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Published on December 18, 2020

When to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits?

When to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits?

Confused about when to take probiotics? You’re not alone. There are hundreds of probiotic brands out there, and it’s increasingly difficult to know which probiotics are best for your needs—let alone when to take them.

Many brands market themselves on the fact they contain high numbers of ‘good’ bacteria, while others tout the inclusion of specific strains. However, this isn’t the full picture. What most people don’t realize is that those billions of bacteria and special strains aren’t any good to you if the bacteria itself can’t colonize your gut!

Probiotic supplements have a tough journey. Once swallowed, the vulnerable bacteria move into the very acidic environment of your stomach. They also face destructive digestive enzymes including pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein.

The remaining probiotic bacteria that do survive will then continue down to the small intestine, which is more alkaline. However, this is where they encounter amylase, lipase, and protease, then bile.

Unsurprisingly, some studies show that survival rates for certain strains of probiotics can be as low as 20%.[1] This is why it’s so important to know when to take probiotics for the best health benefits.

When to Take Probiotics

Research shows that the survivability of probiotics is greatly enhanced when they are taken with food. Taking them just before or during a meal is the best way to help them survive their journey through the gut.[2]

This is all has to do with the pH balance of your stomach. Stomach acidity is measured by pH. The lower the pH, the more acidity. The higher the pH, the more alkalinity.

As mentioned above, an empty stomach is highly acidic. The pH is very low—around 2 to 3. This is too harsh an environment for most bacteria to survive. However, after a meal, the pH of your stomach contents temporarily rises to a more alkaline value of around 7. The reduced acidity means there is less chance of the probiotics being destroyed.

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A study published in the journal Beneficial Microbes showed that taking probiotics with food can make all the difference to their survival. When study participants took their probiotics within 30 minutes of a meal or during a meal, the beneficial bacteria were able to survive in much higher numbers than when taken 30 minutes after a meal.[3]

The small intestine is where nutrients are broken down and absorbed. After leaving the stomach, food and bacteria move through this area fairly quickly, and so there are no huge colonies of flora (bacteria) in the small intestine. The large intestine is where most bacterial colonies reside.

Taking probiotics with meals can help ensure you reap the full benefits of the bacteria. However, this isn’t always convenient!

Time-Release Probiotics Vs Regular Vegetable Capsules

While veggie capsules may be suitable for supplements that aren’t affected by gastric acids, like magnesium, they are not the right delivery system for probiotics. Vegetable capsules are made of hypromellose, a polymer formulated from plant cellulose. This might sound like a healthier or more ethical option, but it’s not particularly good at protecting probiotic bacteria from those stomach acids.

The acidity of your stomach will quickly break down a standard vegetable capsule, which will cause it to release the probiotic contents. Those bacteria will be quickly destroyed before they have a chance to provide any health benefit to your gut. In fact, most regular vegetable capsules will only get a very small percentage of their contents beyond your stomach.

Probiotic powders are even worse—they have no protection at all. Simply put, if your probiotics aren’t delivered in a form that protects them from stomach acid, those living organisms will be ruined before they even reach your intestines—let alone provide any benefits. And that can be a real waste of money!

This would make it seem that the only way to take probiotics is with food. However, our busy lives mean that we don’t always eat regularly, and we don’t always have our probiotics with us when we eat.

Fortunately, there’s another option: time-release probiotics.

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What Are Time-Release Probiotics?

We’ve established that for probiotics to be beneficial, they must first survive the journey through the acidic environment of your gastrointestinal tract. This means they need to reach the large intestine before they can confer their many health benefits.

Time-release probiotics are made with special technology to protects them from stomach acid. BIO-tract technology is the best example of this.

BIO-tract technology allows probiotic bacteria to be freeze-dried and then compressed into tablets. As soon as these tablets come into contact with moisture, they form a protective gel coating that keeps them safe. That allows them to pass through your stomach acid with only a minimal loss of potency.[4]

Once past your stomach acid, these time-release tablets are designed to release their probiotic bacteria over 8 to 10 hours. In practice, that means the majority of their bacteria are delivered safely to the large intestine, just where you need them.

Top 3 Digestive Health Supplements

If you’re looking to boost your digestive health, here are the top 3 supplements to include in your routine:

1. Time-Release Probiotic

BIO-tract probiotics are made with time-release technology that has been shown to increase the survival rate of probiotic bacteria to an amazing 60% (compared to only 4% for capsules). The probiotic bacteria are freeze-dried and compressed into a tablet that gets them safely past your stomach acid.

