Ask Dr. Tomah: Should I Take Probiotics With Or Without Food?
Probiotics are extremely popular as a health supplement, and have been shown to be beneficial for a wide variety of conditions. Not only are they helpful for digestive issues, such as preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and reducing severity of irritable bowel syndrome, they have also been shown to improve depression and anxiety and reduce risk of upper respiratory infections.
The question that is commonly asked when someone is taking probiotics for the first time is, "should I take them with food or on an empty stomach?"
A quick google search shows conflicting recommendations, so which approach is correct?
Did our ancestors get their probiotics from little capules that were stored in the fridge? Of course not! They would have fermented foods as a means to extend the "shelf-life" - and what happens when you ferment foods? You get bacteria!
So considering this evolutionary perspective, it would make sense to consume our probiotics with meals.
What Does The Research Say?
Although there is minimal research on when is the best time to take probiotics, there is one study that looks at this exact question.
In the study they used a model that simulates the digestive tract to test the survival of different probiotic strains given with or without food.
The results found that survival was best when probiotics were given 30 minutes before a meal.
Based on the limited research and evolutionary perspective, it seems best to take probiotics about 30 minutes before a meal.
However, even more important than timing is compliance (i.e. actually taking the probiotic). So if you forget or are unable to take it before a meal, take it after, or on an empty stomach - it's still better than not taking it at all!
Ask Dr. Tomah!
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*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treatment any illness, nor take the place of your medical doctor*
Dr. Tomah Phillips, ND