The best time to take a probiotic supplement is a very complex question with multiple answers and depends individually on the person’s daily life and digestive health.
For most people, it is best to take the supplement when your stomach pH is elevated, and your MMC (migrating motor complex, your digestive system’s motility cycle) is in its later stages. I believe it is best to consume a probiotic either right before bed with a small four-ounce glass of filtered water OR when one first wakes up in the morning to best fit this criterion. You can also ingest probiotics hours after a meal for better chances of survival. If you choose to take a probiotic after a meal or if you decide to take it when you first wake up in the morning you must wait a few hours before consuming food to allow more of the microogranisms to survive.
There are some supplements that you could consume with food which may not reduce its effectiveness. For example, most strains of Lactobacillus would survive the low pH of the stomach and increased stomach acid production during a meal. Most Lactobacillus strains in our digestive system thrive in our stomach and duodenum where they thrive in harsh conditions. One strain of Lactobacillus that would not thrive as easily is Lactobacillus plantarum, which colonizes the colon. Also, most spore forming bacteria including the Bacillus and Clostridium genus’s, also survive low stomach pH. If you take a probiotic supplement that is contained in an acid resistant (enteric coated) formulation, you can take your probiotic during a meal if you so choose, but the capsule may still dissolve if you overeat or have slow gastric emptying, which would not be optimal. Many people ask me, why do most manufacturers on their probiotic label state that they recommend you take a supplement with food? Supplementing probiotics without food may cause nausea and stomach upset for some people and taking the supplement with food can help alleviate that. If taking probiotics on an empty stomach make you feel nauseous, take it with food use a probiotic or formulation that is stomach acid resistant.
Some people take different probiotic genus’s or strains that would not survive lower stomach pH (an example of a probiotic that cannot tolerate low pH is Bifdobacteria) rectally using an enema kit. In addition, people with MMC issues including SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) might want to take a probiotic using a retention enema to prevent them from inappropriately colonizing causing more digestive issues. If you choose to use a probiotic enema, I would only use strains that would colonize the small intestine, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus plantarum.
So the choices you have to when it is best to supplement a probiotic are:
- When you first wake up in the morning. If you choose to do this, you need to eat two hours after supplementing.
- Three to four hours after a meal. You need to wait two hours to eat again after ingesting the probiotic.
- Supplement probiotic before bed with a four-ounce glass of filtered water.
- Supplement acid resistant probiotic during a meal (only if supplementing a probiotic on an empty stomach makes you nauseous.)