We often get asked when is the best time to take probiotics – morning, evening, before or after food. Taking probiotics at any time is better than not taking them at all, of course, but taking probiotics at the right time can optimize the health benefits of this supplement.
Staying on a regular routine can be difficult for some people, as hectic lifestyles can make it hard to do anything at the same time each day. Other people take so many medications that they simply add probiotics to the handful of pills they already take, with little regard as to how probiotics and these medications might affect one another.
Stomach Acid and Timing Probiotic Use
Many foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, contain probiotics. Supplements also contain live beneficial bacteria. Before probiotics gained from food or supplements can get to work, however, the beneficial bacteria must establish a presence in your gut.
You do have bacteria in your stomach, but the vast majority of probiotic bacteria are active and effective in the lower portions of the Gastrointestinal Tract.
To get to the lower portion of your GI tract, though, the bacteria must survive the corrosive environment of the stomach. We must remember that the stomach was designed not only to begin the digestive process but also to repel and destroy bacteria ingested with food, so it’s important to protect the probiotic bacteria as it passes through the stomach.
The Role Stomach Acid Plays
Scientists describe stomach acid in terms of gastric pH, where 7 is neutral and lower numbers are more acidic. During a fasting state, when your stomach is empty, it is very acidic. Fasting gastric pH typically ranges from 1.7 to 2. Gastric pH rises and stomach juices become less acidic after food intake; however the introduction of food to the stomach also elicits the digestive process and digestive enzymes that may damage the probiotics.
As you can see, it’s a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly when is the best time to take probiotics.
Why Not To Take Probiotics With A Heavy Meal
We tend to be of the thought that taking probiotics with a light meal may help reduce their exposure to harsh stomach acid and assist their passage into the small and large intestines. We do not suggest taking probiotics with heavy meals as they take longer to digest and may delay the movement of the probiotic bacteria into the lower portion of your G.I. tract.
The acidic environment of the stomach can also kill probiotics gained from food, which can reduce the number of good bacteria available to inhabit the intestinal tract – and small colonies of bacteria produce relatively weak health benefits as compared with large, robust colonies.
Unfortunately, there has been very little research comparing the benefits of taking probiotics with or without meals, or at different times of day. The paucity of studies could be because people have traditionally consumed probiotics during meals, through foods like yogurt and kefir. We hope to see more research into this area in the near future so we can better answer questions like these.
The Best Time to Take Probiotics
So when is the best time to take probiotics? It largely depends on the reason you started taking the supplement in the first place.
If you take probiotics to address digestive issues, such as diarrhea or bloating, you will gain the most benefit from beneficial bacteria by taking supplements at every meal.
For some people who have trouble sleeping, the best time to take probiotics is right before bed. A strong connection exists between the gut and the liver, and “quieting” the liver seems to help with sleep. In fact, research shows that individuals with cirrhosis and other liver problems tend to suffer insomnia more than do those without liver disease.
It also depends on your personal circadian rhythm. Early risers may benefit more by taking probiotics in the morning, while evening probiotic doses may be better for night owls. There’s even research suggesting that the bacteria in our gut can affect our circadian rhythm.
When Not To Take Probiotics
All users should avoid taking probiotics within two hours of consuming herbs, garlic, or prescription drugs or any other supplements known to have anti-bacterial properties as certain foods and medications can destroy probiotics. If you’re taking any of these items, simply wait at least two hours and then take your probiotics.