When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?
Published May 14th, 2020
They say that there’s a time for everything. Apparently, this also applies to taking probiotics.
Unlike prescription medicines, there are no grave health consequences if you fail to take probiotics at the prescribed time. But taking them at a certain time of the day helps maximize their benefits.
So, when should you take probiotics? First, let us take a look at the science of probiotics.
How Probiotics Work
You may not be aware of it but there are billions of bacteria residing within our body. But contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria are bad. Some of them are actually beneficial to our body. These “good bacteria” are what we come to know as probiotics.
When there is an imbalance in our body’s bacterial population (microbiome), chaos ensues. The harmful ones will takeover and slowly tears down your immune defenses. When you come in contact with pathogens, your body won’t be able to fight it. This results in infections and diseases.
Probiotics restore a healthy balance to your microbiome. It replenishes the beneficial bacteria and kicks out the bad ones.
For the past decades, scientists have been eyeing at its potential in preventing diseases. Studies have proven that probiotics play a significant role in various bodily functions.
Though famous for improving gut health, probiotics also help boost your immune system. Various studies have also suggested that it can improve mental, oral, reproductive, and skin health.
For probiotics to be fully effective, it must reach your stomach alive and in large numbers. Think of it as your body’s soldiers. The more there are of them, the better is their fighting chance against the enemy – the harmful bacteria.
When Should You Take Probiotics?
Before we can answer this question, we first need to understand how stomach acid affects probiotic effectivity.
Your stomach acid not only helps you digest food. It also kills the bacteria that are present in your food. Unfortunately, it also kills beneficial microorganisms like probiotics. As a result, much of the live microorganisms that enter your body is wiped out before it reaches your gut.
Thus, to maximize the effects of probiotics, you need to make sure they’ll survive your stomach acid. Or at least, a good number of them.
Some experts agree that the best time to take probiotics is in the morning, around 15 to 30 minutes before your first meal. Since you just woke up and haven’t eaten for several hours, your digestive system is moving at a slow pace. During this time, your stomach does not produce much acid making it safer for the probiotics to pass through. Taking them with water also helps them bypass the stomach acid and make it all the way to your gut.
However, this should not be taken as a sweeping conclusion. There are many factors that affect probiotic viability. For one, some probiotic strains are much more tolerant of stomach acid. Some supplements also come in enteric-coated packages specially designed to resist the harsh environment in your stomach. In general, the most ideal time depends on the type of probiotics you’re taking.
Live-strain probiotics are usually taken in powder or beverage form. They don’t have any protective coatings which makes them more vulnerable to stomach acid. As such, they will be more effective if taken first thing in the morning or right before bedtime.
As the name implies, soil-based probiotics are microorganisms that are naturally found on soils. You usually get it from raw and fermented fruits and vegetables. Some probiotic supplements are also made of soil-based probiotic strains. Since they usually live in harsh environments, these types of bacteria are usually resistant to stomach acid. Taking them with food increases their chance of survival.
When Timing Doesn’t Matter
As mentioned, there are probiotics that are highly tolerant to stomach acid. As such, it doesn’t matter when you’ll take them as long as you take them regularly.
Enteric-coated and delayed-release probiotics are examples of this. An enteric coating is a type of protective barrier that is specially designed to resist stomach acid. It’s mostly used in tablets, pellets, and capsules.
Some probiotic strains, particularly those belonging to the Lactobacillus specie, are naturally found in the gut. Thus, they are inherently resistant to stomach acid. This is why when taking probiotic strains like the Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04, timing doesn’t matter.
Splitting Up Your Dose
Though probiotics rarely have severe side effects, your body may need time to adjust to it. So if you’re still testing the waters, splitting up your probiotic dose might be a good idea.
For example, if the label suggests taking at least three capsules a day, you can take them at different times of the day. One before breakfast, another after lunch, and the last one before going to bed.
This helps prevent the probiotics from overwhelming your gut. It also allows you to assess your reaction to them as well as determine what time of the day it is most effective.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.