When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?

Learn 11 do’s and don’ts of taking probiotics

Probiotics. Everyone seems to be taking them as a fundamental way to support overall health, but numerous questions arise when integrating probiotics into your wellness routine, including which probiotic strains to take and the best time to take them. 

Ideally, you follow the dosage instructions for your probiotic supplement. Depending on the probiotic strain, the instructions may tell you to take them with food or between meals. The ability of various probiotic strains to survive the pH of our stomach acid varies from species to species and within strains. For example, Lactobacillus spp. are able to survive acidic gastric conditions while Bifidobacterium spp. cannot tolerate these conditions.1,2

But life is busy. Sometimes you simply forget. Other times, you don’t have your probiotics with you. 

Ultimately, consistency is key to fully benefit from probiotics. Try to take them at the same time every day. And if you miss a dose, don’t sweat it. Just try to get back on schedule, following dosage instructions on the label. Many individuals benefit from taking probiotics before bedtime, especially when introducing new probiotic supplements into their wellness routine. This can reduce potential discomfort from gas or bloating and may enhance optimal colonization of these beneficial microorganisms. 

Based on recent research, many of us know that some probiotic strains do more for your gut and overall health when taken 30 minutes before a meal. However, another study found that taking probiotics before or after breakfast resulted in the same positive changes on the gut microbiome.3,4

And we admit this is a bit of a fuzzy answer. But when it comes down to it, ultimately the goal is to take probiotics daily – the benefits for your gut and whole-body health are overwhelmingly positive. 

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms or bacteria that may help restore the healthy bacteria in your digestive system and, for women, the vaginal microbiome. Yes – bacteria that have an active and positive role in supporting your digestive, immune, and brain health.

Probiotics are available as supplements and in foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, some types of yogurt, and kombucha. 

A lot of people get prebiotics and probiotics confused. 

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that we cannot digest that acts as “food” for beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods such as fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to keep your gut microbiome healthy. 

What You Need to Know About Your Gut Microbiome*

To really understand why probiotics matter – you need to know these facts about your gut microbiome: 4,5,6,7,8,9 *

  • The gut microbiome is the network of bacteria, microbes, fungi, and viruses living in your digestive tract. There are up to 1,000 bacteria species in your gut microbiome. 
  • Your gut microbiome (and vaginal microbiome for women) plays a key role in maintaining your immune, digestive, and brain health. 
  • Your gut microbiome is 100% unique. No two gut microbiomes are the same. 
  • The gut microbiome has an important but often overlooked role in nutrient absorption, digestion, and metabolizing some vitamins and enzymes. 
  • Your gut microbiome trains your immune system, helping it distinguish between healthy and harmful bacteria, pathogens, and microbes.
  • Research suggests that there is a relationship between your gut microbiome health and brain health, with some research highlighting a connection between your microbiome and mental health and wellness. 
  • The foods and supplements you consume determine the composition of your gut microbiome. Consuming a diverse range of foods and quality probiotic supplements may help encourage a healthy microbiome. 
  • Your gut microbiome needs probiotics to function. Probiotics help keep your microbiome in balance and are essential to your gut microbiome’s ability to maintain and activate your immune, brain, and digestive health. 

The Power and Benefit of Probiotics* 

Research suggests the power and benefits of probiotics may be far-reaching, helping you out from head to toe: 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

1. Balancing your friendly gut bacteria.

Your digestive system is sensitive and becomes easily imbalanced with just a slight change in its composition. A low-quality diet, stress, sickness, antibiotics and other medications, pathogens, and bacteria can quickly cause chaos.

This imbalance may lead to poor health status, digestive challenges, challenges with weight loss, mental health conditions, and more.

Probiotics act to restore balance in your gut, helping to slow or prevent the health consequences of an imbalanced microbiome

2. Supporting improvements in some mental health conditions.

As we learn more about the power of the gut microbiome in impacting our whole-body health, researchers are actively learning how probiotics may help support improved mental health status.

A range of studies highlight interesting results including a reduction in negative thoughts associated with sad moods and specific probiotic strains may help improve anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

3. Reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease, with deep-ranging health consequences for the entire digestive tract. This inflammatory bowel disease has no known cause and as a result no known cure.

