How and When to Take Probiotics for Maximum Benefits
So you're taking a probiotic supplement––congratulations! By adding just one tiny pearl to your daily routine, you're giving your gut microbiome a huge support system that can translate into benefits that literally run from head to toe. But have you given any thought to how and when you're taking it?
Even veteran probiotic enthusiasts sometimes don't consider the other factors that go into helping probiotics do their work. Timing, diet, and even what your probiotic formula is made of all play a role, and there's a lot of conflicting information out there, leaving a lot of people unsure about the best time to take probiotics and just how to take a probiotic supplement for maximum benefits.
Right off the bat, you may be wondering, “When should I take probiotics?” Do you take them morning, noon, or night? Do you eat before or after? What about when you're taking other medications? Does it even matter?
The short answer is that while the most important thing is to take probiotics, period, how you take them can go a long way in determining how effective they are.
How to Take Your Probiotics
One thing is clear: when it comes to getting the most out of your probiotics, you need as many live bacteria as possible to make it past the harsh acids of your stomach to reach your gut intact. What's more, you’ll need to give the good guys enough food so they can survive and maintain their balance over the undesirable strains. Indeed, the more prebiotic fiber your beneficial bacteria get, the more they'll thrive, and the more they'll be able to edge out the other strains you don't want.1
Cover all your microbe-supporting bases by following these three tips:
1. Take your probiotics in the morning, before breakfast.
Remember, you want your probiotics to move through the upper part of your digestive system down into your gut pretty quickly, and that can't happen if you've got a big breakfast backing things up. So try to take your probiotics first thing in the morning, about 15 to 30 minutes before you eat breakfast. This not only gives them enough of a head start to travel through the digestive system before they get busy setting up shop, it also makes it really easy to turn taking your probiotics into a habit, so you'll do it regularly.
2. Drink lots of water.
This is good advice in general, given the many benefits of hydration, but it's also a key element of making the most of your probiotic supplement. Try to drink a big glass of filtered water either just before or as you're taking your probiotic, so you can dilute your stomach acids and give your good guys that much more of a fighting chance to make it to your intestines alive.
3. Follow up with a healthy breakfast and prebiotics.
No one's at their best when they're undernourished, bacteria included. Try to eat a healthy breakfast that's going to favor beneficial strains of bacteria, instead of feeding the unwanted ones. Your bacterial good guys love fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats and fibers, while unwanted gut bugs thrive on sugar and processed foods.2
Consider also supplementing with a premium prebiotic powder: beneficial bacteria really take off with prebiotic fiber, found in green bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, acacia, and jicama, among other things. Desirable bacteria can ferment prebiotic fiber into other substances that are important for health, like short-chain fatty acids that protect your gut barrier.
The Secret to Supercharging Your Probiotic Use
All pretty straightforward so far, right? But there's one more very important thing to know about making sure your probiotic supplement can do its important work: you’ll need to take a premium probiotic that's made to survive your stomach acids if you want to maintain a healthy microbiome.
You see, most probiotics come in veggie or enteric coated capsules, like other types of supplements. However, probiotics aren't like other supplements—they're living organisms, and they can only do their job if they reach the gut alive. The problem is that the outside of typical probiotic capsules breaks down in the stomach, leaving the delicate bacteria inside at the mercy of your stomach acids.
Unfortunately, studies show that only about 4% of the bacteria contained in a typical probiotic supplement are still alive when they reach the small and large intestines. To make matters worse, since the organisms are released into your stomach all at once, you could potentially experience an array of unwanted digestive symptoms.3
But premium probiotics––including Hyperbiotics formulas––are made with a different type of technology called BIO-Tract®, which protects the beneficial bacteria as they make their way through your digestive system. Unlike veggie capsules, powders, and enteric coatings, our probiotic pearls actually form a gel shield around the outside as they enter the stomach, protecting the flora inside until they make it to the gut.
The beneficial bacteria are then released slowly over 8 to 10 hours, so as to continuously support your system without overwhelming it, and to enable the probiotics to reach various crevices throughout your digestive tract. This controlled-release protection gives your bacterial friends the best chance at survival—in fact, a whopping 60% have been shown to make it deep within the gut alive (as opposed to the 4% we discussed earlier). And remember, you can supercharge their benefits when you take them in the morning, with water, and followed by a healthy breakfast (or lunch, if you are a fan of intermittent fasting!).
Taking Probiotics With Antibiotics
All of the above advice works under normal, relatively gut-healthy circumstances, but what about when you have to take antibiotics? Exposure to antibiotics in food or medication can be absolutely devastating to your bacterial populations, as they kill both the beneficial and unwanted bacteria (and encourage the development of superbugs), making it incredibly important to keep taking probiotics while you're on antibiotics.4
To make sure they're actually working for you instead of just getting wiped out as soon as you take them, look for a probiotic with multiple beneficial strains and incorporate as many other probiotic-containing foods as you can, with fermented foods being particularly good sources. Keep supplementing with prebiotic powder too, so those good guys have the nutrition they need to repopulate your gut, and make sure to wait at least two hours after taking an antibiotic before taking a probiotic to give your system enough time to assimilate the antibiotics before the probiotics try to recolonize. Most importantly, once your course of antibiotics is complete, amp up your probiotic and prebiotic intake for a good long while. Studies show it can take up to a year for the gut of a healthy adult to bounce back after a single round of antibiotics (yikes!).5
Taking probiotics is such an important step towards supporting good health, it's only natural to want to make sure that you're going to be able to fully enjoy the benefits. If you're new to taking probiotics––or simply want to up your game with BIO-Tract® technology and a carefully mixed prebiotic fiber—our Digestive Starter Pack is the perfect choice. With PRO-15, which contains the perfect blend of strains to replenish your gut, and Prebiotic Powder to feed your friendly flora, this bundle is a great way to nurture your gut so it can keep supporting you day in and day out.
1. Parnell, J. A., & Reimer, R. A. (2011). Prebiotic fibres dose-dependently increase satiety hormones and alter Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes in lean and obese JCR:LA-cp rats. British Journal of Nutrition,107(04), 601-613. doi:10.1017/s0007114511003163
2. Suez, J., Korem, T., Zeevi, D., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Thaiss, C. A., Maza, O., . . . Elinav, E. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 514(7521), 181-186.
3. Burgain, C.Gaiani, C., Linder, M., Scher, J. (2011). Encapsulation of probiotic living cells: From laboratory scale to industrial applications. Journal of Food Engineering, 104(4), 467-483. doi: 10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2010.12.031
4. Ouwehand, A. C., Forssten, S., Hibberd, A. A., Lyra, A., & Stahl, B. (2016). Probiotic approach to prevent antibiotic resistance. Annals of Medicine, 48(4), 246-255.
5. Zaura, E., Brandt, B. W., Mattos, M. J., Buijs, M. J., Caspers, M. P., Rashid, M., . . . Crielaard, W. (2015). Same Exposure but Two Radically Different Responses to Antibiotics: Resilience of the Salivary Microbiome versus Long-Term Microbial Shifts in Feces. MBio, 6(6). doi:10.1128/mbio.01693-15
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.