When you swallow a BIO-tract tablet, it is moistened by gastric fluids. This causes a gel matrix to form around the tablet, creating a barrier that protects the probiotic contents from harsh stomach acid. The tablet can then safely pass through to your intestines where the probiotic bacteria are released at a consistent rate of over 8 to 10 hours.

Look for a BIO-tract probiotic that contains at least 5 probiotic strains and at least 10 billion CFUs of bacteria. A good example is the Balance ONE Probiotic. It uses BIO-tract, has 12 probiotic strains, and contains 15 billion CFUs of bacteria.

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BIO-tract tablets can be taken with or without food, which makes them a much more convenient option for busy people!

    Buy Balance ONE Probiotic here.

    2. Digestive Enzymes

    Your body naturally produces its own digestive enzymes to break down food. However, these are sometimes insufficient. Sometimes your body doesn’t produce enough of these enzymes to digest your food, and sometimes they become diluted with too much liquid in the diet.

    Taking a digestive enzyme supplement like Garden of Life Organic Digest could really help to give your digestive function a boost. This formula contains 29 powdered Certified Organic fruits and vegetables combined with a select blend of powerful digestive enzymes a blend of the enzymes that your body would normally produce, such as lipase (to break down fats) amylase (to break down carbohydrates), and proteases and peptidases (to break down proteins).

    It’s best to take your digestive enzyme supplement during or after a meal.

      Buy Garden of Life Organic Digest+ here.

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      3. L-glutamine

      Glutamine is an amino acid that plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of the gut lining. In fact, it’s the most abundant amino acid in your bloodstream. Your body needs it to repair cells, especially the cells of your gut mucosa.

      Glutamine is like a ‘glue’ that holds the lining of your gut together. It helps to keep your intestinal cells healthy and strong so that they can keep toxins out of your bloodstream.

      Pure Encapsulations l-glutamine is a 100% pure glutamine powder made with hypoallergenic, vegan ingredients. It’s an important fuel for the small intestine, helping to protect your intestinal barrier against bacteria and repair damaged tissues.

        Buy Pure Encapsulations l-glutamine here.

        Final Thoughts

        Are you getting the most from your probiotic? Several factors go into making sure that your probiotic is effective. Paying attention to each one will pay dividends for your gut health, and it will prevent you from wasting your money too.

        Check to see if our probiotic has sufficient CFUs (at least 5 billion) and strains (at least 5) to make a real difference. Take a look at the delivery system too—will it actually get those bacteria past your stomach acid and safely to your gut? Time-release tablets or delayed-release capsules are far better solutions than regular vegetable capsules.

        When you have bought your probiotic, make sure that you take it with food or just before your meal. Research shows that this will maximize the benefits to your gut health. In turn, that can translate into stronger immunity and higher energy levels.

        Probiotics are truly amazing supplements that have myriad benefits for your health. All you need to do is follow these simple rules to ensure that you get the most from your probiotic.

        Featured photo credit: Daily Nouri via unsplash.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Lisa Richards

        Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

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        Last Updated on April 19, 2021

        Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

        Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

        Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

        I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

        This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

        What Is Intermittent Fasting?

        As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

        While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

        The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

        Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

        Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

        The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

        It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

        My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

        You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

        Intermittent Fasting Schedules

        There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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        The 16/8 Method

        This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

        16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

          The 5:2 Method

          This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

          5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

            Alternate-Day Fasting

            As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

            Alternate Day Fasting
              The Warrior Diet

              This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

              Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

              The Warrior Diet

                Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

                1. Drink Plenty of Water

                Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

                2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

                The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

                3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

                One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

                4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

                The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

                To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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                5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

                While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

                Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

                You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

                How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

                Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

                Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

                “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

                Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

                This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

                Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

                Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

                The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

                Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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                Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

                One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

                This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

                Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

                Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

                Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

                Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

                How Much Weight Will I Lose?

                The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

                One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

                Can I Work out While Fasting?

                Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

                If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

                The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

                You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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                Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

                Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

                Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

                First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

                If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

                Is Fasting Safe?

                As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

                I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

                Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

                As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

                For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

                The Bottom Line

                Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

                More About Intermittent Fasting

                Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

                Reference

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