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Delayed-Release vs Enteric Coated Capsules - What’s The Real Difference?

By Rylee in Blogs   •   Feb 15, 2022   •   12 minute read

The 8 big benefits of delayed-release empty capsules

How far into your exciting empty capsules journey are you? If you're like thousands upon thousands of happy and empowered wellbeing-enthusiasts that came before you, you may have been doing some reading or heard on the grapevine about how important it is not just to choose the veggie or gelatin capsules with the highest possible quality and integrity, but ones with the correct coating on the gel capsules for your particular gut and digestive system. But there's a lot said and written on this topic that doesn't quite stand up to proper scrutiny, so let's take a moment or two to take a deep dive into one of the most misunderstood debates in the world of empty gelatine capsules:

Delayed-release capsules vs enteric coated capsules.

But before we get stuck into that, let's make an important clarification: While allergies to certain ingredients in either animal-derived pill capsules (gelatine) or their veggie capsules counterparts have certainly occurred, these issues are exceedingly rare. Actually, gelatin capsules are very good for you indeed, with the collagen in particular contributing to both hair and joint health (particularly for those suffering from arthritis), faster recovery from sports injuries - it even helps with your efforts to lose weight! As for the 100% vegetarian capsules you may be considering, they are made with nothing except purified water and natural cellulose, making them perfectly healthy and totally safe for absolutely everyone.

A much bigger issue for those looking to buy empty capsules is precisely where your body will begin to break down those pills you're intending to swallow. That's because some medicines or supplements need a little extra protection from the incredibly harsh and acidic environment of your stomach, which in many cases will actually completely destroy the active ingredients before they are able to work their wellbeing magic by being absorbed into your bloodstream.

In the wide and exciting world of empty capsules, the solution to this issue lies in the caps' actual coating, which is typically formulated to be more than just a slippery and tasty outer layer that slides down your throat with ease. That being said, the coating does indeed give the product a nice, neutral taste, whilst offering protection from premature dissolving (such as in your mouth) and keeping those unused caps fresh on the shelf for when you need them next.

There are a couple of basic capsule coatings that you're likely to come across in your travels. One is a basic film or sugar coating not dissimilar to what hits your tongue when you pop an M&M or Smartie into your mouth. But in many, many cases, the capsules you buy will fall under the general heading of 'controlled release' - meaning the design and the coating is more carefully formulated to only fully dissolve once it has passed through the harsh environment of the stomach into the small intestine for a more controlled, precise and gradual absorption. One way to describe this category of pills and coatings is 'enteric coated' - referring to the enteric nervous system which controls your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The idea, as outlined above, is to get that pill through the harsh gastric juices of your stomach for a longer, more protected and controlled digestive process and avoidance of stomach upsets and medicinal breakdown. A couple of very common products featuring these sorts of coatings are insulin, which is too easily degraded by your stomach, and aspirin, which is bad for your stomach lining.

Among the other benefits of enteric coated, controlled or delayed release capsules in your choice of capsule size include:

1. Protection from your mouth

Capsule coatings are designed to easily withstand the moisture and digestive power of your mouth, saliva and oesophagus.

2. Protection from your stomach

Because some capsule medicines, supplements and formulations can either irritate or be destroyed by your stomach and gastric acids and juices, the idea is that the capsule survives the journey to the stomach and only fully dissolves an hour or two later - by which time it has entered the intestinal network.

3. Protection *for* your stomach

Some capsule formulations can upset the stomach, so a delayed-release coating will mean the medicine/supplement is kept under wraps for those more sensitive stomach linings.

4. Protection from the environment

Looking to store your capsules for a while? These coatings give your product lasting physical protection from the environment around them.

5. Long therapeutic action

It's an established scientific fact that, most of the time, the release of a drug or active ingredients in the alkaline pH environment of the intestine is vastly superior to the very acidic stomach environment for a longer, more thorough and more sustained action of the medicine or supplement in question.

6. Better taste/smell

We all know that many medicines or formulations don't taste very good, and that goes for the bulking agents - otherwise known as 'excipients' - that you may pad out your capsule mixes with as well. Protective coatings give your pills even greater protection from the foul tastes and smells of what you're swallowing, leaving you free to choose a smaller and more comfortable sized product from the capsules size chart for multiple daily doses.

7. Perfect for probiotics

It's definitely a health buzzword at the moment: probiotics. In a nutshell, it's good bacteria that you want to deliver to your gut intact - and you definitely don't want it all eaten away by the battery acid-strength juices in your stomach.

8. Better for your kids & pets

As you probably already know, you can buy empty capsules in the preferred capsules sizes of your choosing - from the big 'n' chunky size 000 to the more familiar 0 or size 00 capsules all the way down to teenie-tiny size 4 or 5 tablets that even your toddlers and Chihuahuas won't mind gulping down. And with a controlled or delayed release coating, you can pack those pills with a full dose that will be more gradually and steadily released over a longer period of time - meaning fewer "capsule time!" moments for your more reluctant of recipients!

So when it comes to that debate you may have heard about regarding delayed-release vs enteric coated capsules, the answer is very simple: They're the very same thing! Is there anything else you want or need to know about the exciting world of empty gelatin capsules? We just love taking deep dives into these sorts of topics, so don't hesitate for a moment to drop us a line - even if it's just to say hi!

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