Probiotics are dietary supplements that consist of the beneficial bacteria that naturally occur in your intestinal tract. Environmental factors such as stress, processed food, chemicals in our water and food, pollution, radiation and certain medications can all have a negative impact on the diversity and number of good bacteria that live in your gut.
Probiotic dietary supplements aim to maintain and restore the natural diversity of your gut bacteria.
There are many probiotic supplements on the market, each with different recommended intake instructions. With so many different instructions, you may be wondering how to get the most out of your supplement.
So, when is the best time of day to take probiotics, and why does it matter?
Does Timing Matter?
Yes, timing does matter. First and foremost, consistency is key. For optimal benefits, it is best to take your probiotic daily. Establishing a routine around when to take your probiotic can make it easier to remember.
The natural environment for probiotic bacteria is the small and large intestine. That is where they perform all their goodness to strengthen your digestion, immune system, and assist in many other critical functions.
To get there they have to pass through your stomach where the environment is very acidic. In fact, your stomach is designed to kill any bad bacteria and viruses that might make their way into your body via food and water. For the probiotic bacteria, this is bad news as prolonged exposure to stomach acid kills them.
Therefore, the goal is to get the probiotics through your stomach acid as fast as possible. For this it is recommended to take probiotics ideally on an empty stomach (i.e., 2-3 hours after your last meal and 30 minutes prior to the next meal), so the probiotics bacteria can move through the stomach as fast as possible.
Meal Composition May Help
Everything you eat and drink sits in the stomach for some time while the stomach secretes stomach acid and digestive enzymes. The heavier the meal and the more you eat, the longer it takes for the food to move through the stomach to the small intestine.
Many probiotics are recommended to be taken on an empty stomach to make sure they pass swiftly through the stomach and get as little exposure as possible to the hostile stomach acid. Even probiotics that come in stomach acid resistant capsules benefit from moving through the stomach as swiftly as possible to ensure that the capsule does not open until it reaches the large intestine.
Many people see an improvement in the effectiveness of probiotics by taking them before breakfast as part of their morning routine. If you do eat before or after taking your probiotics, it is best to make it a small, easily digestible meal or a light snack.
Stomach Acid and Timing Probiotic Use
The vast majority of your beneficial gut bacteria live in the small and large intestine where they are not exposed to stomach acid. To reach the small and large intestine, the beneficial bacteria in your probiotic supplement need to travel through the stomach.
Certain factors such as the timing and size of your last meal determine how quickly your probiotic bacteria can pass through the stomach into a more hospitable environment.
The Role Stomach Acid Plays
The acidic environment of your stomach plays an important role in the body’s digestion process. Stomach acid helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins and kills germs that enter your body via your mouth.
The pH value of the stomach is between 1.7 to 2.0. The pH value increases throughout the small intestine up to a pH of 7.0 in some parts of the large intestine. Most of the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system live in the small and large intestine due to the higher pH value.
Prolonged exposure to the acidic environment in the stomach can kill the beneficial bacteria, which is why timing probiotic use is so important.
Some bacterial strains are more resilient toward stomach acid and therefore have better survival rates than others as they pass through the stomach. Survival rates of different strains can be improved depending on the delivery method of the probiotic supplement.
Unfortunately, some dangerous bacteria such as E.Coli and H. Pylori are also very resistant to stomach acid and have a higher survival rate through the stomach. Cases of the stomach flu or food poisoning are often due to an overload of these bad bacteria passing through the stomach and into your small and large intestine where the body tries to get rid of them very quickly via diarrhea or vomiting.
Quality of the probiotic supplement is one of the most important factors to consider. High quality probiotic supplement manufacturers make gastric acid resistance and survivability a top priority when formulating the probiotic.
Many probiotic bacteria are freeze-dried and then filled into capsules. Freeze-drying is a mechanism to preserve the probiotic bacteria, which is a good thing. However, the challenge is that freeze-dried bacteria will soak up any liquid they come in contact with to rehydrate and “re-awaken” themselves.
If stomach acid is the first liquid they come in contact with, many probiotic bacteria die due to the high exposure to stomach acid.
At OMNi-BiOTiC®, we take a different approach. OMNi-BiOTiC® probiotics are formulated as a powder and mixed with water before ingesting them. This process allows the freeze-dried bacteria to wake up in an environment that strengthens them, rather than killing them.
In addition, we add prebiotic foods to the powder to provide a food source. Now, the bacteria are properly activated and rehydrated so they can pass through the stomach acid with a much higher success rate.
Why Not to Take Probiotics with a Heavy Meal
Your stomach is a very smart organ. The more food you eat, the more digestive enzymes and stomach acid it secretes.
Also, the more you eat, the longer it takes for the food to move through the stomach. It typically takes about 4 to 5 hours for food to move through the stomach.
Taking a probiotic right before or right after a large, heavy meal means that the probiotic has to endure the acidity of the stomach for much longer before it can move to the small intestine.
