Probiotics are microorganisms that are good for your health. You have at least heard of them, even if you do not use a probiotic supplement. These supplements improve your gut health by introducing healthy bacteria into it. Beyond gut health, medical research suggests that probiotic bacteria have several other health benefits.
As probiotics are OTC (over-the-counter), many people have different ways of consuming them. Some people advise that you take probiotics on an empty stomach to maximize their effects, while others swear by using them after food. Others may even advise you to take probiotics with food. There is generally no consensus about the specific time to take probiotics.
Therefore, if you are about to start using probiotic supplements, you might be confused as to which advice to follow.In addition, many people wonders what is the best time to take probiotics or signs probiotics are working? Proponents for taking them before a meal argue that the stomach acid produced in the digestive tract after a meal could kill the probiotics. Therefore, taking them before a meal is much safer so that they would have reached the intestine before you eat and start producing stomach acid.
However, advocates for taking it after a meal argue that the stomach acidity level is higher before a meal. Since probiotics are unlikely to survive in an acidic environment, they feel it is better to take them after eating when the stomach has a higher pH level due to the food diluting some stomach acids.
Both arguments seem sensible, but how does one know when the pH level of the stomach is least acidic? Probiotic manufacturers add to this confusion by having differing directions for using their products on the labels. Due to this confusion, some have scientifically researched whether or not you should take probiotics on an empty stomach.
Does Timing Matter?
Before beating yourself about the perfect time to use your probiotic supplement, have you ever wondered if the timing matters?Or what does probiotics do?Probiotics work by taking residence somewhere within your digestive tract, and it could be your small intestine, large intestine, or bowel.
They cannot live in your stomach, but they must pass the human upper gastrointestinal tract, which includes your stomach, to get to other parts of your system. Therefore, the survival of probiotics is the most crucial factor for their effectiveness. Timing comes in because the acidity level of your stomach differs at different times during the day. Also, stomach acid can kill the probiotic supplement before it even gets into your guts.
Eating also affects stomach acidity, therefore the confusion of taking probiotics before or after meals. Summarily, timing matters when using probiotic supplements, as good timing will give these beneficial microbes a higher chance of survival. However, timing may not matter as much as you think it does.
One research suggests that the bacteria Saccharomyces boulardii and lactobacillus probiotics will survive at the same rate whether taken on an empty stomach or not. Another research showed that the Bifidobacterium species survive best when taken 30 minutes before food. This variation in results suggests that the survival rates depend a lot on the type of probiotic supplement.
Furthermore, some research has also shown that factors such as consistency, meal type, and the quality of the supplement can make a huge difference in the survival of your healthy gut bacteria. Therefore, timing matters but not so much.
Best Time To Take Probiotics
Now that you know the significance of timing when taking probiotics, the big question is when is the best time to take probiotics. To improve your gut health, consider taking probiotic bacteria before meals or in the morning.
Taking probiotic supplements before your meal should increase bacterial survival rates. This is because they will have passed through your stomach before heavy digestive enzymes are released to break down food. Also, using probiotics on an empty stomach when you just woke may work.
You should only do this if you don’t experience acid reflux or heart burns when waking up, as this might be a sign that your stomach acid content is much. Otherwise, if you wake up with a perfectly healthy stomach, you can take your probiotic bacteria safely.
There are situations where using probiotics on an empty stomach may not be the best, e.g., during a fast. We explain these periods when you should avoid using probiotics below.
When You Should Not Take Probiotics
While you may not always tell when the acid level of your stomach is low, it can help to tell when it is high. Below are some times when your stomach acid production is likely high, and probiotic bacteria will have lower survival rates if you consume them at these times.
Using probiotic supplements at midnight is probably not the best idea. Research shows that acid secretion is highest at midnight, per our natural body clock. More specifically, stomach acid, also known as gastric acid, is produced the most between 10 pm and 2 am.
The acid helps to break down food and kills any harmful bacteria you may have consumed with the food. However, this acid cannot differentiate between probiotics and bad bacteria. So, if you take your supplements around this time, these beneficial bacteria have a lower chance of survival.
