Every person’s digestive system is slightly different, so the best time to take probiotics differs for everyone, too. Some people wake up and immediately need food to jumpstart their metabolism, so for them, morning may work for supplements. Others wake up and try to intermittent fast until lunch, so swallowing down probiotics may not feel good on that empty stomach.
But if we’re talking strictly in terms of gut health, is there a ‘best’ time to take probiotics? If you’re advanced enough in your wellness journey to see the benefit of daily probiotics, then you’re also advanced enough to want maximum efficacy and bioavailability.
Let’s take a look at the mechanism of the gut and how probiotics can affect health during different parts of the day.
What exactly are probiotics?
“Probiotics are bacteria that live in your body and provide a variety of health benefits,” says Sarah Greenfield, RD, education director at HUM Nutrition. “They play a role in mood, digestive health, and they [help] make certain vitamins such as synthesizing vitamin B12.” Gastroenterologist and internist Niket Sonpal, MD, adds that probiotics are “beneficial bacteria that help your gut digest food, break down nutrients, and level out harmful bacteria.”
So what’s the best time of day to maximize these little magic pills?
“Research shows that the best time to take probiotics is just before a meal or as you begin your meal,” says Lisa Richards, CNC, nutritionist, and creator of The Candida diet. “This is the time when your stomach environment is at its least acidic because your body has not yet begun to produce stomach acid in large quantities to digest your food.
“Taking your probiotics at this time will make their passage to your gut a little easier and ensure you get the most from those beneficial bacteria.”
The best time to take probiotics depends on the type
However, another variable to consider is the type of probiotic you will take.
“If your probiotic is enteric-coated or uses delayed-release capsules, it is more likely to survive stomach acid and so the exact timing is less important,” she says. If you’re taking a live strain probiotic supplement (which 247Health strongly recommends if available), “ideally you want to take them 20 minutes after you eat, first thing in the morning or right before bedtime,” Greenfield says.
“This allows more of the probiotics to get into the large intestines where they will have the most benefits. If you are taking a soil-based probiotic, you can take them with food for the most impact,” she adds.
Timing matters so much because your stomach is full of very strong acid which is responsible for the bulk of your digestion. But the body is all about balance, and too much of this acid can also kill this helpful bacteria before it can get into your system. Therefore, there’s no point in even taking the probiotic if it immediately dies upon arrival in the stomach.
“Probiotics have to survive your gut acids in order to establish themselves in the GI tract,” says Dr. Sonpal. “If the capsule or encasement doesn’t offer proper protection from stomach acids, it may not be effective.”
Most importantly, monitor how you feel while taking any supplement. No supplement — no matter its effectiveness or timing — is worth taking if it makes you feel lousy. Listen to your body, and be willing to tinker and fine-tune the complex system. Wellness isn’t a college degree that you earn once and never think about again; it takes daily practice to perfect.