By now, you are probably familiar about the importance of taking care of your gut health. The benefits of using probiotics to support gut health is well known. You may even be one of the many individuals who have started to add probiotic rich foods into your diet, or have started to take a probiotic supplement. Taking a probiotic supplement will add healthy gut microbiota into your stomach and help your overall health.
However, did you know that there is an optimal time to take probiotics? Taking a probiotic supplement is a little more complicated than just remembering to pop a pill every day. The timing of when you take probiotics can actually determine how effective it is. As an athlete, ensuring that you are at your peak health is important for your athletic performance and reaching your goals. Knowing the best time to take your probiotic supplement will provide the best results for your gut, your health, and your athletic performance.
THE PURPOSE OF PROBIOTICS
Probiotics are the good bacteria that help to improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. Studies have also found that probiotics improve immune function, and protect against harmful bacteria to prevent infection. Our bodies house a lot of different types of bacteria, some good, and some bad. In fact, the lower intestine is home to close to a trillion of the most complex and diverse community of microbiota. Due to the complexity of the gut flora in the stomach, it is easy for an imbalance of bad bacteria to outnumber the good bacteria. These are just some of the many reasons why so many individuals take a probiotic supplement.
Probiotics are living organisms, and like any living thing it needs food, water, and a good environment to live and thrive in. So what type of environment is too harsh for a probiotic to live in and what environment helps probiotics thrive?
THE BEST ENVIRONMENT FOR PROBIOTICS
Harsh, acidic environments are not conducive for probiotics to thrive in. In fact, they are harmful to the probiotics and may even kill the good bacteria. This is why taking a probiotic supplement in a fasted state, such as first thing in the morning is not a good time to take a probiotic supplement. In a fasted state, the stomach is at one of its most acidic times (some studies have shown a pH of 2) because there is very little food, and water in the stomach.
As previously mentioned, probiotics also need food for it to thrive. So what do probiotics eat? Prebiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics work synergistically together. Therefore for optimal effectiveness, a probiotic supplement should be taken with prebiotics. Some probiotic supplements contain prebiotics with them, however it is easy to find prebiotic rich foods.
According to Harvard Health, prebiotics are just as important as probiotics when it comes to supporting your gut health. In general, foods that are high in prebiotic fibers include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as oats, wheat, and barley. However the highest amounts of prebiotic fibers are found in the raw versions of garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, bananas, and seaweed.
Therefore, it is best to take your probiotics with food preferably with prebiotics. This helps to raise the pH of your stomach to a 4 (verses a pH of 2), and provides the probiotics with ample amount of food and nutrients for it to thrive and grow.
WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT?
A study published by Beneficial Microbes found that the best time to take a probiotic supplement is either with a meal, or within 30 minutes of eating something. The study showed that when the probiotic supplement was taken during this time frame, the microbiota survived in much higher numbers. Additionally, the study also found that more probiotic strains survived when eaten with foods containing healthy fats. Though the study was performed with 1% milk, the authors suggest that any meal containing healthy fats will help improve survival rates for probiotics. Foods containing healthy fats include avocados, salmon, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Some individuals may experience unwelcomed side effects from taking probiotic supplements, which is increased gas. If you feel like you are experiencing this side effect, taking your supplement at dinner may be helpful as the unwanted symptoms will most likely occur while you are sleeping. Though increased flatulence is not fun, the best thing to do is to stick with your probiotic regimen. Over time, the probiotic supplement will help to rebalance the good gut microbiota in your stomach and the gassiness should subside.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Start taking a probiotic supplement - If you are not taking a probiotic supplement or eating foods rich in probiotics, it may be a good time to start. Our probiotic supplement Gut Health, is a diverse mixture of probiotics that will help support your gut health.
- Take it at the right time- If you are taking a probiotic supplement the best time to take it is during a meal or within 30 minutes of a meal. This provides the probiotics with nutrients and food to thrive off of.
- Create a good environment for the probiotics- Probiotics are delicate organisms that need the right environment to live in. A highly acidic environment such as your stomach in a fasted state, or eating highly acidic foods will damage, harm, or even kill the good probiotic strains.