Your gut health is vital for your overall well-being. With that being said, healthy bacteria (also known as probiotics) that live in your digestive system play an essential role in maintaining your gut health.
Given the many benefits of probiotics, it’s no wonder why a lot of people have added probiotic supplements to their daily routines. But then again, not all people are aware that there’s a proper time that needs to be considered when taking these supplements.
To learn more about probiotics and its benefits, we asked experts to impart their knowledge and help us be more well-informed.
Let’s have a look:
Lawrence Hoberman, M.D.
Gastroenterologist | Founder, Medical Care Innovations, Inc. | Creator, EndoMune Probiotics
On an empty stomach when the acid level is low
When to take a probiotic is a common but important question. Probiotic bacteria do not survive in a strong acid environment like the stomach, as the acid will destroy probiotic bacteria.
For this reason, it is best to buy probiotics that are encapsulated in an acid-resistant vegetable matrix with a polymer. The capsule passes through the stomach and then dissolves in the small intestines leaving the probiotic bacteria alive and well.
The stomach is stimulated to produce acid by exposure to a protein in the diet and by distention of the stomach. There are three phases of the stomach or gastric acid production.
In phase 1, 30 percent of the gastric acid production occurs due to the anticipation and smell of the meal. Sixty percent occurs during and after the meal. Ten percent occurs when the meal enters the small intestines.
Based on stomach physiology, it is best to take probiotics on an empty stomach when the acid level is low.
The other time to consider taking the probiotic is during the early phase of a meal. Although there is an increase in acid production, the food will buffer the acid and increase motility, which allows the probiotic to empty sooner into the intestines.
So don’t take the probiotic if you are dreaming of a delicious meal. Wait and take it during the next time the stomach is empty.
Registered Nurse | Founder, Remedies For Me
Various time to consider
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that provide numerous health benefits. They are naturally produced from bacterial fermentation and can be found in food sources or supplements. Probiotics that naturally occur in foods are most active and beneficial.
There are numerous strands of probiotics that are beneficial to our health. The most common groups are called Lactobacillus (lactic acid) and Bifidobacterium.
There are millions of microorganisms all throughout the body but the majority of them reside inside your gut. Most of the bacterias that are inside the body are advantageous by keeping the body strong and healthy. Probiotics help the body by helping maintain an efficient digestive system, a powerful immune system, aid in weight loss, and produce clear skin.
Best time to take probiotics:
- You should wait two hours to take probiotics after taking herbs, garlic, or medications, as certain foods and prescription drugs can interfere or destroy with the probiotics.
- If you are taking probiotics for digestive health, it is best to take them at every meal.
- If you tend to sleep late, take the probiotics before bed. There is a strong relationship between gut health and “calming” of the liver that helps with sleep.
- If you are an early riser, take the probiotics in the morning.
Four health benefits of probiotics:
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), 60-70 million Americans have some sort of digestive disease. The United States spends over $100 billion each year on digestive disorders. Digestive diseases can lead to a weakened immune system, mental health disorders, and neurological diseases. Other health issues that are affected by digestive disorders include thyroid imbalances, joint pains, skin disorders, chronic fatigue, autism, and ADHD.
Gut Health – Our digestive system contains numerous microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and viruses. Collectively they are called “gut flora”. The majority of our gut flora contains bacteria and a large portion of these microorganisms reside in the colon (large intestine). Our digestive system contains both beneficial and harmful bacteria. A healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria in our system should equal around 85:15 percent; respectively.
Microorganisms help perform numerous daily functions in our bodies. Our gut flora is responsible for:
- Producing vitamin B-12, butyrate, and vitamin K2.
- Protecting the lining of our gut, fighting against harmful invaders, and keeping our immune systems strong.
- Stimulating the secretion of IgA and regulatory T fighter cells.
Everyone, including children, can benefit from probiotics. At times our beneficial microbes are accidentally wiped out by external factors that are intended to get rid of only the bad bacteria. Some of these reasons include:
- Antibiotics — pill form, but also in our milk, meat, poultry, fish.
- Recent surgeries.
- Diarrhea — flushes out good and bad bacteria altogether.
- Colon cleanses.
- Too much fiber — destroys bacterial membranes.
- Protein deficiency. Protein creates mucin which is needed to create intestinal mucus. This is also where bacterial flora thrives.
