Best Time to Take Probiotics – Introduction
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that provide you with multiple health benefits when consumed in the right amount. But is there any time to take it? When can we get the most benefits out of it, morning, evening, before a meal, or after a meal?
This article will provide a comprehensive analysis of probiotics, including their definition, mechanism of action, the significance of timing in consumption, and key considerations such as meal timing, morning versus evening consumption, and consistency in incorporating them into your daily routine.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics, also known as “good bacteria” or “beneficial bacteria” are microorganisms intended to give you health benefits when consumed or applied to the desired area. Probiotics can be obtained from different sources, including food, such as yogurt, buttermilk, kimchi, Kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, etc.; beverages; supplements (capsule or powdered form) depending upon their availability and personal preferences.
Probiotics have become quite popular recently because of their numerous health benefits. Probiotics can enhance digestive health, stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote mental and skin health. They do this by helping to restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which can be thrown off by things like antibiotics, stress, and a bad diet.
Probiotics may contain a variety of bacterial strains, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus thermophilus, and bacillus coagulans, as well as yeasts, such as Saccharomyces boulardii. The effectiveness of these strains depends greatly on the perfect dosage and optimal timings of intake.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics can work in many ways, such as assisting in maintaining a healthy microbe community or restoring a healthy microorganism population when it has been disturbed, producing substances that are good for the body, and modifying the immune system’s response.  But it’s important to remember that not all probiotics are the same, and different strains may affect the body differently.
Probiotics must survive the harsh environment of the digestive tract, including stomach acid and digestive enzymes, to exert their beneficial effects. This survival mechanism is critical because it allows probiotics to enter the gut and interact with the resident bacteria.
So, it’s essential to pick the right probiotic strain based on your goal since each strain may have different health benefits. Similarly, it should also be noted that different probiotic strains might have particular ideal times for consumption to produce the intended effects.
The Importance of Timing
The effectiveness of probiotics is greatly influenced by various factors, with timing being the most critical. Taking probiotics at the right time is as important as planting a seed in a garden at the right time. For example, while planting a seed, it is always essential to do this at the right time so that the seed will grow and develop into a plant properly.
Various environmental conditions are considered while planting it, such as moisture level, soil type, soil temperature, soil fertility, and the amount of sunlight that will help its growth and survival in the long term.
Similarly, the survival and effectiveness of the probiotics are affected by several factors, including the gut environment, the presence of food, the type and form of probiotics, and stomach acidity.
These all have a role in choosing the right time to take it. When taking probiotics, it is important to think about the best time to take them so that the microorganisms are still alive and working when they reach the intestines and can do their job effectively.
If probiotics are taken at the wrong time, it is possible that they will not survive or be as effective as they could be. This is similar to what happens to a seed when it is planted in conditions that are not favorable, such as in soil that lacks nutrients or in an environment with insufficient water or light, it may not be able to grow properly or even germinate at all. In such cases, the seed may remain dormant or die before developing into a plant.
For instance, the viable cells of Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium breve, two common strains of probiotics, may not survive the stomach’s acidic environment for long. In simulated gastric juice, these probiotic cells became undetectable within an hour, indicating that their viability may be compromised when exposed to stomach acid.
This highlights the importance of timing when consuming probiotics, as taking them before or after meals or at specific times of the day may impact their survival and effectiveness in reaching the gut where they exert their beneficial effects.
Just as a seed needs the right conditions to grow into a healthy plant, Choosing the right time to take probiotics can improve their survival and efficacy. By consuming the probiotics at their optimal timings, depending upon the purpose of consumption and the strain type, we can achieve the maximum benefits.
7 Key Factors to Consider Before Taking Probiotics
While deciding the optimal timing for the consumption of probiotics, it is important to consider various factors, such as:
1. Type of probiotic
It is essential to consider the type of probiotic strain when deciding the adequate time to consume it. Different strains of probiotics have different characteristics and functionality, so their optimal consumption time may also vary.
For example, the types of bacteria known as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococci can withstand the harsh environment of stomach acid better than other types of bacteria.  In one study, two strains of Bifidobacterium were subjected to stomach-like acidity for 90 minutes.
Only 0.5 log growth units were inhibited in one strain, while 1 log unit was lost in the other strain. These findings suggest that different Bifidobacterium strains may respond differently to stomach-like acidity. When exposed to this acidic condition, one strain exhibited minimal growth inhibition, while the other strain experienced a significant decrease in growth. This suggests the viability of probiotics may vary depending on the specific strain.
Another important factor is the dose at which we are taking the probiotic. The recommended dose may vary depending on the strain type and the health condition of the person taking it. Each strain of probiotics works differently; hence, too much or too little of its dosage can influence its effectiveness.
