You've probably heard all sorts of recommendations when it comes to the best time to take probiotics. Some people say you should take probiotics with meals, while others say it's best to take probiotics before bed on an empty stomach, but who's right?
There hasn't been a ton of research done on the subject, but it seems that the best time to take probiotics is either 30 minutes before a meal or when you're eating. Of course, you should always discuss the best methods of supplementation for you with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.
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The best time to take probiotics is either 30 minutes before a meal or with a meal. Taking probiotics after a meal decreases the bacteria's ability to survive the harsh stomach acid and make it to the large intestine where they perform most of their health benefits.
Probiotics for Gut Health
Your digestive tract is home to more than 1,000 different species of bacteria, according to a January 2014 report in Gut Microbes. But it's not what you think: Instead of making you sick, these bacteria keep your entire body healthy by aiding in digestion, easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improving immune function. The good bacteria also fight against the effects of harmful bacteria that can make you sick.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, sometimes called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria," that are introduced into the body to help maintain the concentration of bacteria in your gut. You can get probiotics through fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut or kimchi, or through probiotic supplements. According to Harvard Health, other probiotics benefits include relief from:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Infections of the digestive tract
But here's the catch: Probiotics are alive and they must remain alive until they get to your large intestine to be effective. Because of this, it's important to understand the best time to take probiotics to prevent them from being killed by your stomach acid.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut is Out of Whack
Best Time to Take Probiotics
Although there hasn't been a ton of research done the best time to take probiotics, there is an older study that was published in Beneficial Microbes in December 2011 that showed that survival of all the bacteria in probiotic supplements was best when that probiotic was taken with a meal or 30 minutes before a meal. On the other hand, the bacteria in probiotic supplements that were taken 30 minutes after a meal didn't survive well.
But the researchers from the study didn't just look at the timing of probiotics. They also looked at meal composition and found that including some healthy fats, like avocado or olive oil, in your meal can help the bacteria survive too.
The Right Dosage of Probiotics
It's also important to make sure you're getting the proper dosage. If you don't get enough probiotics, they may not work as effectively. Although there's no one-size-fits-all recommendation for exactly how much you should take, Harvard Health points out that most adults need somewhere between 5 billion and 10 billion colony-forming units, or CFUs, per day and that it's best to take just one dosage, rather than splitting up your intake throughout the day.
If you're taking probiotic supplements, you'll also need to make sure you're storing them properly. Harsh conditions, like high temperatures and too much light, can kill the probiotics, rendering them ineffective before they even leave the bottle. Take care to protect them from heat, dampness and air, and refrigerate them, if required.
Before taking probiotics or any natural supplements, however, you should get clearance from your health care provider. Probiotics can potentially be harmful for people with compromised immune systems or those who are allergic to some of the ingredients in the supplements.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should You Take Probiotics?"
- Beneficial Microbes: "The Impact of Meals on a Probiotic During Transit Through a Model of the Human Upper Gastrointestinal Tract"
- Gut Microbes: "Can Prebiotics and Probiotics Improve Therapeutic Outcomes for Undernourished Individuals?"