and cool – store at room temperature for 2 weeks – count cells.


Stick Packs Used co-agglomeration method.  Heated agglomerator to 18˚C-75˚C before adding mixed dry ingredients. Started agglomerator and added sprays to the powdered mixture. Turned process to cool (no heat/ambient air) and then sifted end product into bags.  Then measured product into stick packs.  30 day test at room temperature – count cells.


Major Health Benefits

Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli have many health benefits:

  • Produce healthful substances and provide nutrients (e.g., butyrate) for colon cells by fermenting prebiotics, soluble fibers, or lactose.9-12,50
  • Maintain a healthy intestinal microbial balance via anti-microbial activities against pathogenic microorganisms.12,18,51
  • Maintaining desirable gut acidity to encourage the growth of good bacteria while suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.2,9,19-21,50,51
  • Aid in lactose digestion and in relieving abdominal pain and bloating.22,52,53
  • Produce vitamins, such as: B2 and B12.23,24
  • Help lower blood lipid levels.25,26,27
  • Help maintain regularity thereby reducing constipation or diarrhea.9
  • Produce biologically beneficial immune modulators and anti-inflammatory substances, which may help reduce inflammation.3,19,28,51,54
  • Exhibit antioxidant properties by scavenging free radicals and reducing lipid peroxidation or by producing antioxidant molecules.21,29,30

Probiotics play roles in maintaining healthy digestive and immune systems, preventing or treating various types of diarrhea (e.g., acute infectious diarrhea in infants and children as well as patients in ICU, antibiotic-associated diarrhea; traveler’s diarrhea),2,5,31-33 reducing the incidences or treating urogenital tract infection 34-38 and childhood atopic diseases (e.g., atopic eczema; allergic rhinitis; asthma),31,39-41 improving symptoms of intestinal diseases (e.g., Helicobacter pylori induced gastritis; irritable bowel syndrome; chronic ulcerative colitis),31,42-46 and treating infantile colic.31 Synergistic health effects have been demonstrated when ingesting both prebiotics and probiotics (symbiotic or synbiotic effects).14,27,43,46-48,50


It is recommended to consult with a doctor before taking probiotic supplements for infants, children, and adults with weakened immune system or short bowel syndrome.55


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