Should Probiotics Be Taken Before, During, or After Meals?

Should Probiotics Be Taken Before, During, or After Meals?
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Proper timing of probiotic supplements may improve their survival.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Though foods may be “better carriers for probiotics than supplements,” if one does choose to go with supplements, should they be taken before, during, or after meals? “When it comes to probiotic supplements sold in capsules the commercial literature is often confusing in that sometimes the consumer is instructed to take the probiotics with meals, sometimes before or after meals, and, occasionally on an empty stomach. This has led to serious confusion for the industry and the consumer.” Surprisingly it doesn’t appear as if any studies had ever examined this question—until now.

To be able to measure probiotic concentrations, minute by minute throughout the entire process, they had to build a fake digestive tract—fake stomach; fake intestines—but complete with real saliva and digestive enzymes, acid, bile, etc.

What did they find? Here’s the survival of three different types of probiotics before, during, and after meals; and separately, in oatmeal and milk, milk alone, apple juice, or water.

Conclusion: probiotic “bacterial survival was best when provided within 30 minutes before or simultaneously with a meal or beverage that contained some fat content.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Though foods may be “better carriers for probiotics than supplements,” if one does choose to go with supplements, should they be taken before, during, or after meals? “When it comes to probiotic supplements sold in capsules the commercial literature is often confusing in that sometimes the consumer is instructed to take the probiotics with meals, sometimes before or after meals, and, occasionally on an empty stomach. This has led to serious confusion for the industry and the consumer.” Surprisingly it doesn’t appear as if any studies had ever examined this question—until now.

To be able to measure probiotic concentrations, minute by minute throughout the entire process, they had to build a fake digestive tract—fake stomach; fake intestines—but complete with real saliva and digestive enzymes, acid, bile, etc.

What did they find? Here’s the survival of three different types of probiotics before, during, and after meals; and separately, in oatmeal and milk, milk alone, apple juice, or water.

Conclusion: probiotic “bacterial survival was best when provided within 30 minutes before or simultaneously with a meal or beverage that contained some fat content.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Davina Diaries

Doctor's Note

What dose should we take, and under what circumstances? See my first video in this series: Preventing & Treating Diarrhea with Probiotics. Then, I compared probiotics to prebiotics in Preventing the Common Cold with Probiotics? The series ends with Gut Feelings: Probiotics & Mental Health.

Update: In 2017, I released a new video on probiotics. See: Culture Shock – Questioning the Efficacy and Safety of Probiotics

I was surprised to find so few actual data on this topic, but that is par for the course for much advice about dietary supplements. See, for example, this series:

Vitamin D supplements should also probably be taken with meals for maximum efficacy (see Take Vitamin D Supplements with Meals).

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Probiotics & DiarrheaProbiotics During Cold Season?How Should I Take Probiotics?; and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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