Research into different strains of probiotics and probiotic supplements including VSL#3, Escherichia coli, B. bifidum, Lactobacillus, and more show positive outcomes for some people with mild to medium levels of ulcerative colitis. 

4. Strengthening and supporting the immune system.

Research suggests that the activity of probiotics may modulate the immune system response and switch on the innate and adaptive immune systems in the intestines. This probiotic-stimulated activity promotes beneficial effects for a range of conditions including diarrhea, IBS symptoms, ulcerative colitis, infant colic, and some cancers. 

Natural Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics occur naturally in a variety of fermented foods and are available in supplement form. 

Now, don’t start scrolling because of the word “fermented”. We’re confident you already eat some of the fermented foods in this list.

Your natural sources of probiotics:4

  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha
  • Cheeses including gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella with live and active cultures
  • Pickles fermented with vinegar
  • Miso
  • Yogurt with live or active cultures
  • Natto
  • Sauerkraut
  • Traditional buttermilk (not the kind you use for baking)

See – these fermented foods are delicious! And the extra bonus is, all of these foods contain other health benefits such as fiber, iron, potassium, calcium, antioxidants, vitamins C, K, and B12, manganese, and copper. 

You can also consume probiotics in supplement format. Look for probiotics that feature a full-spectrum probiotic formula with strains tested and proven to deliver health benefits. And be sure to check the number of colony forming units (CFUs) per capsule. CFUs are the number of live, active microorganisms in each capsule, this number can range from 10 million to 100 billion. 

Your 11 Do’s and Don’ts of Taking Probiotics 

We’ve given you a lot of information about probiotics, bacteria, your gut microbiome, and scientific studies – we get it, it’s a lot. 

Focus on these 11 do’s and don’ts of taking probiotics:*

  1. DO follow the dosage instructions on the label. 
  2. DO take your probiotics at a consistent time.
  3. DO give your probiotics at least one month to start working. It takes time to rebalance your gut microbiome. Probiotics are not a quick fix (hint: there’s no such thing as a quick fix).
  4. DO talk to your healthcare specialist before taking probiotics if you’re using medication or have ongoing health challenges.
  5. DO keep eating your healthy and delicious probiotic-rich foods. Remember probiotics cannot compensate for a low diet quality.
  6. DO choose a probiotic supplement with multiple strains and a high CFU count.
  7. DO make sure you’re using the right probiotic strain. Supplements containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are typically beneficial for most people. Probiotic supplements with Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii may help alleviate diarrhea, IBS, or constipation. 
  8. DON’T expect probiotics to alleviate the effects of smoking, vaping, or excessive alcohol consumption.
  9. DON’T forget to read the label and follow the storage instructions. Some probiotics need to be refrigerated – and some don’t.
  10. DON’T expect probiotics to be a magic cure-all. They are super beneficial, but you need to also focus on the cornerstones of whole-body health. Eat high-quality foods, move your body daily, get plenty of rest, be aware of your stress levels, and make time for socializing with family and friends.
  11. DON’T forget that quality matters always. Do your research and choose a probiotic supplement that is backed by science and research.

Above all else, do not stress about the best time to take your probiotics. Focus on consistency and doing your best to follow the dosage instructions.

And remember, just as your body and brain function best with high-quality foods and a balanced lifestyle – the same holds true for probiotics. Quality and consistency always win when it comes to your whole-body health. 

Here’s to embracing the power of teeny tiny microorganisms for your digestive, immune, and brain health!

Consult your healthcare team before making changes to your nutrition, exercise, or supplements. Discuss all supplements, including the vitamins and minerals you take or plan to take, as these may interact differently with underlying health conditions and medication. Always follow the suggested use instructions and read the warnings on the supplement product label before consumption.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Jenny Perez is an herbal educator, researcher, and writer who has been immersed in the field of nutrition and botanical medicine for more than 20 years. Jenny has created curriculum, content, and educational materials for Quantum Nutrition Labs, Premier Research Labs, the American Botanical Council, and Bastyr University’s Botanical Medicine Department where she was Adjunct Faculty, Herb Garden Manager, and Director of the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program.