As the study discovered, people with ulcers, for example, did not follow this pattern according to the research. This though, may not necessarily apply to you if you have some other issues with your digestive system.
With a Heavy Meal
The idea is that your stomach secretes acid after a meal to break down the food. While some argue that the food will help dilute acidity, this may not be the case depending on the type of food you eat and the quantity. There is a good chance your stomach acid was less before you ate.
Also, the stomach acid you produce depends on how much you eat. So, if you eat a heavy meal, your stomach will secrete much more acid to break everything down. Especially if your meal consists of oily foods, meat, and tough vegetable fibers, this highly acidic environment will most likely harm your probiotics.
Conversely, taking probiotics on an empty stomach or before eating may also not be the best idea. This depends on how long it has been since you last ate. If you are observing some fast, on a hunger strike, or just haven’t gotten around to eating for longer than normal, you may need to hold off on taking probiotic supplements.
That is because your stomach will still produce gastric acid when you skip meals. Studies show that production is further stimulated by thinking about food, and seeing or smelling it. So, your acid levels are much higher when you are hungry. If you take probiotics in this state, you are simply sending them to be destroyed by your stomach acid. Only robust or resilient bacterial strains will survive.
As earlier mentioned, the stomach tends to produce gastric acid the most around nighttime from around 10 pm. This is the time a lot of people sleep, so if you take probiotic supplements at this time, you may be exposing them to a harsher stomach environment. It is even worse if you eat just before going to bed.
Besides the probiotic bacteria surviving, taking them before bed may make you uncomfortable in your sleep. Gas and bloating are commonly reported side effects of probiotics. People who are new to them might experience this the first few times they use them. Therefore, if you take them before bed, you might not enjoy your sleep.
While Using Other Drugs or Supplements
Keep in mind that probiotics may interfere with how your other supplements or drugs affect you. They are safe for the most part but may intensify the effects of whatever drugs you use. That is why to be on the safe side, you should consult your doctor before using probiotics if you are already using other drugs.
You should do the same if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, if you want to get probiotics for your child but are not sure whether you should or which strain to buy, consult your doctor.
Side Effects of Using Probiotics at the Wrong Time
As mentioned earlier, probiotics are good bacteria, and the body tolerates them well because they are found in the body naturally. When people consider the timing of their probiotics, it is more to ensure that the probiotics survive, not to avoid side effects.
That said, probiotics may have some side effects on people. However, these side effects are unrelated to the time you take them. Some include:
These include gas, bloating, and constipation. Several times, people take probiotics to help them with some of these issues. However, research suggests that, albeit rarely, one may experience these symptoms after using probiotics.
These symptoms do not usually persist. Rather, they usually occur in new users and subside after using them. You can reduce or avoid this by starting with small quantities and then working your way up. If you experience this continuously, you should consult your primary health provider.
Intolerance or Allergies
You may find that you are allergic to some of the ingredients used in the probiotic supplement. It would be best to read the repackaging properly to avoid any issues. If you are allergic to yeast, for example, you will do well to avoid yeast-based probiotics.
Similarly, many probiotics may contain lactose, too. You should look out for such supplements if you are lactose intolerant. Research suggests that most lactose intolerant people can tolerate drugs containing a tiny amount of lactose, so you might not even need to worry about this. Still, if you have a highly sensitive stomach, you would like to keep this in mind.
Infection or Anti-biotic Resistance
Probiotics will not cause infections or illness in most people. Studies reveal that the two major bacteria-based probiotic strains, Lactobacilli, and bifidobacteria, very rarely cause infection – as rare as 1 in every million users. However, certain groups of people are more at risk than others.
People who have recently undergone surgery or generally have weakened or compromised immune systems are more susceptible to developing infections from probiotic use. If you fall into this category, the best thing for you to do is consult your doctor. You may still be able to find probiotic strains that are suitable for you.
