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Surviving the stomach

In order to reach the intestines alive, probiotics must be able to survive the harsh conditions in the stomach. Acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach are part of the normal digestive process, but they also constitute a barrier that kills many microorganisms ingested with the food.

Tolerance to stressful conditions can to some extend be improved by the production process and formulation of the product.1, 2 However, bacterial strains have intrinsically different stress tolerances and tolerance to acidic conditions is often used as a selection criterium for new potential probiotic candidates.3, 4, 5 Lactobacilli are usually relatively tolerant towards acid because they create an acidic environment as a consequence of their metabolism. Most bifidobacteria on the other hand are more sensitive to the detrimental effects of acid.6 Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is an exception to this as documented in studies.7, 8 In an advanced artificial gut model system (TIM-1) that simulates passage of a probiotic through gastric acid and intestinal bile, 60%-80% of BB-12® in a normal capsular dose remains viable.9

BB-12® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S.


The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

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Microbiome dysbiosis

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Surviving the stomach

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Mucus layer

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Immune system

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Intestinal barrier

Reference list

  1. Van Bokhorst-van De Veen H, et al. Modulation of Lactobacillus plantarum Gastrointestinal Robustness by Fermentation Conditions Enables Identification of Bacterial Robustness Markers. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e39053. (PubMed)
  2. Papadimitriou K, et al. Stress Physiology of Lactic Acid Bacteria. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2016;80(3):837–890. (PubMed)
  3. Collado MC, Sanz Y. Method for direct selection of potentially probiotic Bifidobacterium strains from human feces based on their acid-adaptation ability. J Microbiol Methods. 2006;66(3):560–563. (PubMed)
  4. Reis NA, et al. Probiotic properties of lactic acid bacteria isolated from human milk. J Appl Microbiol. 2016;121(3):811–820. (PubMed)
  5. Dunne C, et al. In vitro selection criteria for probiotic bacteria of human origin: Correlation with in vivo findings. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(2 SUPPL.):386S–392S. (PubMed)
  6. Andriantsoanirina V, et al. Tolerance of Bifidobacterium human isolates to bile, acid and oxygen. Anaerobe. 2013;21:39–42. (PubMed)
  7. Vernazza CL, et al. Carbohydrate preference, acid tolerance and bile tolerance in five strains of Bifidobacterium. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(4):846–853. (PubMed)
  8. Matsumoto M, et al. H+-ATPase activity in Bifidobacterium with special reference to acid tolerance. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004;93(1):109–113. (PubMed)
  9. Jungersen M, et al. The Science behind the Probiotic Strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12®. Microorganisms. 2014;2(2):92–110. (PubMed)