When Is the Best Time to Take Probiotics? The Effects of Timing on Bioavailability
By Christopher Walker
At UMZU, we have made it no secret that we are huge fanboys of probiotics. Aside from digestive relief, they’re also a valuable weight loss aid. Is there a best time to take probiotics? For many people, they happen to get their probiotics whenever they snack on that Yoplait. Other people may take a probiotic supplement first thing in the morning and leave it at that. Does the timing matter at all?
Probiotics And Stomach Acid
Taking probiotics at your convenience is better than not taking them at all. However, we do recommend consumption at certain hours for maximum effect. The reason this matters has a lot to do with your stomach acid and digestive juices.
The majority of probiotics reside in the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract. The probiotics you consume have to survive the lengthy journey to make it to this part of the gut intact. They have to bypass the intestines and overcome the corrosive environment. Keep in mind that stomach acid’s role goes beyond food breakdown. The acid also has the all-important job of killing foodborne bacteria. Unfortunately, the stomach does not distinguish between good and bad bacteria and kills all microbiota indiscriminately. As such, most of the probiotics reach the gut dead on arrival.
A Lesson On Stomach pH
We know we’re digressing a bit with all this stomach acid talk. We will discuss the best time of day to take probiotics in a minute. However, it’s important that you understand the reasoning behind our advocating for a certain timing.
The stomach’s pH fluctuates throughout the day. If you remember the lessons in your junior high chemistry class, you might be familiar with the pH scale. A pH of seven is neutral; everything above is alkaline and everything below is acidic.
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Stomach pH is usually at its lowest during the morning before your first meal. The high acidity can be fatal for the probiotics. With this in mind, swallowing a probiotic tablet first thing out of bed might not be the best idea.
Stomach pH tends to rise and becomes less acidic after a meal. How much it rises or if it rises at all depends on various factors, such as the type and quantity of food. For the most part, though, expect a pH rise. While this makes for a less acidic environment, the presence of food may also slow the probiotic’s journey to the lower GI tracts.
This kind of creates a slippery slope where there is no ideal timing for taking a probiotic.
When Should You Take Probiotics?
Fortunately, while limited, there is at least one study that assesses the survival rate of probiotics under certain conditions. One such study found that a probiotic tablet exhibited the highest survivability when taken 30-minutes before a meal. The survival rate lowered drastically when the tablet was taken 30-minutes after a meal.
The type of foods was also taken into consideration. Survival was higher when consumed with a meal of oatmeal and milk, compared to taking the tablet with apple juice. Researchers concluded that probiotics are best taken half an hour before eating. The subsequent meal should preferably contain moderate amounts of fat.
We Need To See More Research
When is the best time to take a probiotic? Based on the study, we can just tell you to take your probiotics before a meal and eat some fats in the process. This is certainly a viable option, but we don’t believe it has to be the only option. There are too many variables that have yet to be analyzed. The research involved a probiotic capsule. There are various encapsulated technologies that determine the time it takes for the capsule to completely dissolve. Some probiotic supplements don’t even come in capsules and are made in tablet or gummy form.
Also, what about probiotics consumed from whole foods like yogurt or fermented kimchi? The study suggested consuming fats, but does the type of fat matter? Finally, you also have to consider the different probiotic strains. The study shows favorable survivability when consumed with milk and oatmeal. This is to be expected, though, as common strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are naturally found in dairy products. Can the same be said of other strains?
Furthermore, in poorer quality probiotic supplements, most of the probiotics inside the capsule are already dead. This may also be the case if the supplement is near or past its expiration date. In this instance, you get little to no benefits regardless of time of day taken.
Is There A Definitive Best Time For Probiotics?
Ultimately, we believe the best time comes down to your reason for taking them in the first place. For most people, they’re taking them for digestive health. In this case, you certainly can’t go wrong with the aforementioned research-backed suggestion. We do suggest, though, not consuming too large of a meal, as this may prolong the probiotics’ journey to the lower GI tracts.
Studies also show probiotics may aid in sleep. People also enquire about the best time if they’re not sleeping well. If you’re having trouble falling into dreamland, then consider taking the supplement half an hour before bed and in conjunction with a melatonin tablet.
Extra Credit: How Much Does Poop Weigh?
Best Time To Take Probiotics? Our Final Take
While timing is certainly important, we don’t believe you should get too caught up in it. Knowing when to take probiotics doesn’t have to come down to micro-analyzing the precise minute or the exact macro- and micronutrient breakdown of the accompanying foods.
Our advice is to consume probiotic-rich foods and/or take a supplement like Floracil50. The important step is getting more probiotics into your system. The “when” is more of a secondary factor.