- Tap water — contains chlorine and fluoride.
- Foods that contain GMO and MSG ingredients.
- Mental health imbalances and stress.
A healthy gut helps our body to fight against diseases and cancer-causing cells. 80% of our immune system resides in our digestive system, so it is crucial to maintaining appropriate levels of probiotics in our gastrointestinal system.
Making sure you have a healthy digestive tract is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health.
Weight Loss – Researchers have found that the Lactobacillus probiotic family can help you absorb less fat and lose weight.
- In particular, Lactobacillus amylovorus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus are proven to help reduce belly fat and overall weight.
- The probiotics Lactobacillus amylovorus or Lactobacillus fermentum can be found in yogurts or supplement form.
- One study showed that patients who took a yogurt containing Lactobacillus amylovorus and Lactobacillus fermentum for 6 weeks reduced their body fat by 3-4%.
- Another type of probiotic, Lactobacillus gasseri is proven to help reduce waist circumference and overall fat. Lactobacillus gasseri is naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract. This type of probiotic increases the size of fat molecules. When fat molecules increase, the amount of fat absorbed from consumed foods is decreased. The excess fat is excreted out with your feces. Another study showed that a milk containing Lactobacillus gasseri helped 210 patients reduce their overall weight, abdominal visceral fat and waist and hip circumference in just 12-weeks. Belly fat was reduced by a total of 8.5%.
- The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus can also help with weight loss and maintenance. Lactobacillus rhamnosus increases the hormone, leptin, which is released by the fat cells and signals to the brain that there is enough fat stored in the body. This decreases appetite and increases satiety. One study found that Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped overweight women lose 50% more weight than the placebo group within 3 months. Lactobacillus rhamnosus can be found in the creamy, yogurt-like drink, Kefir.
- You can take probiotics at any time of the day but it is best to take it with food or at least 30 minutes before your meal.
Studies have shown that probiotics actually survive longer in the digestive tract when taken with food than without. It also noted that the food consumed should have some fat in it to best preserve the bacterial organisms.
Digestive Health – Millions of Americans are affected by a digestive disorder, such as diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gas and bloating. Studies have shown that probiotics are great at relieving diarrhea that is commonly associated with antibiotic use.
Antibiotics kill a lot of the healthy bacteria that is in our system, so it is important to take probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics. Probiotics are also necessary for preventing constipation. Intestinal flora (good bacteria) is responsible for retaining moisture in the intestines and keeping stools loose.
When your poop lacks healthy bacteria, it turns into rock hard pebbles. Probiotics are also a safe remedy for pregnant women who are constipated.
Probiotics & Skin
- People with eczema tend to have different gut bacteria than people without.
- Digestive diseases can lead to a weaker immune system, mental health disorders, and neurological diseases. Other health issues that are affected by digestive disorders include thyroid imbalances, joint pain, skin disorders, chronic fatigue, autism, ADHD, and numerous other disorders.
- Everyone of all ages can benefit from probiotics. A lot of times, our beneficial microbes are wiped out by systems that are intended to get rid of bad bacteria.
- A healthy gut helps the body to fight against diseases and cancerous cells. The majority of our immune system is found in our digestive system, so it is vital to maintaining appropriate levels of probiotics in our gastrointestinal system.
- One study found that several species known to be associated with inflammation were significantly higher in infants with eczema. These infants also had lower levels of good bacteria that have anti-inflammatory properties. It may be possible to prevent or treat eczema by using probiotics to change the mix of gut bacteria. However, it’s unclear which particular strains of bacteria are most effective.
- A study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine tested the use of probiotics for the treatment of eczema in infants. Researchers randomly assigned 40 babies with eczema to treatment and control groups. All of the infants were scored using a standard diagnostic index for atopic dermatitis. Researchers also measured levels of Bifidobacterium bifidum (an anti-inflammatory bacteria) in the stool of each infant.
- The babies in the treatment group received B. bifidum supplements for 4 weeks. Levels of B. bifidum in their stool samples increased sharply and their scores on the atopic dermatitis index were notably reduced. There were no significant changes in bacteria levels or dermatitis scores in the control group.
- A placebo-controlled trial published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology investigated the effects of Lactobacillus sakei supplementation in 75 children with atopic eczema–dermatitis syndrome. Patients aged 2-10 years old were randomized to receive either a daily L sakei supplement or a daily placebo. They were scored on a diagnostic index of dermatitis before and after 12 weeks of treatment. Their blood was also tested for markers of inflammation.
