Probiotics can provide so many amazing digestive benefits for anyone who makes it a regular part of their dietary routine. If you routinely face issues like constipation or diarrhea, probiotic-rich foods and targeted supplements are keen to help, alongside perks like improved immunity. Plus, if you don’t have a complex medical history (autoimmune diseases, undergoing cancer treatment or severe allergies) then you can usually start taking probiotics at any time, says Michael Asike, M.D., a practicing gastroenterologist within Maryland-based GBMC Healthcare.
According to Lab pros in the Good Housekeeping Institute, choosing the right probiotic strain and strength in a handy daily supplement is a conversation best had with your doctor, as they’ll help determine more dietary tools for balanced gut health. This is especially true as supplements like probiotics aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they hit shelves.
Choosing the probiotic you’ll take isn’t the only decision to make — creating a scheduled routine for taking probiotics may help you reap more benefits than taking it randomly.
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Probiotics come with directions for dosing and safety. But most don’t answer an essential question: When exactly should you take a probiotic? We polled leading experts to determine whether it’s best to take with a meal, on an empty stomach or in the evening before bed. Read on to find out which time is best to take a probiotic for the most gut health benefits.
When should I take a probiotic?
Each probiotic supplement often lists 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.
While the time of day is ultimately up to you, probiotics may be most effective if you plan to take them about 30 minutes before a meal — and most effective if you take your supplement before breakfast. Probiotics will have a greater effect within 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.
Should I take a probiotic in the morning or in the evening?
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 over time.
Should I eat before taking a probiotic?
Taking a probiotic during or after 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 a probiotic every day?
The short answer: Yes, if your doctor determines that you should take a probiotic, plan on taking it consistently every single day. “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 probiotics you take. Missing doses as directed can mean you’re missing out on potential benefits in the long run.
Rather than take multiple single-strain supplements, Dr. Asike recommends looking for multi-species or multi-strain products, as they may provide more benefits overall. Saccharomyces boulardii, as well as Lactobaccilus rhamnosus, are popular options that may provide more relief to those with 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.”
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; 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.
The bottom line: Many experts believe taking probiotics supplements first thing in the morning prior to breakfast (rather than before bed!) could provide more benefits 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, the time of day when you choose to take your probiotic can be at your discretion — as long as you take your supplement at the same time each day, consistently.
Zee Krstic is a health editor for Good Housekeeping, where he covers health and nutrition news, decodes diet and fitness trends and reviews the best products in the wellness aisle. Prior to joining GH in 2019, Zee fostered a nutrition background as an editor at Cooking Light and is continually developing his grasp of holistic health through collaboration with leading academic experts and clinical care providers. He has written about food and dining for Time, among other publications.
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Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.