You need probiotics. They do so much more than support digestion. They’re essential for life.
These life-giving, symbiotic bacteria that thrive in our digestive tract:
- Support digestion
- Produce essential nutrients, like B12
- Aid nutrient absorption into the bloodstream
- Ease gas and bloating[i]
- Play a role in thinking, with research showing an effect on the reasoning portion of the brain[ii]
- Protect memory[iii]
- Promote positive moods[iv]
- Stimulate and support your immune system[v]
- Help keep bones strong[vi]
- Encourage weight loss and healthy body weight[vii]
They pretty much play a role in every aspect of your life.
So, you know you need them. But how much do you need? What do you need? And when should you take them. In this article, we’ll answer all those questions.
You can get probiotics in two ways. You can eat fermented foods rich in probiotic bacteria like yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, miso, kimchi, and others. Alternatively, you can take a probiotic supplement.
Eating a diet rich in probiotic foods would be ideal. The occasional yogurt doesn’t count though. You’d need a lot more. That can be tough to do with the modern diet.
This is why so many people turn to probiotic supplements. They help you get what you aren’t getting from your diet.
The key lies in getting the most from your supplement. The following questions will help you do just that.
When should probiotics be taken?
Research says you should take your probiotic supplement 30 minutes before a meal, on an empty stomach.[viii] You take it with a full glass of water. The water reduces acidity in the stomach, helping the probiotics to survive the digestive processes in the stomach.
We recommend taking one capsule on an empty stomach 30 minutes to one hour before a meal. Or, you can take it two hours after a meal, if that works better for your schedule.
If you have a reason to need more, such as recovering from a stomach bug or taking antibiotics (more on that in a moment), then you can also take a capsule or two before bed at night.
Should probiotics be taken daily?
The best answer is – it depends.
The probiotic bacteria that thrive in your gut and support your health replenish themselves, but they also don’t last. Dietary shifts, stress, a lack of prebiotic fiber, illness, age, and other factors can reduce their number or kill them off.
As a general rule, you should make sure to get probiotics every day, especially if you’re older or suffer from digestive distress. Taking probiotics every day replenishes essential bacteria in your gut to support digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall digestive health.
Taking antibiotics is another good reason to take probiotics daily. Antibiotics may kill the bad germs making you ill, but they also kill the good ones too! Oral contraceptives also kill-off probiotic bacteria. By taking a probiotic, you replace some of those lost.
If your antibiotics cause you to experience diarrhea, research shows probiotics can help relieve the problem.[ix]
When to take probiotics with antibiotics
When taking antibiotics, you want to take your probiotics several hours after your antibiotic dosage. As many antibiotics are taken with meals, this would mean you should take it a couple of hours after you eat. This way, you replenish the ‘good guys’ you lost when your medication passed through your system.
No standard treatment has been established for taking probiotics to support the digestive tract while taking antibiotics. According to researchers, you want to continue probiotic treatment as long as you’re taking your antibiotic medication.[x]
It’s important to note that research also shows taking a probiotic can slow recovery of your gut’s natural probiotic bacteria. It works like this…
Just as you are unique, the environment of your gut is unique. You have your own unique balance of probiotic bacteria. Some probiotic supplements may support the restoration of bacteria that thrive in your digestive tract. Others, however, may not have the right strains or volume that you need.[xi]
Ultimately, you have to find the right probiotic for you. If you take one and your symptoms (gas, bloating, etc…) don’t improve, it may be time to find one that supports your specific need. Taking one with a variety of strains may ensure you get what you need and enjoy results faster.
Once you find the right one, you’ll know you can rely on it to help keep you healthy and recover from an antibiotic.
How long do you need to take probiotics?
A good probiotic supplement can be taken daily to support a healthy digestive tract.
If you have a specific reason for taking probiotics, like if you’re on antibiotics, then you would want to take it until you complete the treatment.
Maybe you take a probiotic to reduce gas and bloating. In that case, it may make sense to take it daily to keep your digestive tract supplied with health-promoting bacteria.
The FDA and health authorities have not specified timing or use for probiotics. Ultimately, it’s up to you to listen to your body. Take it daily for maintenance. If you can add probiotic foods into your diet, then you can supplement less. If your diet doesn’t change and lacks probiotic foods, keep taking it daily.
Should you take a break from probiotics?
Some people take theirs daily, with a short break every month. It’s up to you. Factors like diet, stress, exercise, and smoking, can influence your digestive health. If bloating, indigestion, and gas are a constant problem, you may want to make sure to get probiotics every day. If you have a healthy diet, exercise a lot, and have a generally healthy lifestyle, you may find you can skip a few days and not miss them or take a lower dose. Your body will tell you (through digestive discomfort) whether you miss them or not.
