Probiotics promote a healthy intestinal flora and prevent diseases. But at what time is it best to take them?

Even if you have never used probiotics, you have probably heard of them. These supplements can have many positive health effects as they contain living microorganisms such as bacteria and yeasts that support the healthy bacteria in the gut. But you may be wondering if there is a certain of time when it is best to take it.

What are probiotics used for?

Probiotics promote gut health by inhibiting the growth of harmful organisms, protecting the intestinal wall and restoring the intestinal flora after diseases or medications such as antibiotics. They support the immune system, but also the health of the mouth, skin and psyche, although scientific evidence for this is still limited. Some of the living microorganisms in probiotic supplements are also found in naturally fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. A positive relationship has been found between these foods and a reduction in blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and body weight. If you do not regularly eat fermented foods, you should consider taking probiotics.

Does the timing of ingestion matter?

Some probiotics manufacturers recommend taking the drug on an empty stomach, others recommend taking it during a meal. Although it is difficult to measure in the body how viable bacteria are, there are studies suggesting that the Saccharomyces-boulardii bacteria survive, regardless of whether they are taken with meals or not. On the other hand, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria survive better if taken half an hour before eating. But it is probably more important to always take them at the same time than with or without food. According to one study, positive changes in the intestinal flora were observed after one month of taking probiotics, regardless of whether they were taken with meals or not.

The composition of the meal plays a role

The microorganisms in probiotics are tested to ensure that they survive under various conditions, both in the stomach and in the intestine. But it matters whether you take probiotics with certain foods. According to one study, the chances of survival of microorganisms in probiotics were better if they were taken with oatmeal or skimmed milk than just with water or apple juice. According to this study, a little fat would improve the survival of the bacteria in the gut. Lactobacilli survive better with sugar or carbohydrates, as they are dependent on glucose in acidic environments.

Different forms

Probiotics can be taken in various dosage forms, such as capsules, lozenges, powder or liquid. They are also found in various foods such as yoghurt, fermented milk, chocolate and sauerkraut. Most probiotic bacteria must be resistant to digestive juices and enzymes before they can settle in the small intestine. Probiotics in capsules, tablets or yogurt often survive the stomach acid better than powder, drinks or other probiotic foods, regardless of the time of ingestion. Lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and enterococci are more resistant to stomach acid than other bacterial species. Most lactobacilli strains originate in the human digestive tract and are already resistant to stomach acid by themselves.

Pay attention to quality

Research shows that 100 to 1 billion probiotic microorganisms need to reach the gut alive to bring health benefits. Since probiotic bacteria can die in retail during storage, it is important to buy a good product that guarantees at least one billion living organisms; this is often shown on the label as Colony Forming Units. To ensure quality, you should consume the probiotics before the expiry date. Some types can be stored at room temperature, others belong in the refrigerator.

Choose the right probiotics for yourself

For certain diseases, it may be advisable to take a certain strain of bacteria or ask a doctor for advice. According to experts, most people benefit from lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. In particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii can reduce the risk of diarrhea due to antibiotic intake, while the E.Coli strain Nissle 1917 can help with the chronic intestinal inflammation ulcerative colitis. In addition, probiotics with lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and Saccharomyces boulardii seem to alleviate constipation, irritable bowel discomfort and various types of diarrhea in some people.

Side Effects and Interactions

Probiotics usually do not cause serious side effects in healthy people. However, they can cause mild discomfort, such as bloating and feeling full. This usually improves after a while or if you take the probiotics in the evening. If you are taking probiotics to prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea, you may be wondering if the antibiotics also kill the probiotic bacteria. However, the strains specially bred against antibiotic-related relapses are not attacked. Keep in mind that you can take antibiotics and probiotics at the same time without any worries. If you are taking any other medications or supplements, it is advisable to discuss possible interactions with a doctor. This is because probiotics can increase the effectiveness of these agents.

Betsy Wilson

A true science nerd and pediatric nursing specialist, Betsy is passionate about all things pregnancy and baby-related. She contributes her expertise to the Scientific Origin.