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Follow Your Gut

Albion Minerals®

Delayed release & digestive health product growth

The expression “follow your gut” is derived from a feeling a person experiences in the stomach area. Similar to the brain in terms of nerves, scientists refer to it as the “little brain” or the enteric nervous system (ENS), but little it is not. Comprised of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum, gut health has taken on an increased focus among health professionals and consumers alike to better listen to what our guts are telling us.

In fact, gut bacteria play an important role in human health, such as supplying essential nutrients, synthesizing vitamin K, aiding in the digestion of cellulose, and promoting angiogenesis and enteric nerve function. However, they can also be potentially harmful due to the change of their composition when the gut ecosystem undergoes abnormal changes in the light of the use of antibiotics, illness, stress, aging, bad dietary habits and lifestyle.

With the American Gastroenterological Association reporting that nearly half of all Americans experience digestive issues that impact their sleep patterns, daily exercise regimens and participation in recreational and social activities, it’s no wonder that the nutraceutical industry has researched and developed innovative natural formulations for addressing the harmful effects of gut bacteria that can lead to a decline in digestive health.

However, while the majority of nutraceutical (and pharma) products are typically formulated to release active ingredients immediately after consumption (conventional release), the benefits of exploring delayed formulation release variations can help a product stand out in a crowded market as well as enhance efficacy and safety of many products. This can be particularly true for the rapidly growing digestive health supplement market as nutraceutical manufacturers push novel formulation technologies to the next level.

Delayed Release: Good for The Gut

A key advantage for the nutraceutical industry in considering delayed release formulations for digestive health products is further enhancing the efficacy of these novel products for optimizing gut health of consumers. Conventional release products can raise risks that include low solubility, poor permeability, fast metabolism, short half-life, and in certain nutraceuticals (e.g., ANIs/food ingredients) formulations may even undergo chemical change or degradation in stomach acid. Modifying the release rate of a capsule or tablet with solutions that protect and support the efficacy of gut health active ingredients can solve many of these issues.

Two front runners in the gut health space that are good candidates for delayed release formulation are probiotics and enzymes, which are both under constant attack by stomach acids.

Delayed Release “Pros” For Probiotics Products

Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies have suggested that probiotics (Bifidobacterial and lactobacilli) have had widely ranging health benefits, but with stomach acid having the same acidity as battery acid, actually getting the probiotic formulation to the small intestine in one piece, where it can manifest its maximum benefits, has been the challenge. Research even shows that the survival rates for some probiotic strains are as low as 20 percent, due to the acidic environment in the stomach.

Therefore, because immediate release capsule-based probiotics can have the risk of disintegrating in stomach acid, the gut health benefits of the probiotic active ingredients in this form may not be optimized since many may not make it to the small intestine. Even tests on vegetable-based supplement capsules have shown that up to 96 percent of probiotics die upon contact with stomach acid.

Probiotics must survive in the acidic gastric environment if they are to reach the small intestine and colonize the host, thereby imparting their benefits. While high CFU count, type of strain species and diversity, being soil based in origin, and shelf stability are important criteria for pointing to probiotic supplement efficacy, survivability of active ingredients should not be overlooked. In the end you can have the best probiotic, made of the best ingredients, in the best conditions, but if a significant amount of the formulation doesn’t make it to the consumer’s small intestine, maximum efficacy cannot be achieved.

For enzyme-based formulations, which have been showing up to the supplement party with impressive credentials, the shortfalls of conventional release capsules can be a barrier not only to optimal gut health but other digestive health issues and a range of other areas of health including inflammation, immune support, cardiovascular health, as well as serious food intolerances such as lactose and gluten intolerance. With the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, reporting an estimated 30 to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant, the growth of this important supplement market can continue to be supported with delayed release alternative capsule options.

Delayed Release: Solution for Enhancing AND Protecting Gut Health

Delayed release capsule formulations offer not only a viable alternative for sustaining probiotic supplement contributions for improving consumer gut health, but also for protecting it at the same time. If you want to protect any of your formulations that may be acid-sensitive or to safeguard them against destructive gastric fluids or gastric mucosa and aggressive actives, or to maintain ingredient nutrients in their intended forms, then delayed release may be the solution.

Additionally, delayed release formulations can minimize acid reflux, better mask unpleasant odors and reduce bad aftertaste because they dissolve later and do not need to be taken with food. Finally, delayed release capsules offer manufacturing advantages as conventional release capsules containing thermolabile (heat sensitive) ingredients, such as probiotics and enzymes, can be challenging to coat at higher temperatures. NIE


American Gastroenterological Association, Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition Survey, “The Everyday Effects of Digestive Problems,” May 2008.
Zaki N.M. Progress and problems in nutraceuticals delivery. J Bioeq Bioavail. 2014;6(3):75.

Evelyn Reinson is an international marketing manager at ACG, responsible for global marketing strategies of the company’s product range of capsules, films & foils, engineering, and inspection worldwide. www.ACG-world.com.

Albion Minerals®