Confused about when and how you should be consuming probiotics to get the best bang for buck? Accredited practicing dietitian, Emma William, investigates.
Probiotics are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. Their health benefits are basically endless - improving digestion, helping to protect against disease and enhancing immune function just to name a few.
As with all health products, the question arises surrounding timing of ingestion. And the easy answer would be…it depends. So I’m going to give you some advice for general probiotic use.
Firstly, it is important to make sure your probiotic has an advanced delivery system to ensure survival.
Now, bacteria are sensitive microorganisms - they’re easily affected by things like temperature, stomach acid and food sources. Bacteria populates all of our gut, however, the vast majority of probiotic bacteria are active and effective in the lower portions of the Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT). To even get to the lower portion of your GIT, the bacteria must first survive the corrosive environment of the stomach.
It is important to note that the stomach was designed not only to begin the digestive process but also to repel and destroy bacteria ingested with food, so it’s important to protect the probiotic bacteria as it passes through the stomach. (As a side note, PERKii is a great product to ensure this occurs.) These tasty probiotic drinks employ a gel coating that is immune to the acidic environment of the stomach, allowing maximum transit of the products good bacteria to get where it needs to be and provide maximum health benefits. (Learn more about their saucy science here.)
When you eat, stomach acid and bile secrete to break down the food. Stomach acid is often too harsh for the delicate bacteria cultures to survive on their own, but adding some food into the mix will allow the little probiotic soldiers to make it to the intestines without as much acid exposure. It is thought that taking probiotics with a light meal may help reduce their exposure to harsh stomach acid and assist their passage into the small and large intestines. However, it is not suggested to take probiotics with heavy meals as they take longer to digest and may delay the movement of the probiotic bacteria into the lower portion of your GIT.
A common misconception is that first thing in the morning is the best time to take probiotics.
As living organisms, probiotics need food, water and warmth to thrive. Unless you've been midnight snacking - your empty stomach might not be the most welcoming environment for those little probiotics first thing in the morning.
As you can see, it’s a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly when is the best time to take probiotics. Unfortunately, there has been very little research comparing the benefits of taking probiotics with or without meals, or at different times of day. I hope to see more research into this area in the near future so we can better answer questions like these.
To curb the confusion, I would suggest having your probiotics AS FOOD. Probiotic foods such as PERKii, yogurt, miso, kimchi and sauerkraut, will ensure you’re getting enough consistently, with food sources normally offering the most potent amounts. In the end though, in the case of probiotics, it’s better to have some than none. Go with a regime that works for you!