Last Updated on August 19, 2021

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.


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.


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.


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.


      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: Nastya Dulhiier via


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        Lisa Richards

        Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of

        6 Health Benefits of Turmeric (And How to Take It for Good) How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits 3 Steps to Get Rid of a Candida Overgrowth When to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits? Best 7 Supplements to Boost Immune System

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        Published on September 17, 2021

        How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

        How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

        Probiotics are a popular topic among health enthusiasts and medical professionals, alike, and rightfully so! As individuals seek to improve their health by becoming advocates for themselves, probiotics are often a good choice to become part of their new health-focused regimen.

        However, there are some ways that will allow you to maximize the health benefits that you can get from probiotics. Read on to learn more about how to take probiotics for the best health benefits.

        What Are Probiotics?


        are living bacteria that provide countless health benefits when ingested. These bacteria are naturally occurring in the gut but can—and should—be replenished through external means. The gut contains beneficial bacteria that make up the microbiota and plays a key role in maintaining health in both the body and mind. A healthy gut keeps the digestive process working smoothly, which prevents free radical and toxin build up in the body known to lead to many acute and chronic illnesses[1]

        It is also thought that probiotics secrete substances that trigger the immune system to react more strongly, thereby preventing pathogens from being able to take root and cause illness.[2]


        Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

        Taking too many probiotics is not a common issue. For those who have taken too many probiotics (and each person will need to find their own tolerance level), they will likely experience gut disruptions and gastrointestinal side effects.

        Probiotics are generally safe regardless of the amount taken, and any side effects are generally mild. It is impossible to take a toxic level of probiotics. The most common side effects of taking more probiotics than you can tolerate are gas, bloating, and diarrhea. These side effects can be treated individually and are generally corrected after 24 to 48 hours and stopping the probiotics until they are resolved.

        It can be tempting to discontinue probiotic use altogether after a negative experience out of fear of another bad reaction, but simply reducing your dose and taking your probiotic as directed should prevent further issues. It is important for those with a weakened immune system or serious illness to discuss probiotic use with their healthcare provider before starting a probiotic regimen.

        Can You Take Prebiotics and Probiotics Together?

        As probiotics grow in use, prebiotics is beginning to get attention as well. Prebiotics come in supplement form but can also be fiber-rich foods that feed good gut bacteria. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut while prebiotics maintains the gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria we have in the gut. Because of this relationship between prebiotics and probiotics, it is perfectly acceptable to take them together. However, if your diet already contains healthy, fiber-rich foods then you will likely not require prebiotic supplements.

        Prebiotics contain fibers and natural sugars that encourage the growth of essential gut bacteria. They are easy to digest and keep the gut in balance. Prebiotic foods contain fiber and can include bananas, garlic, and dark leafy greens. Probiotic foods contain live cultures and include miso, some yogurts, kimchi, and sauerkraut.[3]


        You can learn more in my other article: Prebiotic vs Probiotic: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

        Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

        When carrying a child, a mother wants to create the safest environment possible. This is a time where the mother-to-be will begin integrating new and recommended health practices like exercise, supplements, and new diet habits. One question that is asked by pregnant women is whether or not probiotics are safe to take while pregnant. The benefits of probiotics are well documented, and many pregnant women want to know if probiotics will benefit them as well.

        Pregnancy may be a good time to integrate a probiotic into your regimen simply due to the increased potential for an imbalance in gut bacteria that pregnancy naturally produces. Stress, medications, diarrhea, and vomiting as well as certain diet choices can cause bad bacteria to overrun the gut and lead to a dampened immune response, inflammation, fatigue, and more.

        The simple answer is yes, probiotics are generally safe to take while pregnant. However, it is always recommended to discuss any introduction or discontinuation of supplements with your healthcare provider.

        Many studies have shown that not only are probiotics safe to take while pregnant but also that they can add great benefits for mother and baby. A 2019 study by Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology found that the pregnant women’s gut microbiota improved through probiotic supplementation and that her immune system was enhanced.[4]


        During pregnancy, the pregnant mom’s immune system will go into a dampened state as the body works to protect and grow the fetus. This places her at greater risk for common illnesses she may have been able to fight off naturally before. Therefore, integrating a probiotic into her supplement regimen may help keep her and her baby safe from unwanted and avoidable illness.

        One important factor to consider when taking a probiotic during pregnancy is the quality of the product you are purchasing. Not all probiotics are created equal. To maximize benefits while also avoiding unnecessary ingredients, it is crucial to choose a high quality and reputable probiotic.

        When Is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?

        As with many supplements and medications, there are certain times and factors that can change their efficacy, for good or bad. Research shows that the best time to take a probiotic is 30 minutes before a meal.[5] Consistency is key when it comes to taking a probiotic and experiencing as many of the potential health benefits as possible. This means that it is necessary to take it daily to ensure routine and regular replenishment of the gut’s bacteria.

        The stomach is a highly acidic environment, which can make it difficult for many supplements to pass through in their most bioavailable form. The same is true for probiotics. Look for a high-quality probiotic that uses time-release tablets to deliver its bacteria safely to the gut.

        The composition of your meal can also help or hinder your probiotic’s efficacy. A large meal will move more slowly through the stomach and trigger more stomach acid production. If your probiotic is taken along or prior to this type of meal, the probiotic will move more slowly and be exposed to a hostile environment for longer.


        The Bottom Line

        When taking a probiotic, the most important thing to consider is product quality. Carefully read packaging and websites to ensure you are getting a product that is safe, pure, and effective. Look for a probiotic that will release its bacteria slowly and deliver them safely past your stomach acid.

        Probiotics have been shown to support the immune system, prevent gastrointestinal issues, combat side effects from chronic conditions, and give extra support during pregnancy. These are just a few from a long list of scientifically backed benefits. Regardless of your motivation, just about every individual can benefit from adding a probiotic to their supplement and health regimen.

        Lastly, here’s my recommendations on probiotics: 7 Best Probiotic Supplements (Recommendation and Reviews)

        Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via


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