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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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        Published on January 14, 2021

        How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

        How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

        Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and help you to stick to healthy choices. But where do you start? What makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

        Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

        The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

        For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

        • A range of fruits and vegetables
        • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc)
        • Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
        • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
        • Two portions of oily fish such as salmon per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
        • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
        • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
        • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
        • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

        Calorie Counting

        A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate.

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        The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels. Instead, you will see most of the kernels untouched, in the toilet!

        Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream.

        Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

        How to Balance Your Plate

        When thinking of your healthy meal plan, for each meal your plate should contain approximately:

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        • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
        • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
        • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
        • A spoon of unsaturated oil

        This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes.

        An Example Day

        Breakfast

        • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa and milk or fortified plant based milk
        • A piece of fruit

        Snack

        • A handful of mixed nuts

        Lunch

        • Grilled tofu with a mixed salad and bulgar wheat
        • A piece of fruit

        Snack

        • Apple slices with nut butter

        Dinner

        • Chicken / tofu / salmon with miso brown rice and spring greens
        • OR vegetable curry, daal, and brown rice
        • OR stuffed aubergine with mixed vegetables and millet or quinoa
        • A piece of fruit

        How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

        There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

        When You’re Pregnant

        During your pregnancy, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

        You should also avoid the following food groups:

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        • Raw or undercooked eggs
        • Unpasteurized cheese
        • Raw or undercooked meat
        • Pâté
        • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
        • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
        • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
        • Vitamin A supplements
        • Liquorice root
        • Alcohol

        When You’re Breastfeeding

        While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

        When Going Through Menopause

        Menopause

        changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The framework above already sets out a diet to support long term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

        • 1200mg calcium per day
        • High-quality protein at every meal
        • Foods rich in vitamin K
        • Foods rich in phosphorus
        • Foods rich in magnesium

        Organizing Your Shopping

        Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need to an online shopping list, in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

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        Try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

        Final Thoughts

        Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle. Try to use the general feedback above and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

        More on Healthy Eating

        Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

        Reference

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