For example, according to a study, a four-strain probiotic combination can lower the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) in adult in-patients in a dose-dependent manner, with a higher probiotic dose being more efficient in lowering the incidence of AAD and its symptoms.  Ask a doctor for an effective dose to get the best results, which is always recommended.
3. Form of Probiotic
The form of probiotics we consume can affect its survival and effectiveness. Probiotics are available in different forms, such as liquids, powders, tablets, or capsules. Most probiotic microbes are required to survive digestive acids and enzymes before colonizing your large intestine.
Regardless of when they are consumed, probiotics in the form of capsules, tablets, beads, and yogurt have a greater likelihood of surviving the acidic environment of your stomach than those in the form of powders, liquids, or other foods or beverages. 
4. Preexisting Health Conditions
When determining the appropriate time to take probiotics, it is important to consider any preexisting medical conditions. There are a variety of medical conditions that have the potential to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and benefit from probiotics.
People who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), for instance, may have impaired gut function and absorption, which may affect how well probiotics work.  If you have preexisting health conditions, consult a doctor before taking probiotics.
5. Medications and Supplements
Lastly, it is essential to consider the possibility of an interaction between probiotics and any other medications or supplements you may be taking. There is a possibility that the use of certain medications and supplements will hamper the absorption of probiotics. For example, in a recent study published in Nature, an international team of researchers based mostly in Germany looked at the effects of 144 commonly used antibiotics on gut health.
The study showed that two types of antibiotics, called tetracyclines and macrolides, can cause “collateral damage” to gut microbes. Not only do these antibiotics stop good bacteria from growing, but they also kill about half of the gut microbes that have been tested. 
Also, it is suggested to consult a doctor before taking probiotics with any medications to ensure you are not putting your health at risk or decreasing the effectiveness of either the medication or the probiotic supplement.
6. Before Meal or After Meal
Some doctors or drug manufacturers may recommend you take probiotics before eating on an empty stomach, while others may suggest consuming them along with it. However, it is recommended to take probiotics when the stomach is empty, that is, before eating a meal.
For instance, taking probiotics after a meal may result in a higher pH in the stomach, which can reduce the microorganisms’ ability to survive in the digestive tract. Taking probiotics before a meal, on the other hand, may result in a lower gastric pH, enhancing the bacteria’s ability to survive the digestive process.
According to a study in Beneficial Microbes, Saccharomyces boulardii, a microorganism found in probiotics, can survive both with and without food. Furthermore, it was also discovered that taking Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium up to 30 minutes before a meal gave them the best chance of surviving. 
If the probiotic supplement you’re taking is enteric-coated or comes in delayed-release capsules, it’s more likely to stay alive in your stomach’s harsh environment. In these cases, the protective coating or delayed-release mechanism can help ensure the survival of probiotic bacteria, so the precise timing of taking the probiotic for meals may be less critical. 
However, consuming certain foods along with probiotics may enhance their effects. A study suggests that probiotics taken with food containing healthy fats had the best survival rates, so it is advisable to include some fat in the meal you take your probiotics with.  Additionally, Lactobacillus probiotics depend on glucose to survive in an acidic environment; they may also fare better when consumed with sugar or carbohydrates. 
7. Morning or Night: Which is the Best Time?
No definitive answer is whether probiotics should be taken in the morning or at night. Some experts recommend taking them before breakfast to maximize their effectiveness, while others say they can be taken anytime.
There is limited research on the consumption of probiotics based on the daytime. However, it is recommended that probiotics should be taken in the morning before breakfast because the stomach is typically less acidic in the morning than it is at night. This makes taking probiotics in the morning potentially more effective.
Incorporate Probiotics into Your Daily Routine
Maintaining a consistent schedule for taking your probiotic, whether with or without food, is probably more important. Probiotics are like vitamin supplements. Just as you may take vitamin supplements daily to support health, taking probiotics consistently each day can help you get the best results.
According to a month-long research study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2017, probiotics caused positive changes in the gut’s microbiome regardless of whether or not the participants took the probiotics with food. 
In conclusion, the best time to take probiotics can significantly impact how well they work. When figuring out the best time to take probiotics, you should consider certain factors, such as the type of probiotic, the dosage, the form of the probiotic, any pre-existing health conditions, and the possibility of interactions with other medications or supplements.
Even though research on this topic is ongoing, there is evidence that taking probiotics before meals can have the best survival and functionality in the gut, but consistency is more crucial than timing. However, it is recommended to consult a doctor to determine the optimal time for consuming probiotics.
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