Are There Side Effects to Taking Probiotics Late in the Day or Without Food?
Taking probiotics late in the day can be very beneficial, especially for individuals who eat dinner on the early side. As discussed, most probiotics are best taken on an empty stomach to help them travel through the adverse environment of the stomach as quickly as possible.
For many, the stomach is most likely to be empty either early in the morning after waking up or at the end of the day before bedtime. How empty your stomach is before bedtime depends largely on how much you ate for dinner and how late you ate dinner.
Ideally, you should wait 2-3 hours after eating before taking probiotics. However, you should always check the intake instructions on the probiotic supplement for the most effective way to take your probiotic.
Tips to Maximize the Health Benefits of Probiotics
- Check the recommended use instructions on your probiotic to ensure you are taking it properly
- Ensure proper storage. Some probiotics need to be refrigerated so exposing them to too much heat over long periods of time will kill the bacteria while they’re sitting on the shelf.
- Timing – most probiotics are best taken on an empty stomach (2-3 hours after your last meal and 30 minutes before the next meal). Check the intake instructions on your product to see what is recommended for timing
- Choose a high-quality, multispecies and multistrain product for optimal benefits
- Choose a product that fits your health needs – each probiotic strain performs different functions. Furthermore, probiotics work in teams, so if strains are combined effectively, they can achieve additional benefits. Choose a probiotic supplement that is tailored to your specific health needs and that is substantiated by clinical studies using the final product for best results.
- The probiotic and its claims should be backed by clinical studies using the final product. This will ensure that you are buying a product whose effects have been studied.
Choose the Right Probiotic for Your Health Condition
Not all probiotics are created equal. The combination of strains included in the probiotic supplement plays a critical role in determining its impact on a range of health outcomes.
Each probiotic strain performs a different function. Depending on what the probiotic is trying to accomplish, you will find different strains in the composition. Furthermore, several studies, including this powerful study by Visconti et al., have demonstrated that probiotic strains work in teams for optimal impact.
A high quality, science-based probiotic supplement will contain strains that are mindfully combined for optimal impact. At OMNi-BiOTiC®, our products are tailored to specific health conditions, rooted in 25 years of microbiome research and clinical studies to demonstrate efficacy. For example, OMNi-BiOTiC® STRESS Release was specifically formulated for individuals with leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome.
In a clinical study with IBS patients, OMNi-BiOTiC® STRESS Release demonstrated a reduction in symptom severity, improved bacterial diversity in the intestines, and a reduction in Zonulin, the main marker for leaky gut.
What Are Probiotics Used For?
The word probiotic is derived from the Latin word “pro” meaning “for” in Latin and “bios” meaning “life” in Greek. Probiotics colonize the lining of our digestive system and ensure that the natural intestinal flora can perform its role in vital functions in your body.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that naturally occur in a healthy intestine. Our intestine consists of billions of bacteria that are critical to many important processes within the body, including digesting food, absorbing nutrients, eliminating toxins, and preventing pathogens (e.g. harmful bacteria, toxins and fungi) from spreading.
When this world of bacteria is disrupted by a poor diet, stress or strong medication, probiotics help to restore the balance within our intestine. Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can improve and maintain your long-term health and wellbeing.
Side Effects and Interactions
Some individuals experience minor side effects like mild bloating, flatulence or more frequent bowel movements for the first few days of taking a new probiotic. This is your body getting used to the probiotic and potentially cleaning out harmful substances like pathogens.
However, if these side effects persist beyond the first week of taking the probiotic, stop taking the product and consult a physician. If you experience more serious side effects like severe stomach cramps, severe diarrhea, allergic reactions, dizziness, swelling or difficulty breathing, discontinue the product and contact your physician immediately.
Conclusion: Best Time to Take Probiotics
The most important thing when taking a probiotic supplement is to read the recommended use instructions on the packaging. These will tell you when and how to best take the specific probiotic of your choice.
For most probiotics, taking them on an empty stomach is a good idea as it improves their survival rates through the stomach acid.
Generally, an empty stomach is most certain in the morning after waking up (30 minutes before breakfast) or in the evening before bedtime (assuming you had your last meal about 2-3 hours prior). Consistency is key. Developing a routine around when and how you take your probiotics will help you stay on track.
The biggest challenge for probiotics is the journey through the harsh environment in the stomach. At OMNi-BiOTiC®, our probiotics are formulated with this goal in mind. By dissolving the probiotics in water prior to intake, the freeze-dried probiotic bacteria get the chance to awaken, rehydrate and take in nutrients to make them strong as they pass through the stomach.
We compared the survival rates of OMNi-BiOTiC® to other probiotics in an artificial gastro-intestinal tract. On average, over 90% of the bacteria in OMNi-BiOTiC® probiotics reach the large intestine, compared to as little as 10% for other probiotics.