When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?
Hello everyone today, we're going to be talking about a controversial question that I get from my clients all the time. And that is when is the best time to take probiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms, and we want to do everything we can to make sure that they make it down into our intestines alive to do their amazing work.
Some experts are saying that you should always take it with food while others are convinced that an empty stomach is the best way to go.
What's the truth?
We're going to cover a brief overview of how probiotic supplements work and who should take them to get everyone up to speed.
Then we'll tackle the science behind when you should be taking your probiotics so that they don't go to waste and obviously provide your microbiome or your gut environment with the most benefits.
Lastly, we'll cover the most common reasons why you might need a probiotic and how to pick which one is right for you based on your needs.
Hello everyone. My name is Katie Krejci and I'm a gut health dietitian at Oswald digestive clinic, where we help people improve and eliminate bothersome gut issues like gas, bloat, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
So let's dig into our brief overview.
What are probiotics?
So probiotics are a group of bacteria or yeast organisms that greatly benefit our gut health and immune function. They do this by competing with pathogenic microorganisms or bad bugs as I like to call them and crowding them out.
Essentially think of your gut, as a garden where your beneficial microorganisms are the veggies that you want to grow and the bad bugs are the weeds. If the weeds start to take over, then you're in trouble. Probiotics help clean out the weeds by producing chemicals that can actually kill off these pathogens.
Pretty cool and probiotics even function by improving our actual intestinal lining and assist in synthesizing neurotransmitters. So things like GABA and serotonin, which can really help with stress and anxiety.
The most common misconception that I see is that probiotics stay in your system. They actually only remain in your intestine for about one to three weeks, depending on the strain and of course your gut environment. So it's really important to be consistent with your probiotic or fermented foods regimen to have lasting results.
And to be honest, there's so much research being done on probiotics and we are learning a lot, but it's still very much in its infancy. So there's still a lot we don't know, but we're learning more every day. So stay tuned.
The topic is growing and evolving, but what I'm going to be sharing with all of you today is the most up-to-date information that we have at the moment. So to start...
Who should take probiotics?
Most individuals can generally benefit from a probiotic in terms of overall gut health and immune support, but probiotics have also been shown to be useful for preventing and or treating many conditions. And here are a few just to throw them out.
So first is antibiotic-induced diarrhea. It can help with constipation, IBS, and even inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis.
If you have diverticular disease, it can be helpful. Even skin disorders like eczema. There's definitely a tie between our gut health and our skin health.
If you're prone to UTIs, even colds, as I mentioned, our microbiomes are tied in with our immune system, and also rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from probiotics and even cavities.
Who should not take probiotics?
There are a few groups that should not take probiotics that I should mention, and that includes those who are severely immunocompromised, have pancreatitis, have a central venous catheter, or that are critically ill in the ICU. But as always though, if you aren't sure, always check in with your healthcare provider for guidance.
When should I take my probiotic?
Now that we understand more about the basics of probiotics, let's get to our main topic today. When should I take my probiotic? And I'm sorry to say this, but as in most things, it totally depends.
It depends on the specific strain and the form of supplement that's being consumed on. Whether it can survive the harsh acidic stomach environment. So let's break it down.
Forms of Probiotic Supplement
Most probiotics on the market are in a capsule form that prevents the probiotics from releasing until they actually hit the intestine. That way the delicate microorganisms are protected from that harsh and acidic environment of our stomach. If this is the form that you're taking, then you can certainly take them on an empty stomach.
In fact, it may be better in my opinion, that's because our stomach empty is much slower when it's full of food, it takes roughly one to three hours for our stomach to fully empty, depending on what kind of food is consumed.
Therefore, if your stomach is full of food, the inner coating of your probiotic capsule may dissolve while it's still sitting in your stomach waiting to empty out.
However, don't despair because there is food present. The pH of your stomach is greatly neutralized.
So it's a much less harsh environment when that food is there and it may not end up killing off the probiotics if they do happen to be released. Now, another question is...
What if I take it with a snack?
So this is a great question. When you're eating a snack, you're eating less food generally, which means that your stomach will empty more rapidly.
However, because there's also less food. There may not be enough substance there to effectively neutralize the environment to promote the survivability of your probiotic.
Should it happen to release while it's in the stomach? That's kind of a gamble.
Powder or Refrigerated Liquids
Now, another avenue for probiotics is powder or refrigerated liquids. These forms should absolutely always be taken during or immediately after a meal because those delicate microorganisms are not protected by a capsule.
They're immediately exposed to the harsh acidic environment of your stomach. So please make sure that there's a decent amount of food there to neutralize and protect them.
Lastly, you might be hearing about soil-based probiotics, which are becoming more and more popular. Soil-based probiotics mean that they are microorganisms that originate from the soil versus coming from other mediums.
This means that these forms are more spore-forming, which is a protective barrier that makes them more resistant to harsh environments like heat and acid. Plus these strains have evolved to survive the outdoors. So they are really tough.
Therefore, if you are taking a soil-based probiotic, I would have no concerns at all regarding taking these on an empty stomach. One thing you should avoid though is hot liquid. So please do not wash your probiotics down with your hot morning cup of coffee or tea.
Not only will this rapidly dissolve that inter-coating, but the heat will kill off that probiotic bacteria.
The bottom line is that there's still a lot that we don't know about probiotics, but what we do know is that consistency is important.
So picking a time that you know, that you'll be consistent with taking them is the best time. So whether that's with your morning breakfast or at night while you're brushing your teeth.
The other thing that we do know is that stress can have a major negative impact on our gut health. So please don't stress about when you're taking your probiotics, either take a deep breath and just get into an easy routine.
So what happens if the probiotics end up dead? Are they still beneficial?
Actually, yes! So studies have shown that when consuming dead probiotics, they still have beneficial properties.
A recent 2020 randomized controlled trial, which is the best type of study out there, tested this by providing heat-killed bifidobacterium, which is a strain of probiotics to a group of individuals with IBS and compared them to a placebo group.
What they found is still a significant improvement in IBS symptoms in those who took the dead probiotic, super neat. And in fact, using this type of inactivated bacteria could be helpful for certain individuals who have a hard time tolerating live cultures.
So at the end of the day, don't sweat it too much. Just be consistent with taking your probiotics and focus your energy on reducing stress, getting outdoors, and eating a whole foods diet. All of these things can have a significant impact, not only on our gut health but our overall health.
Now, before we close this topic for the day, I want to provide you with some guidance on how to pick the right probiotic for you. There are so many options on the market right now, and picking not only the ripe strain and dose is important, but so is selecting from a quality brand that you can trust.
One study evaluated 13 different probiotics on the market in the United States and found that only two of them had contents that matched the label. Some of the products contained as little as 7% of the viable organisms that were listed on the label. Yikes.
So what you really want to be looking for is a brand that engages in batch testing for every single batch for potency and purity. We want to be looking to see if they have passed inspection on consumer labs as well.
If you're not sure which brand to use, we have some of our favorite high-quality products listed in the notes below. Definitely go check those out.
Check this list of our recommended high-quality products:
We also have a few other YouTube videos on our channel talking about probiotics, everything from soil-based probiotics, to even mouth probiotics for bad breath. Definitely go take a look to learn more.
I hope this information about when to take your probiotics supplement was helpful to you and you are now feeling confident in which one to choose.
Thank you and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 Ways To Improve Gut Health