Why take a Probiotic?

I think my savvy audience is well aware of the benefits of probiotics, but for those of you who are new to the scene, probiotics may help a variety of health conditions:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea
  • Gut recovery from antibiotic use or infection
  • Skin issues like acne, psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis
  • Urinary and vaginal health
  • Insomnia

But, pray-tell, how do you know when to take them?  Excellent question! Let’s find out….

When to take a probiotic

For the most part, probiotics are generally best taken within 15-30 minutes of a meal, but not after.  The reason for this is that these little microscopic bacteria are not particularly tolerant of stomach acid.  Passing through the stomach with its sea of hydrochloric acid may wipe out a pretty big portion of the “billions” purported to be contained in your little ‘ole bottle of probiotics.  So if you are using certain strains like:

Lactobacillus species

Bifidobacter species

Saccharomyces boulardii species

then taking them just before a meal is a great idea.

Here’s the theory:  If you take them 15 minutes before you start eating, not only does the meal come in to dilute the stomach acid, but the probiotic capsule doesn’t get trapped in with the rest of the food for the whole digestion process.  It theoretically will get pushed along out to the intestine FIRST.

So I’m not necessarily a big stickler for this, but some experts think that taking probiotics first thing in the morning may expose the bacteria to the most amount of stomach acid but as long as you have a meal, I think you are good to go.

A study from the journal Beneficial Microbes found that probiotics taken within 30 minutes of eating survived in higher numbers than those taken 30 minutes after a meal.  The study noted that probiotics taken with food containing healthy fats had the greatest survival rates, so consider including fat in your meal when you take your probiotics.

Now, depending on why you are using the probiotic, timing may not always be best with a meal.

Antibiotic recovery

If you are looking to restore the devastation an antibiotic has on your beneficial bacteria, and hopefully prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, then using Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardi would be your best bet.  You have to take these guys at least 6 HOURS after taking the antibiotic.  So in this case I often recommend taking them before bedtime with a bit of food, away from your last antibiotic dose.

Digestion problems

Probably the biggest reason most people turn to probiotics is to see if it will help improve problems with digestion.  All three major types of probiotics can help and are best taken daily with meals.  As I’ve said before, rotate your probiotics every 3 months or so.   You wouldn’t just eat one vegetable over and over again for years would you? Well if you are a 12 year old or my husband you might, but if you want to really spruce up the beneficial microbiome of yours, change it up!

Problems with sleep

The short answer here is that when your gut is happy, you make more melatonin.  When you make more melatonin, you lower night time cortisol levels and you can fall asleep more easily.  To help along those lines, taking a broad spectrum,  multi-strain probiotic with food 30 minutes before bedtime can help you snooze.

Build up your immune system

Remember the Rocky movies with Sylvester Stallone?  And the old guy Burgess Meredith his senile coach?  If you have the right bacteria in your corner (Burgess Meredith), you (Sylvester Stallone) can take on any opponent (mean viruses, parasites, and bacteria).    When we boost are healthy bacteria, we are able to fight off more bad guys and support our immune system lined up along the intestinal wall.   Here, Bifidobacter species and Lactobacillus plantarum are super helpful.  Take regularly with food, twice daily.  

Spore forming bacteria

These are the newer kids on the block — soil based, spore forming bacteria that can resist stomach acid, so these guys can likely be taken pretty much whenever.  MegasporeBiotic is the best known brand for this.

Take home points:

  • Most probiotics should be taken within 30 minutes of a meal, not after
  • Including fat in your meal will likely increase the amount of good bacteria that survive into your intestine
  • Taking them first thing in the morning, midday or at night generally will not make a huge difference, unless you are using them for sleep benefit.  In that case, take them at night.
  • In some cases, you need to space your probiotic away from antibiotics to prevent annihilation of the the little critters. Consider 6 hours the minimum time away from the antibiotic dose.
  • Rotate your probiotics every few months.

Quote of the Day (Zen Proverb)

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you are too busy.  Then you should sit for an hour.

Time and time again, patients tell me that they feel crappy, depressed, have no libido or ability to focus, can’t lose weight or can’t sleep or are having anxiety attacks just to give a few examples.   But when we sit down to talk about how their lifestyle is impacting their health and their symptoms I am told that they are “too busy” to change how they live and structure their day.

What are we talking about?

Most of my patients say they are too busy to eat healthy meals, to avoid eating out so often,  to sleep a full 8 hours a day, to exercise or walk outside in nature or to meditate.

The quote refers to meditation but it refers to ALL of our lifestyle habits that serve us well.  If you can’t find 20 minutes to sit still then you may need to take a good strong look at what you DO make time for every day and what you prioritize in your life.

  • Are you taking on too much?
  • Do you say “no” enough?
  • Are you delegating tasks to others so that you have time for yourself?
  • Are you wasting an embarrassing amount of time (like more than 14 seconds a day) on Facebook or Instagram?  FYI – the time you spend reading my posts on facebook are perfectly acceptable and a valuable use of time. 

The point of meditation is to get your brain to recover and heal from the day to day grind of our fight or flight lifestyle.  We run around always being ready to attack or be attacked.   Meditation gives us the space to become creative.  To acknowledge deeper truths within.  To not be distracted and to find our center.

The research is so overwhelming regarding the benefits of meditation for health and disease prevention that NOT meditating is the new smoking.  Or maybe it’s the new sitting.  OR it’s the new smoking WHILE you are sitting!

If you are too busy to make time for things that bring you health then find out what you ARE making time for.

  • Binge watching shows on Netflix
  • Googling random celebrity sightings
  • Tooling around on your phone texting, emailing, gaming and shopping online?

Let me get to the point

When you are making your schedule up for the week and crafting your endless to-do lists, START with what you NEED to reset and recharge.  Schedule your free time first with healthy meals, exercise, nature walks, yoga or your 20 minutes of meditation.  That’s the appointment you need to keep MOST.  The rest follows.  You’ll be better off for it.