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When is the best time to take probiotics?

When is the best time to take probiotics?

Probiotics are such a buzzword these days and for good reason. An ever-expanding pile of research studies back up their efficacy and usefulness. According to research, probiotics help build a healthy gut and can boost your immune system [1]. They can especially help if you have conditions like antibiotic-associated diarrhea or ulcerative colitis [1]. 

Chances are you already have one or a few probiotic supplements in your medicine cabinet but do you know how to effectively take them? For instance, are you supposed to take them with food or an empty stomach? Does it even matter? Well, as it turns out, it does. In this post, we are going to explain exactly when it’s best to take probiotics in order to reap their maximum benefits.

Should you take them before or after meals?

Probiotics can affect—and in turn, be affected by—digestion, so it’s only natural to consider their timing with meals. Research studies indicate that whether or not to take a probiotic supplement with meals depends on the specific probiotic strains in that particular product. Some strains can perform best if they are taken on an empty stomach and some can thrive regardless of whether they are taken with food or without.

In one study done in 2011, a commercial non-enteric coated probiotic supplement containing three bacterial strains and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii was tested [2]. Researchers studied the effect of meal timing on the survival of probiotic species [2]. They found that the three bacterial strains survived in the greatest numbers when the product was taken with a meal or 30 minutes before a meal. Their survival was low when the supplement was given 30 minutes after the meal. The yeast strain, on the other hand, was not affected by meal timing.

The researchers also found that bacterial numbers were high if the product was taken with fat-containing meals than with non-fat meals. They concluded that probiotic bacterial products that are not designed to resist stomach acids should be taken with or just before a meal containing fat.

Probiotic

In another study, probiotic Lactobacillus strains were shown to survive better in the presence of glucose even when the stomach acidity was as low as pH 2.0 [3]. This shows that the meal composition also affected the survival of the bacterial strains in the stomach.

Certain other Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains have been found to increase in numbers in both pre- and post-meal conditions [4].

Health professionals believe that foods buffer the stomach pH, thus improving the chance of survival of probiotics in an acidic stomach environment [5]. The type of probiotic strain as well as the supplement formulation also play key roles in the stability of the product within the stomach.

Overall, whether your probiotic supplement should be taken before or after meals depends on the probiotic strain and the nature of the product. Thus, it’s best to follow the directions on the label to get the best results.

Should you take them in the morning or in the evening?

There seems to be a lack of research studies that confirm the best time to take a probiotic. Experts say that it doesn’t matter when you’re taking them as long as you stick to a consistent routine [6]. However, some gut health professionals say that taking probiotics early in the morning can provide the most benefits as the stomach acid content is low during that time of the day [7].

Can you take them with other medications?

Probiotics are unlikely to interfere with other supplements and medications, so you can probably take the probiotics alongside them. It’s best, however, to confirm with your doctor, just to be on the safe side.

What if you’re taking antibiotics?

Should you take your probiotic with, before, or after the antibiotics? Now this is a valid question given that there’s a chance that antibiotics might kill the bacteria in your probiotic supplement. The general consensus is to take your probiotic supplement at least a couple of hours before or after taking the antibiotics [8]. That way, you can ensure that the antibiotics don’t kill the bacteria in the probiotic product and they stay viable. However, certain probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11, and Bifidobacterium lactis Lafti B94 are said to be able to survive even when they are taken at the same time of the antibiotic [9].

In conclusion

You can take your probiotic supplement at any time of day as long as you take them regularly. As with most things, consistency is the key to building gut health with probiotics. Follow the instructions on the package label as the interactions between food and probiotics can differ depending on the type of microbes in your product.

 

References: 

[1]         “Probiotics: What You Need To Know | NCCIH.” https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know

[2]         “The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract - PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22146689/

[3]         “Survival of Probiotic Lactobacilli in Acidic Environments Is Enhanced in the Presence of Metabolizable Sugars - PMC.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1151822/

[4]         “Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 and Bifidobacterium longum BB536 on the healthy gut microbiota composition at phyla and species level: A preliminary study - PMC.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403748/

[5]         “IJERPH | Free Full-Text | Health Professionals’ Knowledge of Probiotics: An International Survey.” https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/17/3128

[6]         “The Best Time to Take Probiotics, According to Dietitians.” https://www.prevention.com/health/a43509321/best-time-to-take-probiotics/#

[7]         “The Best Time to Take Probiotics, According to Gut Health Experts.” https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a35999079/best-time-to-take-probiotics/#should-i-take-a-probiotic-in-the-morning-or-in-the-evening-1

[8]         “Probiotics With Antibiotics: How They Help and When to Take Them.” https://www.insider.com/guides/health/diet-nutrition/taking-probiotics-with-antibiotics

[9]         “When to take probiotics during antibiotic treatment.” https://jpabs.org/misc/when-to-take-probiotics-during-antibiotic-treatment.html

 

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