- There was a 31% average improvement in dermatitis scores in the probiotic group compared with a 13% improvement in the control group. Significantly more patients in the treatment group achieved improvements of at least 50%. The probiotic group also had lower levels of inflammation markers which were significantly correlated with their lower dermatitis scores.
- A small study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy tested the effects of probiotic yogurt on 10 adult patients with intractable atopic dermatitis. The participants were randomized to receive either a yogurt containing Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis or a placebo yogurt. After 4 weeks, they were crossed over to the alternative treatment. After each intervention, symptom scores were recorded and stool samples were taken.
- Scores for itch and burning improved when patients ate the probiotic yogurt. Tests showed that the probiotic dynamically altered the patients’ microbiota, increasing levels of beneficial bacteria which tend to be lower in people with dermatitis.
Related: How to Be Confident with Your Body?
What are some ways you can naturally incorporate probiotics into your daily diet?
Examples of foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics:
- Kefir — water, milk, or coconut
- Raw cheese
Nutritionist | Coach | Speaker
Probiotics should be taken with a meal
Much has been written on the benefits of probiotics, so I won’t delve into the matter here. I will say, however, that regularly taking probiotics or supplying ‘good bacteria’ to your gut is always a good idea and better than not taking any at all.
The first thing to keep in mind when taking probiotics is ensuring that they are allowed to do their job as intended. Since probiotics are living organisms, they must be alive when taken.
In most cases, this means keeping them refrigerated as heat can minimize potency and shorten shelf life. Excess humidity can wreak havoc on probiotics in similar ways. This consideration must be made before even contemplating the ideal time to take them. If the live bacteria no longer live, then it doesn’t really matter when you take them because they’re dead and totally ineffective.
There is a good deal of conflicting information out there in terms of when is the best time to take probiotics. One school of thought feels that probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach because it prevents interference, allowing the probiotics to do their job.
Others, on the other hand, believe that probiotics should be taken with a meal because eating helps to reduce acidity in the stomach, setting more favorable conditions for the probiotics, increasing absorption.
Some studies support this conclusion.
The matter is further complicated by the existence of many different types of probiotics that carry different types of bacteria, a dosage ranging greatly. In addition, our digestive systems have varying predispositions, so what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important not to apply general rules to every case. Personalization is key for optimum gut health.
I always encourage all those thinking of taking probiotics to work closely with their naturopath, nutritionist or dietician, all of whom can help to guide you in selecting the right probiotics, shedding some light on how and when it should be taken.
In other words, there is no one right time to take them. Research is incomplete, and therefore, inconclusive. For these reasons, I always tell my clients that taking probiotics is better than not taking them at all, providing they are alive and right for them.
Related: Best Nutrition Books
Dr. Janelle Louis, ND
It is preferable to take probiotics with meals
Because the pH of the stomach is extremely acidic while fasting, taking probiotics on an empty stomach leads to many strains of the beneficial bacteria not being able to survive the highly acidic environment.
As a result, it is preferable to take probiotics with meals, when the environment of the stomach is not as acidic.
This makes it more likely that the probiotics you take will actually be able to survive the environment of the stomach and travel through the gastrointestinal tract to the large intestine where they can colonize, multiply, and fulfill the purpose for which you’re taking the probiotic supplement in the first place.
Emily Incledon, RD, MS
Everyone should consider taking probiotics and here’s why. Imagine your intestines like a neighborhood full of bacteria. Just like any neighborhood, there are going to be social, friendly, and helpful neighbors, and then there are going to be a few cranky, miserable, and unfriendly neighbors there as well.
Probiotics are the friendly neighbors, the ones that help your digestion and boost your immune system, and you certainly want to make sure your population of probiotics is higher than the not-so-nice bacteria that also reside in your intestines.
Anything from an antibiotic, to stress, to poor sleep quality, can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your intestines, and if you let your intestines become overrun with bad bacteria you may experience side effects such as poor digestion, lack of energy or poor mood.
Start a probiotic today by looking for a product that is multi-strain and following dosing recommendations on the package!
