By now, you’ve probably heard of probiotic supplements. Their fame is that the capsules filled with live bacteria can do wonders for your gut by decreasing bloating, encouraging regular bowel movements and balancing your gastrointestinal microbiome, says Stephanie Nelson, MS. , RD, Nutrition Scientist MyFitnessPal. But once you have your bottle, the question that crosses your mind is: when is the best time to take probiotics?
The best time to take probiotics
Since they focus on digestion, it’s natural to consider mealtimes when taking probiotics. But not all brands are created equal, says Mastaneh Sharafi Ph.D., RD and Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Ritual. “It’s always best to follow the directions on the product label,” she explains. “Some brands recommend taking their probiotic on an empty stomach, while others suggest taking it with food.”
Hilary Keiser, translational science nutritionist at Viome, adds that the best time to take them is just when you remember. “Most clinical studies of probiotics don’t control for time of day and still show good benefits,” she says.
Do you take probiotics with food or on an empty stomach?
It depends. A study published in Beneficial microbes found that Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of microorganism found in probiotics, survive in equal numbers with or without meals. However, he also found that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium survive better when taken up to 30 minutes before a meal. In addition, a month-long study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2017 found that probiotics bring positive changes to the gut microbiome whether or not they are taken with food.
The experts we spoke to recommend taking them with food, unless otherwise specified in the package instructions. “Research has shown that probiotic supplements are most effective when taken 20 to 30 minutes before a meal,” Nelson says. “Taking them before breakfast may be the preferred option because your digestive system has been at rest for a long time and the probiotic has less resistance to reach the intestines.”
She recommends speaking with a doctor for advice on choosing the right strain and the right time of day to take it, and also looking for foods high in probiotics and fiber to get similar benefits. “Research has shown that a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes will improve the probiotic makeup of your gut,” she adds.
Should you take probiotics before bed?
“Any time of day works when taking a probiotic supplement as long as you stay consistent with when it’s right for your body,” Nelson says.
When should you not take probiotics?
While it doesn’t have to do with a certain amount of time, Keizer says it’s best not to take probiotics if you’re also taking antibiotics, which can kill probiotics and reduce their effectiveness. “If you take antibiotics, be sure to take probiotics a few hours before or after your antibiotics,” she adds. “Otherwise, probiotics should be taken at any time of the day.”
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure any disease. Be careful when taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, be careful when giving supplements to a child unless their healthcare professional recommends it.
Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer who reports on all things health and nutrition for men’s health, women’s health, and prevention. Her hobbies include sipping perpetual coffee and pretending to be a choppy contestant while baking.