Probiotic Supplements: When to Take Them

06 March, 2020
Probiotic supplements help prevent diseases in healthy people and improve them in patients with certain conditions. In addition, it’s a good idea to take them if you’re being treated with antibiotics. Find out more in this article.

Probiotic supplements are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, have several health benefits. Generally, anyone can take these supplements but certain population groups benefit the most from them.

Keep reading the article to find out more!

Everything you need to know about probiotic supplements

As we mentioned above, probiotics are bacteria that provide health benefits. You can find them in various foods, such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sour milk (typical of Mexican cuisine)
  • Sauerkraut, kimchi (of Korean origin)
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha tea
  • Tempeh
  • Food supplements

Although you can find them in some foods due to how they’re made, these bacteria can’t always reach the colon by surviving the long journey of the intestines, as some studies state. In fact, we’d have to ingest probiotic foods very frequently and in a fairly large amount for them to be beneficial. Therefore, probiotic supplements that are properly encapsulated can survive in the digestive system and provide extra benefits.

You have to read: Probiotic Foods for a Healthier Gut Flora

When to take probiotic supplements

Probiotic supplements.
Probiotic supplements may help prevent diseases. Also, it’s good to take them after treatment with antibiotics.

Currently, experts recognize that probiotics not only serve to improve the functional status and symptoms of an individual who has a disease but may also help people stay healthy or prevent diseases.

However, some groups of people benefit doubly. For example, people who have just been treated with antibiotics can really benefit from probiotics. Antibiotics kill both bad and good pathogens (microbiota, vaginal flora, and other mucous membranes, etc.), and probiotics help to replace the good ones. Therefore, after taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to take probiotics for at least one month.

Furthermore, the biggest evidence of the efficacy of probiotics has been described for the treatment of acute infectious diarrhea, particularly in children. However, other groups can also benefit, such as those with intestinal dysbiosis. This usually happens in people who suffer from:

  • Obesity
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bacterial overgrowth syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Celiac disease.

Probiotic supplements also benefit the elderly. This is because, when we age, there’s a reduction of microbial diversity, reducing the presence of beneficial microorganisms. Also, experts are studying their use in other diseases such as asthma, atopic dermatitis, neurological disorders, depression, anxiety, cancer, and oral health.

As we mentioned above, the consumption of probiotics is considered safe for most people. However, they may trigger infections in immunocompromised people. These people shouldn’t be supplemented with probiotics without a prescription.

This article may also interest you: Top 15 Healthiest Probiotics and Prebiotics

The best probiotic supplements

A woman taking supplements.
The best probiotic supplements are those that contain a greater number of different strains.

To ensure that the probiotic strains that are administered orally exert their beneficial effects, they must withstand the environmental conditions of the digestive tract and the microbicidal effect of saliva, gastric acid, bile, and pancreatic secretions, among others. We should also note that the composition of various secretions, gastric emptying time, or intestinal motility may vary depending on the person’s age and state of health.

Also, it’s important to choose the strains of microorganisms depending on your state of health, because of the more variety of different strains, the better. Therefore, probiotics that contain many different strains are best.

A good probiotic supplement should contain at least 1 billion CFU (colony-forming units). Probiotics with fewer CFU are much less effective.

How to take them

Never consume probiotics with highly acidic foods (citrus fruits, tomato, or vinegar, among others) or with hot drinks (tea, coffee, infusions, or soups, among others) because they hinder their action.

The best way to take them is on an empty stomach with warm water. At that time, both the pH of the stomach as well as its low level of hydrochloric acid are factors that favor the survival of the bacteria. For the same reason, it’s advisable to wait 10 to 15 minutes before eating. Also, if you’re taking antibiotics, take the supplement at least three hours later.

Finally, if you want to take probiotics, you’re taking antibiotics, or have any disease that you can improve by taking them, consult a professional to discover which supplement is the most appropriate for you.

  • Govender M., Choonara YE., Kumar P., Toit LC., et al., A review of the advancements in probiotics delivery: convetional vs non conventional formulations for intestinal flora supplementation. AAPS PharmSciTech, 2014. 15 (1): 29-43.
  • Szajewska H., Canani RB., Guarino A:, Hojsak I., et al., Probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea in children. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2016. 62 (3): 495-506.
  • Liu B., He Y., Wang M., Liu J., et al., Efficacy of probiotics on anxiety – a meta analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depress Anxiety, 2018. 35 (10): 935-945.