Brianna Harris, RD, CNSC
Registered Dietician, Vita Cup
With a meal or within 30 minutes before
Almost everyone in their lifetime has been told by their doctor to take an antibiotic at one point or another. This is usually during the administration of antibiotics, but probiotics should be taken daily regardless. You have trillions of bacteria in your gut so it is important to have a good to bad bacteria ratio.
Daily probiotics are a great way to help out this ratio! You can find probiotics in certain fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurts. You can also take a supplement or foods that are fortified with probiotics. But when is a good time to take them?
The best time to take probiotics is with a meal or within 30 minutes before. This is because the ingestion of food helps make your stomach environment less acidic. It does not matter if you take them during breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Adding a fat source to your meal can also help with the survival of probiotics.
Pairing probiotics with a prebiotic is a great way to fuel the probiotics and help them thrive. Prebiotics is fiber and works together with probiotics to create a symbiotic relationship. Examples of prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, banana, aloe vera, and asparagus.
A new product on the market is VitaCup Probiotic Blend Infused Coffee. This is coffee with the probiotic Bacillus Coagulans and prebiotics from Aloe Vera in the coffee.
We use Bacillus Coagulans, a heat resistant strain, therefore it survives the heating process of the coffee. Consume this coffee with a little milk or cream, to add some fat. Each cup has 1 billion CFUs.
Joy Wang, MBA
Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant | President, Sho Nutrition
Just before or alongside a healthy meal
Regarding when to take probiotics, the best time is just before or alongside a healthy meal—because that creates optimal conditions for probiotics organisms to survive and maintain good bacteria levels in the digestive tract.
So, probiotics should be taken daily, not only for symptoms of digestive troubles or occurrences of compromised immunity (such as from antibiotic use or sickness) but also for supporting wellness and contributing to ongoing microbiome health (which influences everything from digestion to immunity to mood).
Ideally, everyone would consume sufficient amounts of naturally occurring probiotics in their diet; however, for many reasons, most people benefit from additional probiotics sources. Yet, sometimes daily demands make it difficult to maintain the routine of taking supplements.
From these considerations, I founded sho Balance vegan probiotics as a multi-ingredient blend, with clinically effective Lactobacillus Casei K-1 (100 Billion CFU) and natural, superfood-sourced ingredients: prebiotics FOS, spirulina, and flaxseed & olive oils.
These ingredients are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to the effectiveness of the L. Casei K-1 probiotics strain (much like healthy foods feed beneficial bacteria and unhealthy foods that are highly processed or high in sugar feed the not-so-good bacteria).
Designed from the research on its ingredients and efficacy, sho Balance is convenient and makes taking it simple, which is the goal: when taken daily in support of other healthy lifestyle choices, probiotics are extremely beneficial.
John Koveos, B.Sc Nutrition H.D
Founder & Formulator, Schinoussa Super Foods
Best taken with food or thirty minutes before a meal
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in fermented foods and supplements. There are good and bad bacteria in the gut and an imbalance of this system can have a negative impact on your health.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that promote healthy gut health and influence positive health benefits such as weight loss, digestive health, immune function, and overall wellbeing.
Probiotics can be used every day to achieve health. The probiotics in supplement form are best taken with food or with thirty minutes before a meal.
The reason being the stomach acid is in the pH range of 2-3 and ingesting probiotics at this pH would destroy the probiotics when taken before or with food, the stomach pH rises to 4, and at this pH probiotics are not destroyed and are able to travel to the intestines. This is where healthy magic begins!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any foods I should avoid while taking probiotics?
While there are no specific foods that you need to avoid while taking probiotics, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources, and limit your intake of processed and sugary foods.
Can probiotics replace antibiotics?
No, probiotics cannot replace antibiotics. While probiotics may help improve your gut health, they are not strong enough to kill harmful bacteria on their own. If you have an infection that requires antibiotics, it is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor to make sure the infection has completely cleared up.
How do I choose a good probiotic supplement?
When choosing a probiotic supplement, make sure it contains multiple strains of bacteria and has a high number of colony-forming units (CFU). Choosing a reputable brand and checking the expiration date is also important to ensure the probiotics are still active.
Will taking too many probiotics be harmful?
Research has not shown any serious side effects from taking too many probiotic supplements; however, if you’re feeling uncomfortable after increasing your dosage, it may be a good idea to reduce it back down again.
It is also important to note that not all strains of bacteria react positively in every body. So be sure to choose a supplement with multiple strains for optimal results.
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