The interest in probiotics has exploded in recent years. Their potential benefit is wide reaching with numerous reported benefits. Many of which are reliant on taking probiotics properly. Read on to find out about the benefits and the best way to take probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live micro-organisms that when taken for a number of weeks can improve the bacterial profile of your gut. Probiotics have been associated with a number of health benefits including improved immunity, maintenance of the intestinal barrier and a range of potential sporting performance benefits. 1
Who should take them?
The positive effects of probiotics are extensive are the benefits are not exclusive to a certain group of people. Anyone who is looking to maintain their immunity and keep their gut healthy would potentially benefit for appropriate probiotic supplementation. Probiotic supplementation can may also help active individuals and potentially enhance sporting performance. 1
For endurance athletes, or those performing a large amount of cardio, probiotics may be particularly beneficial due to their effect on reducing gastrointestinal distress. GI distress is commonly reported during endurance sports and four weeks of probiotic supplementation has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms during a marathon. 2
If you are looking or improve body composition, there is also preliminary evidence to show that probiotics may increase fat loss in overweight and obese individuals. 1
If you have recently had a course of antibiotics, your doctor may recommend probiotic supplementation to help restore the bacterial profile of your gut. They may also prevent diarrhea when taking antibiotics.
The best time to take probiotics
Should you take probiotics before or after eating?
There is evidence to suggest that the best time to take probiotics with a meal, or 30 minutes before as the healthy bacteria has a stronger survival rate when taken this way 3 .
However, there is also evidence to show that the timing doesn’t matter too much and that it is more important that you take them for consistently for a number of weeks. 4
It’s worth noting that the field of research into probiotics is expanding and new evidence is emerging all the time.
Does the time of day make a difference?
The time of the day doesn’t seem matter too much. However, with evidence to suggest they may be best taken with food, supplementing around meal times may be most beneficial.
In order to maintain consistency and ensure you taking your supplement regularly, it may be best to take your probiotic at the same time each day. For example, with breakfast every morning or at night before bed.
How often should you take probiotics?
As a general guide, most probiotic supplements should be taken daily – either once or twice a day. However, the exact recommended dose will depend upon the specific probiotic being taken including the strain and product.
Always check the labelling advice and consult your doctor or pharmacist with any concerns.
Can you take them alongside medication and supplements?
The evidence on probiotics is still fairly limited and when it comes to supplementing alongside medication there is still much to be learned. Those most at risk of harmful effects of probiotics include those with severe illness or those with a compromised immune system.
As with most supplements, if you have any pre-existing medical condition it is best to consult your doctor before supplementing.
Are there any side effects to taking probiotics?
The most currently reported side effects of probiotics include gas, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. For most people, probiotics are safe to consume.
How to maximize the effects of probiotic
1. Ensure your storage your probiotics properly
Probiotics are sensitive substances, ensuring they are stored in a safe environment, avoiding high temperatures, moisture and oxygen can reduce damage to the probiotic. Using in capsule form can also be beneficial and aid storage issues.
Always ensure they are consumed within the recommended time frame. 5
2. Take alongside a diet consisting of lots of fruit, vegetables and dietary fiber
Some suggest taking with a meal and including fruit and veg in your diet (natural sources of prebiotics) can improve the effectiveness of the probiotic. 6
Ensuring your diet is also rich in natural probiotics such as yoghurt will also help to maintain the health of your gut alongside supplementation.
3. Take your probiotic consistently
Make sure you supplement regularly and give it plenty of time. For endurance athletes supplementing to reduce GI distress, evidence has shown that 4 weeks of supplementation has reduce GI symptoms.
It is also advised to starting supplementing at least 14 days prior to an event to allow the environment of your gut to change and reduce the likelihood of any detrimental symptoms on the day of the event. 1
Take Home Message
Probiotics are becoming an increasingly popular supplement. The potential benefits include improved gut health, immune system. reduced risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
Alongside this there are also a range of potential performance enhancing effects. Research is expanding all the time with much still to learn on maximizing their effect.
If considering taking a probiotic for a specific medical reason always consult your doctor.