There’s a seemingly endless list of supplements you can take to keep your body functioning well, and probiotics continue to be one of the buzziest ones around. For people who are not a fan of probiotic foods, more and more brands are starting to incorporate these microorganisms in everything from protein bars to bottled water. In case you forgot why people are so crazy about probiotics, they’re good bacteria that can help break down food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. But to get all of these benefits, many people wonder whether there is a best time to take probiotics.
Although more research is needed to support the benefits of probiotics for already healthy individuals, they have been shown to help with a handful of conditions like acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea.
Figuring out which strain is best for you is important, though, so ask your doc to recommend one that works for your needs (not all of them are created equal, after all). Once you nail that down, you can think about when exactly to take it to maximize its effectiveness. Here’s what experts have to say…
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Meet the experts: Patricia Raymond, MD, is a gastroenterology and internal medicine physician and clinical advisor for Gastro Girl.
Seifeldin Hakim, MD, is a gastroenterologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.
When should I take probiotics?
The ideal time to take probiotics is right before bed because “the gut is pretty inactive at night. If you think about it, you don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night to poop,” says Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterology and internal medicine physician and clinical advisor for Gastro Girl. If you ingest a probiotic at night when your bowel isn’t moving, there’s a better chance that it will hang around, divide, and potentially get integrated into your gut.
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It may also come down to the specific product you use. If you read the labels, you’ll notice that some are recommended to be taken with meals, while others on an empty stomach. “There is no solid data about timing, but I would advise following the directions of use for each product,” says Seifeldin Hakim, MD, a gastroenterologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.
How often should I take probiotics?
The tricky thing about probiotics is that they don’t stay in your gut for very long. You poop them out, so in order for them to be effective, you need to take them daily until you feel better, says Tamara Freuman, RD, author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer. “Any benefits from a probiotic only happen as it passes through your body,” she says. Because of that, taking your probiotics at a certain time can actually make them more effective.
How do I know if the probiotics are working?
When the predominant symptom (say, constipation or stomach pain) you have improves and resolves after taking the probiotics, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re getting your money’s worth.
“If you are taking it for an inflammatory bowel condition to maintain remission, you may notice not having the symptoms for a while. If you are taking it to prevent the recurrence of a certain infection, you may notice that your infection did not recur as frequently. If you are taking it for IBS, you may notice an improvement in your IBS symptoms,” says Dr. Hakim.
Should I take my probiotics with other medications?
Even if you toss back vitamins or other medication in the morning (including any antibiotics that may have prompted you to start probiotics), you should still take your probiotics at nighttime. With more time in your gut, the good bacteria can get to work healing your digestive issues. And that’s exactly what you want if you’re investing in a supplement.
If you decide to combine your supplement with a probiotic, it should not be a problem since it should not interfere with the digestion of other nutrients, says. Dr. Hakim.
Are there specific types of food you should avoid when taking probiotics? “There is no solid data for food interaction with probiotics, but it has been reported that carbonated drinks, dairy products, processed foods, and red meat may have some effect,” he says. So keep those at a minimum if you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your probiotics!
The bottom line: The best time to take a probiotic is generally at nighttime before bed. But speak with your doctor before taking any sort of supplement to make sure it makes sense for you and your body/condition.
Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a digital marketing background and her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health and wellness, Ashley covers topics that can help people live happier and healthier lives.