Either way, taking a break from your probiotics is never a problem. Unless you change your diet to include probiotic-rich foods and those foods that supply prebiotic fibers – the “food” for your probiotic bacteria, you don’t want to make it a permanent break.
Who should take probiotics?
Everyone should get probiotics as part of their diet. You can get them through your food or via a supplement, but you do need them.
Although probiotic bacteria do reproduce by the trillions in your gut, you lose many every day. Over time, their numbers will fall. It’s why probiotic and prebiotic foods play such an important role in every diet.
Prebiotics are those nutrients that feed the probiotics in your digestive tract. Three characteristics define a prebiotic:
- They can survive stomach acids
- They ferment in your digestive tract
- Probiotic bacteria consume them
In 2013, researchers reported that prehistorically the average hunter-gatherer ate about 135 grams of prebiotic fiber every day.[xii] Consider that today the American Heart Association recommends 25-30 grams of total fiber daily for good health.[xiii]
Quite simply, the modern diet does not supply anywhere near the probiotics or prebiotics needed to sustain a healthy digestive tract.
People who want a healthy digestive tract aren’t the only ones who should take probiotics. In its 2017 report, The World Gastroenterology Organization identified 20 clinical applications for probiotics. For example, people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, lactose malabsorption, and other digestive issues benefit from taking probiotics.[xiv]
Best time to take probiotics
The best time to take probiotics is before you know you need them. By that point, you are already suffering from problems associated with a probiotic imbalance. The problem might be gas and bloating. Constipation is another common problem. You might often feel “brain fog.” Chronic illness can be another sign that your probiotic levels are low.
Here are several questions you can ask yourself to determine the best time to start:
- Do I frequently experience stomach upset after eating?
- Do you suffer from constipation?
- Does my thinking feel slow and sluggish?
- Am I often sick?
- How often do I feel depressed?
- Have I struggled with unwanted weight gain?
- Is my memory not what it once was?
- Do I have a diet rich in probiotic foods?
Any of these questions can get you started to find the best time for you to start. You may find that you feel fine, but your diet may be lacking. Or maybe your diet includes a good number of probiotic foods, but you still feel sad, sluggish, or slow. Regardless of what you find, you’ll quickly determine whether now is the best time to start taking probiotic supplements or not.
Does a probiotic sound right for you?
If you think you need a probiotic, then you should take a look around to find the one best for you. Probiotics come at all price levels, crafted with a wide variety of different probiotic strains.
Most will contain some variation of Bifidum and Lactobacillus. You might see others.
The more diverse the variety of probiotics, the better. A wider variety increases the likelihood that the supplement will meet your unique needs. For example, Flora Infused contains 13 essential strains in addition to prebiotic fiber and enhanced enzymes.
Have questions about probiotics? Call us or email us and speak with one of our representatives.
[i] Waitzberg DL, et al. THE EFFECT OF PROBIOTIC FERMENTED MILK THAT INCLUDES BIFIDOBACTERIUM LACTIS CNCM I-2494 ON THE REDUCTION OF GASTROINTESTINAL DISCOMFORT AND SYMPTOMS IN ADULTS: A NARRATIVE REVIEW. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Aug 1;32(2):501-9. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.2.9232.
[ii] Tillisch K1, et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013 Jun;144(7):1394-401, 1401.e1-4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. Epub 2013 Mar 6.
[iv] Steenbergen L1, et al. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain Behav Immun. 2015 Aug;48:258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 Apr 7.
[v] Maneerat S, Lehtinen MJ, Childs CE, et al. Consumption of Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 by healthy elderly adults enhances phagocytic activity of monocytes and granulocytes. Journal of Nutritional Science. 2013;2:e44. doi:10.1017/jns.2013.31.
[vi] Parvaneh K, Ebrahimi M, Sabran MR, et al. Probiotics (Bifidobacterium longum) Increase Bone Mass Density and Upregulate Sparc and Bmp-2 Genes in Rats with Bone Loss Resulting from Ovariectomy. BioMed Research International. 2015;2015:897639. doi:10.1155/2015/897639.
[vii] Kobyliak N, Conte C, Cammarota G, et al. Probiotics in prevention and treatment of obesity: a critical view. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2016;13:14. doi:10.1186/s12986-016-0067-0.
[viii] Tompkins TA1, Mainville I, Arcand Y. The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract. Benef Microbes. 2011 Dec 1;2(4):295-303. doi: 10.3920/BM2011.0022.
[ix] Rodgers B, Kirley K, Mounsey A. PURLs: prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics. J Fam Pract. 2013;62(3):148–150.
[xi] Suez J, et al. Post-Antibiotic Gut Mucosal Microbiome Reconstitution Is Impaired by Probiotics and Improved by Autologous FMT. Cell. 2018 Sep 6;174(6):1406-1423.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.08.047.
[xii] Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435. doi:10.3390/nu5041417.