Also, anyone is susceptible to antibiotic resistance. Enterococci probiotic strains, for example, exhibit antibiotic-resistant qualities, which can lead to serious problems for the person using them. This side effect is uncommon but not impossible.
Other Factors That Affect the Effectiveness of Probiotics
Since timing is only a small part of the equation when using probiotics, you may be wondering about some other parts. Considering these things when using probiotics, you will experience their goodness to the maximum regardless of the time you use them.
Type of Probiotic Strains
If you have a specific health challenge, going for a specific prebiotic strain may be helpful for you. The two most common probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. These bacteria may improve constipation, reduce diarrhea or help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Some studies also show that E Coli Nissle 1917 and Saccharomyces boulardii may help treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, and anti-biotic-related diarrhea. To be sure which one to take for whatever your specific health condition is, be sure to consult a health professional.
The above-mentioned two most common probiotics are also two of the most resilient to stomach acid. So, chances are that if you use them as your dietary supplements, it will not matter the time you take them. You will be able to feel their effectiveness.
Probiotic supplements are available in different forms. They come in capsules, tablets, powder form, yogurt, and other liquids. The form in which you consume your probiotic strains can affect survival through the digestive tract. Research shows that probiotics in tablets and capsules or yogurt are much more likely to survive your stomach acid. This contrasts with probiotics in other forms like powder or non-yogurt liquid.
The results are the same regardless of the time you use these forms of probiotics. So, for more effectiveness, you should consider the form of your probiotic first before the time you are taking it.
Quality of Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics go through a lot before getting to you for consumption. There is an entire process of manufacturing them into whatever form of consumable customers wants. Then, manufacturers package them appropriately, and vendors keep them on shelves until someone decides to buy them. After this, they have to scale the hurdle of the human digestive system. They must pass through your stomach without being destroyed by the highly acidic environment.
It is quite daunting for these little microbes to go through all of this as living things. Unsurprisingly, only the probiotic strains of the highest quality and packaged with great standards will survive this.
One way to ensure you buy a quality supplement is by patronizing a trustworthy vendor. Make sure you buy from a brand that is dedicated to its customers. With them, you can be sure that they have stored the supplements well away from moisture and under ideal conditions before selling them to you.
Also, check the CFU (Colony Forming Unit) of the product. This refers to the number of living cells the product comes with. The higher the CFU, the longer it will likely last on the shelf under the right weather and moisture conditions. Look out for a CFU of at least 1 billion.
As with many things in life, consistency is key when you are using probiotics. If you want to see positive change, you must keep to a regimen of use. This will help change the bacteria in your gut over time to good bacteria, thus improving your gut health and overall body health condition.
One study revealed that the gut microbiome positively changed in people who used their probiotics for a month. This progress was evident regardless of whether participants took the supplements before or after eating.
Composition of Meal
If you are using a quality probiotic supplement, chances are that it has already been tested to ensure that it can survive the tough conditions of the digestive system. However, taking them with certain foods can help boost their effects or help them survive.
A study indicated that low-fat milk, oats, or any food with a slight fat content increased the survival likelihood of the probiotic microorganisms. Another suggests that lactobacillus would survive better in the presence of carbohydrates and sugar.
Therefore, considering your meal composition could help your probiotics work better. You can find out the probiotic strain you are using and learn about the meals that work well with the s. Then, use these probiotics right before eating these meals.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are common dietary supplements because of their many wonderful effects on the body. Their scientifically proven effects go beyond making the gut healthy. Probiotics are so helpful and essential that we can even get them naturally.
You can get these beneficial bacteria through some foods like yogurt, kimchi, etc. If you like, you can incorporate these foods into your diet for a sustainable healthy gut. Some of the many health benefits of probiotics include:
Scientists have discovered a connection between the gut and the brain through research. This has led them to conduct several studies to see how gut health can positively impact mental health. Certain gut microbes can affect both brain health and are labeled ‘psychobiotics.’ Some studies recommend that these probiotics be cautiously administered or recommended to people suffering from depression and other mood disorders.
