BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Why It’s Crucial to Take Probiotics at the Same Time Every Day for Optimal Gut Health

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  • Some experts believe taking your probiotic before breakfast, rather than before bed, could be more beneficial for your gut health.
  • Stomach acid production is likely at its lowest in the morning, and probiotics can make it into your small and large intestines before breakfast.
  • Ultimately, you can choose any time of day to take a probiotic — as long as you stay consistent.

    Probiotics can be a revolutionary addition to any dietary routine; these supplements containing healthy bacteria are known for a multitude of benefits, including promoting regular digestion in a balanced gut. Whether you’re suffering through routine constipation or diarrhea, or simply looking to ensure your immunity is up, probiotic supplements (along probiotic-rich kitchen staples like yogurt and kombucha!) are basically essential at this point. Unless you have a complex medical history (think: autoimmune diseases, allergies to common allergens or those undergoing chemotherapy), you should be able to start a new probiotic supplement at any time, explains Michael Asike, MD, a practicing gastroenterologist within Maryland-based GBMC Healthcare.

    According to Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian within the Good Housekeeping Institute, the best supplements are often derived from Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces probiotic strains. You’ll want to look for a product that contains at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU), if not more.

    Choosing the brand and kind of probiotic you’ll take isn’t the only decision you’ll make in adding probiotics into your routine. Like all other pills and supplements, probiotics come with directions for proper use, like a dosage suggestion and other safety guidelines. But most don’t answer a very essential question: When exactly should you take a probiotic? Should you take it on its own, or at mealtime? And if so, which meal is best? Dr. Asike is answering a few FAQs about the best time to start taking a new probiotic.

    Should I take a probiotic every day?

    The short answer: Yes, you should aim to take a probiotic every single day if possible. “It’s best to take probiotics at least once daily with water or milk,” Dr. Asike says. There are many different forms of probiotics you can purchase in the wellness aisle — from powders to capsules, tablets to liquid suspensions, but a regular dose on an even basis should be a goal regardless of which strain (or form!) of probiotic you take.

    If you’re wondering what may be the best option for a daily probiotic, Dr. Asike recommends looking for multi-species or multi-strain products before single-strain supplements, as they may provide more benefits overall. Saccharomyces boulardii, as well as Lactobaccilus rhamnosus, are popular options that may provide more relief to those experiencing irritable bowel syndrome, he adds. “There isn’t one over-the-counter brand that’s better than another when it comes to strains… I advise looking for multi-species or multi-strain [probiotics], and to grab a store brand if that’s what’s available.”

    When should I take a probiotic?

    Because supplements like probiotics aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, each probiotic supplement may come with different directions on dosing and timing. The most important advice is to choose a time you’ll actually stick to, especially if you have trouble remembering to take pills in the first place. “Consistency is the key with taking probiotics if one wants to reap the potential benefits,” Dr. Asike says.

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    While the time of day is ultimately up to you, this expert suggests that probiotics may be most effective if you plan to take them about 30 minutes before a mealand most effective if you take your supplement before breakfast. Probiotics will have a greater effect in your small intestine (or large intestine) if you take them before you eat: “During a fast or prior to eating, the stomach won’t be as acidic and this will allow the probiotic capsule or tablet to be able to make its way into the intestine,” he explains.

    Adding a probiotic into your routine first thing in the A.M., then, will likely keep your stomach from sabotaging your efforts. “Breakfast is usually eaten around the same time daily, and tends to be smaller and more easily digested,” Dr. Asike says.

    Taking a probiotic with dinner or a larger lunch may end up being counterintuitive. Acid within the stomach that’s breaking down your meal may also “excessively degrade the probiotic in the stomach before it has a chance to take effect in its intended location,” Dr. Asike adds. Heavier meals, especially dinner, take longer to digest than other meals, as acid works to process food into the small intestine, naturally upping total acid interaction.

    Should I eat before taking a probiotic?

    Taking a probiotic after or during your meal may negate some of the benefits of the supplement due to busy digestion efforts in your gut. But Dr. Asike explains that some bacterial strains (Saccharomyces boulardii primarily) are naturally more resistant to stomach acid, and can be taken with meals safely — in some cases, multiple times a day. You’ll likely see printed language on your chosen probiotic packaging that indicates it’s safe to take with meals.

    Should I take probiotics with other medication?

    Generally, it’s safe to take your probiotic with other supplements in the morning or at another hour of your choosing. Antibiotics, however, should be taken alone, and a doctor may instruct you to discontinue other supplements due to temporary illness. Dr. Asike maintains that probiotics are generally safe for most individuals, and the likeliest side effect may be some temporary bloating or extra gas, which usually sorts itself out over time.

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