Research shows the best time to take a probiotic is first thing in the morning before eating breakfast or before going to sleep at night. Probiotics are most effective when taken on an empty stomach. Taking probiotics at least 30 minutes before a meal will reduce the time it takes for the good bacteria to get to your gut.
Probiotics are dietary supplements containing beneficial bacteria naturally occurring in your intestinal tract.
Environmental factors such as stress, processed food, chemicals in our water and food, pollution, radiation, and certain medications can negatively impact the diversity and number of good bacteria in your gut.
Probiotic dietary supplements aim to maintain and restore the natural diversity of your gut bacteria.
When you take your probiotic matters. Consistency is key according to Breanna Woods, MS, RDN, a registered dietician with Omni-Biotic USA.
For optimal health benefits of probiotics, it is best to take your supplement daily. Establishing a routine around when to take your probiotic can make it easier to remember.
Should You Take Probiotics on a Full or Empty Stomach?
Yes, timing does matter. First and foremost, consistency is key.
The natural environment for probiotic bacteria is the small and large intestine. That is where they perform all their goodness to strengthen your digestive tract and immune system.
To get there they have to pass through your stomach where the environment is very acidic.
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.
The goal is to get the probiotics through your stomach acid as fast as possible. To do this, it’s recommended to take probiotics ideally on an empty stomach (i.e., 2-3 hours after your last meal and 30 minutes before the next meal), so the probiotics bacteria can move through the stomach as fast as possible.
Our Recommended Probiotic
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 ensure 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. A small, easily digestible meal or a light snack is best if you eat before or after taking your probiotics.
Stomach Acid and Timing Probiotic Use
The vast majority of your healthy gut bacteria live in the small and large intestine where they are not exposed to stomach acid. The bacteria in your probiotic supplement must travel through the stomach to reach the small and large intestines.
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 stomach’s acidic environment plays an important role in digestive health.
Stomach acid helps break down 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 healthy bacteria in your digestive system live in the small and large intestines 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 microbes 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 microorganisms 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.
The quality of the probiotic supplement is one of the most important factors to consider. High-quality probiotic supplement manufacturers prioritize gastric acid resistance and survivability when formulating the probiotic.
Many probiotic bacteria are freeze-dried and then filled into capsules. Freeze-drying is a mechanism to preserve 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 You Shouldn’t 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. Food takes about 4 to 5 hours to move through the stomach.
Taking a probiotic immediately before or 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.
Best Time to Take Probiotics at Night before Bed
The recommendation is to wait 2-3 hours after eating before taking probiotics to help the probiotics travel through the stomach as quickly as possible. However, you should always check the intake instructions on the probiotic supplement for the most effective way to take your probiotic.
Taking probiotics late in the day or at night before bed can be very beneficial, especially for individuals who eat dinner on the early side. For most people, the stomach tends to be empty either early in the morning after waking up or at the end of the day before going to bed.
How much and how late you ate before bed plays a major role in how empty your stomach is. This is why we recommend waiting 2-3 hours after eating before taking 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. Exposure to too much heat over long periods will kill the bacteria while 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 probiotic that fits your health needs – each probiotic strain performs different functions. Probiotics work in teams. Combining the right Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can achieve additional benefits. Choose a probiotic supplement that is tailored to your specific health needs and 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 buy 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 in the probiotic supplement plays a critical role in determining its impact on various health outcomes.
Each probiotic strain performs a different function. Depending on the purpose of the probiotic, you will find different strains in the composition.
Several studies, including this powerful study by Visconti et al., have demonstrated that probiotic strains work in teams for optimal impact.
While you can get probiotic bacteria by eating foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir, 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 (take the Probiotic Fit Quiz to find the best probiotic for your health goals), 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 reduced Zonulin, the main marker for leaky gut.
What are Probiotics Used For?
Probiotics are used for regulating the gut microbiome. Probiotics colonize the lining of our digestive system and ensure that the natural gut flora can perform its role in vital functions in your body, which can help with routine constipation and diarrhea.
Probiotics are 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 your gut health.
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 a 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 healthcare provider immediately.
Conclusion: Best Time to Take Probiotics
When taking a probiotic supplement, the most important thing 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.
Taking them on an empty stomach is a good idea for most probiotics as it improves their survival rates through stomach acid.
Many people take them first thing in the morning after waking up—about 30 minutes before breakfast or 2-3 hours after your last meal in the evening before bed.
The key is consistency.
The Bottom Line: Probiotics are most effective when you develop and stick to a routine around when and how you take them.
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 before 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 gastrointestinal 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.