The theory is that these beneficial bacteria could positively impact the brain via the brain-gut axis. Some research further suggests that these probiotics can treat other brain cognitive disorders like autism, Parkinson’s disease, etc. Researchers are still studying the exact means through which these microbes work. However, since studies have already begun to reveal the effectiveness of these probiotics on mental health, it may be another reason to encourage your use of them.
Research reveals that obese people may have significantly different gut bacteria from people who are not obese. This points to the fact that changes in the constitution of a person’s gut bacteria may come with the development of obesity. Therefore, many scientists believe there is a connection between body weight and gut bacteria.
As a result of this deduction, research has gone into the possible ways that good gut bacteria, i.e., probiotics, can help with weight loss. For that reason, there are best probiotics for weight loss. In a study of people with excess stomach fat, people who took a probiotic of the Lactobacillus strain lost almost 10% of the fat over 12 weeks. After discontinuing the probiotic, they regained the weight in a few weeks.
Notwithstanding the study, there needs to be further research into the topic because scientists are not clear on what strains of probiotics have this effect. The issues of dosing, long-term side effects, and other demographics’ role in the final result are also unanswered.
While this field needs to be researched more, the current available studies seem promising. This is another reason to try probiotics. The weight loss effects do not seem to be drastic either, so this should work for you even if you are not looking to lose weight.
Researchers have found that probiotics can enhance overall body immunity against diseases and infections. The major reason why people take probiotics is to improve their gut health. This means eliminating the bad bacteria residing in the body, particularly in the digestive system. These bacteria are usually responsible for the issues such as diarrhea or bloating, constipation, and even some infections.
Usually, what happens is that you may have used antibiotics to treat an infection. However, due to your body’s prolonged exposure to antibiotics, some of your natural body microflora consisting of beneficial bacteria is killed. This causes an imbalance in your system, allowing harmful microbes like yeast infections to thrive if you contract them.
Technically, at that point, your immune system is vulnerable. However, probiotics come in to fix that. They multiply rapidly in your gut, outnumbering the bad bacteria through constant use and killing them off.
Beyond their effects on the digestive system, probiotics have been said to trigger many body responses that help it fight disease. These include increasing allergy resistance, reducing inflammation, and so on. Research has found that they trigger multiple immune mechanisms, making them great for your overall body health.
Other Health Issues
These include high bad cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and even inflammations. There is research that supports all these. The research that claims that probiotics improve inflammation credits it to the several direct and indirect effects of the probiotics. The results of research concerning the cholesterol-reducing capabilities of probiotics have been controversial.
However, there is evidence through testing and carrying out studies. One such study concluded that probiotics could reduce the total cholesterol level in individuals with high levels. Also, its effects on blood pressure have been confirmed via various studies and are said to be moderate. So, if you are not experiencing serious high blood pressure issues, you can consider taking probiotics for the mild BP lowering effects.
Conclusion: Probiotics Supplements: Does Time Of Day Matter?
The time you take your probiotics is a very tiny piece in the entire puzzle. To fully maximize the effects of the probiotics, you’ll need to consider other things. If you focus on these other things that are easier to control, these friendly bacteria will do just fine in your gut.
It’s much harder to determine the acid level of your stomach. It is not always as simple as whether you have eaten or not. So while most people dwell on this factor while using probiotic supplements, you will do well not to.
Some people may also be bothered about taking probiotics in the morning or at night. You are not likely to notice much difference in effectiveness if you use the right probiotic supplement. Finding the right one will likely take a few trials. There is no need to fear, however, because probiotics are generally safe. As beneficial bacteria, you will likely not experience any serious side effects.
However, if you are so concerned about the specifics of using your probiotic supplement, consult health professionals around you or your primary healthcare provider. They’ll be able to guide you better or assuage any of your fears. Also, if you have any specific health conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you can find out what probiotics you should use or if you should use them at all.
Conclusively, the best time to take probiotics is after considering the other important factors explained above. Then and only then will you get the best results from using them.