Best time to take Probiotics before or after meals?

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Spread the Probiotic love

Probiotics have taken the world of nutritional science by storm. The past few decades have seen a rise in the consumption and study of these wonderful organisms. The results of recent systematic reviews suggest an auspicious role for probiotic use in the prevention of various gastrointestinal disorders, immune diseases, respiratory infections, and even some types of dermatitis. The beneficial role of probiotics in human health is due to one simple fact; the human body needs bacteria to function properly.

The human gastrointestinal system is comprised of various organs responsible for the process of digestion; which is the biological process for the efficient conversion of food to energy. The primary organs that make up the gastrointestinal system are the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and intestines, and they are in charge with the transport of food, secretion of digestive acids, absorption of nutrients, and the excretion of wastes.

Surprisingly, the entire gastrointestinal apparatus is heavily involved in immune function, and perhaps even more surprising is the fact that within the gastrointestinal tract 100 trillion bacteria can be found. Therefore, it can be said that to a significant degree, an individual’s overall health will depend on the critical interaction of the host’s gastrointestinal system and the microbiological colonies that inhabit it. Check here for information on which types of Probiotics are right for you (WebMD)

Probiotic products and supplements aim to restore the equilibrium of beneficial bacteria and reduce as much as possible the presence of harmful pathogens. Probiotics are especially helpful in reducing symptoms and discomfort associated with gastroenteritis, diarrheic disease, vaginal infections, mastitis, and after the end of antibiotic therapies. But when is the best time to take probiotic products? As is the case with all manner of nutritional supplements, the exact time of day at which the product will be consumed is highly influential in its efficacy and the promptness of any results.


The primary digestive fluid found in the stomach is gastric acid. Gastric acid is composed of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride. This highly acidic fluid is responsible for the denaturing of food proteins; the process whereby proteins unfold and the peptide bonds become exposed to digestive enzymes which break down the amino acid bonds. Additionally, gastric acid is an efficient killer and growth inhibitor of various microorganisms, as a means of infection prevention. The journey through the digestive tract will cause gastric juices to destroy a large part of the beneficial bacteria that make up the probiotic supplement.

meal with probiotics

There are three main phases of action that regulate gastric acid secretion. These are the Cephalic phase, the Gastric phase, and the Intestinal phase. During the cephalic phase, the brain activates the initial steps in the gastric acid secretion process at the mere sight or smell of food. Parasympathetic preganglionic neurons are fired to initiate a chemical cascade that revs up production of gastric acid in preparation for ingestion. Once food enters the digestive tract, the gastric phase begins.

The mechanoreceptors that sense distension of the stomach walls, as well as the peptides and amino acids that are found in food, stimulate the parietal cells of the stomach walls into releasing gastric acid. In short, food ingestion substantially increases stomach acid secretion; therefore the consumption of probiotic supplements after a meal is most definitely not the most conducive to effective results. The consensus then is that probiotics are most effective when taken before meals.

Various studies promote the belief that for maximum probiotic effect to be achieved, the live microorganisms must stick to the intestinal mucosa. However, the majority of exogenous probiotic organisms, or those that are ingested through external sources, do not readily adhere to mucosal cells and instead pass directly into fecal waste with little time to adhere or multiply. Because of this fact, the best method to achieve a continued beneficial effect from ingested probiotic supplements is to consume them continuously.


By providing the probiotic supplement with an enteric protection system that prevents it from being overly exposed to an acid medium, such as the stomach, we ensure a more efficient absorption and proliferation of the beneficial microorganisms. Once the probiotic element reaches the alkaline environment of the intestinal tract, which has a pH level of around 6 or 7, the probiotic bacteria attain a much higher rate of survival.

However, not all enteric methods are viable for the protection of beneficial bacteria. Some procedures require temperatures or degrees of humidity that are not apt for some of the bacteria and end up destroying them. The inclusion of oils and mucilaginous fibers in the probiotic mix can provide further protection against the strong acids of the stomach and facilitate the journey through the gastrointestinal tract.

Enteric Coating of Granules containing Probiotics

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Enteric capsules should be taken on an empty stomach to ensure the fastest possible travel time to the intestines. It is recommended that prebiotic agents be taken in conjunction with the Probiotics to enhance the enteric protection further. Consequently, a good option would be to take the enteric product one hour before meals.

It is hypothesized that up to 70% of the body’s immune responses are dependent to a significant degree on the state and overall health of the gastrointestinal system. Any alteration or imbalance of the beneficial flora of the digestive tract can lead to the development of various disorders and diseases. The most common conditions related to this occurrence are swelling, gas, diarrhea, constipation, dermatitis, eczema, asthma, rhinitis, food allergies, micronutrient deficiencies, high serum lipid levels, urinary tract infections, recurring colds and respiratory disorders.

These conditions can develop due to a lack, or a severe reduction of, the beneficial microbiota or to the excessive growth and overabundance of pathogenic bacteria. Either way, probiotics offer an effective and rapid strategy to restore balance to the microorganisms in your gut. Because of the potential benefits, it is important that probiotic consumption is done in the most efficient manner possible to ensure the fastest and most remarkable results.


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  • Giannella, R. A., S. A. Broitman, and N. Zamcheck. “Gastric acid barrier to ingested microorganisms in man: studies in vivo and in vitro.” Gut 13.4 (1972): 251-256.

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