How to Take Probiotics for Maximum Benefit

by Sarah Natural RemediesComments: 60

bottle of probiotics

Our digestive system is home to at least 500 different bacterial strains  Ideally, 85% of the bacteria in our gut is beneficial to our health.  When the vast majority of gut flora is of the friendly variety, the remaining 15% which are pathogenic bacterial strains and yeasts are easily handled and kept under control. In fact, in a well balanced gut, the friendly bacterial strains can actually harness some of the pathogenic strains to perform helpful functions!

The problem is that most people today have this proportion reversed with the majority of gut flora of the unfriendly variety. This tipping of the balance in favor of pathogens occurs due to antibiotic use, the birth control pill and other meds that negatively affect gut flora, and the consumption of processed foods and high amounts of sugar which feed pathogens and candida.

The health consequences of a pathogen dominated gut are many.

Diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, bloating, allergies, eczema, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel, kidney stones, ear infections, strep throat, colds, vaginal yeast infections, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, thrush, athlete’s foot, cancer, and on and on.

The good news is that proactive steps can be taken to rectify the situation to tip the balance back in favor of the friendly bacteria and beneficial yeasts.

How?  Homemade fermented foods is one very smart practice, but for many people, the first baby step back to intestinal health involves taking a daily probiotic.

The Benefits of Probiotics

What are probiotics?  They are friendly bacteria, thousands of strains, that prevent the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus in the gut.  Here is a laundry list of  some of the beneficial functions performed by probiotics in the gut.

  • Produce substances that normalize cholesterol
  • Enhance the protective barrier of the digestive tract to prevent leaking of gut contents into the bloodstream (which produces an unpredictable mix of autoimmune symptoms).
  • Produce Vitamin K1
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Aid in digestion of lactos
  • Prevent cavities
  • Neutralize pre-cancerous compounds
  • Lower the pH of the intestines
  • Utilize oxlates in foods like spinach to prevent kidney stones
  • Detoxify carcinogens that are consumed
  • Produce beneficial compunts which inhibit the growth of tumors
  • Much much more!

No wonder Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, famously said that “all disease begins in the gut”.

How to Take Probiotics

Once the decision to repair the gut is made, selection of the appropriate probiotic is a must.  This article outlines the selection process in detail.  Here is a list of top quality brands to consider to make the task easier given the dozens of probiotics on the market today:

Once you have your chosen supplement in hand, how to take probiotics? Morning or night?  On an empty stomach or with food?

These are very common questions and the answer depends on the probiotic manufacturer, according to the staff at Biodynamic Wellnesswhich specializes in helping people recover their gut health.

Some probiotics are packaged in time release capsules and some are not. Finding out this information usually requires a phone call to the manufacturer, so when in doubt, assume that they are not time release.

Since it is possible that the high acid environment of the stomach could destroy some of the probiotic bacteria:

<< It is recommended to take probiotics at the end of a meal >>

Does this mean that it isn’t of any benefit to take a probiotic on an empty stomach?

No.  It just means to play it safe to assure the probiotics are protected from any reduction in potency due to stomach acid by taking them after a meal has been consumed.

This recommendation, of course, does not affect the additional use of probiotics before bed (typically on an empty stomach) to assist with the balancing of probiotics in the mouth and sinus cavities.  Beneficial flora, seek to dominate and protect every tissue of your body, not just your gut!  There are plenty of beneficial bacteria in your mouth, throat, nasal passages and ears too and when they are in the proper proportion to any pathogens, healthy gums, teeth and fluid free ears and sinuses are the result.

To this end, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD recommends emptying a probiotic capsule into the mouth and swishing it around before swallowing.  Nothing should be consumed even water, after you do this. This article explains more about this procedure.

Obviously, the use of probiotics in this fashion is primarily for the health of the mouth and sinus tissues, not just the gut.

In summary, when consuming a probiotic to improve gut health, it is best to take it after a meal. Traveling soon? Click here for an article on how to take probiotics while away from home to help keep you well.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


More Information

How to Repair Your Gut During and After a Round of Antibiotics
Are Antibiotics Always Necessary for Strep Throat?
Why Fermented Foods are Not Enough to Heal the Gut (and the Probiotic Boost they Need)
The Benefits of Prebiotic Foods
How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Your Family
Why Antibiotics Today Could Threaten Your Life Tomorrow
How the Pill Can Harm Your Future Child’s Health
How to Kick Strep Throat Faster and Better Without Antibiotics

Comments (60)

  • Alice

    I have gotten a lot of benefit taking acidophilus capsules which I was taking on an empty stomach. But, I was still having some issues with diarrhea that just wouldn’t go away. After reading and not getting any advice except what it says on the bottle, I decided to start taking my acidophilus after I’m done eating. Not only has this improved how my gut feels but I haven’t had any diarrhea either.

    So I’m really happy that I found this website where it says <>.

    June 29th, 2016 7:24 am Reply
  • Mike

    Can i take a once daily probiotics twice a day if I’m taking a lot of antibiotics. The probiotics is 30 billion with 14 strain. Antibiotics is amoxicillin twice daily.

    January 11th, 2016 7:06 am Reply
  • Denese

    Awesome website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any user
    discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

    I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get advice from
    other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    Appreciate it!

    January 7th, 2016 7:12 pm Reply
  • Donna

    Should you switch to a different Probiotic every month or is it okay to take the same brand every month?

    October 2nd, 2015 12:27 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I rotate while at home, but when traveling I only take Biokult as it seems most effective for that purpose IMO>

      October 2nd, 2015 2:14 pm Reply
  • Patti

    Help, help, help! I don’t know where to begin. I had a bladder infection dosed with two rounds of antibiotics in June. Since then I’ve had one round of diflucan, two rounds of flagyls and four vaginal creams, and borate tablets to no avail! I have a vaginal rash that won’t quit and NOTHING seems to help so I’m thinking candida. Should I take a candida supplement or probiotic supplement? Any help with the rash or discomfort is appreciated.

    September 27th, 2015 11:19 am Reply
    • Mrs M Johnston

      Agnus Castus is a herbal & great for vaginal problems. Can be obtained in capsules (two per day) from Holland & Barrett or reputable suppliers online, preferably organic. It can take up to six months but you will notice the effect over time, by then reduce to one per day. Wish you a speedy recovery.

      December 2nd, 2015 8:14 am Reply
  • Solveig

    I use Dr. Mercola’s probiotics. It does not contain any soil based strains,and I wondered if it will also work for a sinus problem.
    Thank you, Solveig

    July 27th, 2015 2:05 pm Reply
  • Mom

    Moms of kids with PANDAS avoid probiotics with strep strains. FYI

    March 5th, 2015 6:04 am Reply
  • Alvar

    I get the point of lower acidity due to a full stomach. Makes sense. However in a full stomach won’t the pb also be there longer? And would be taking pb on an empty stomach with water solve that issue? Water with just pb would go through the stomach pretty fast and there won’t be much acid in there…. Will there?
    Your thought on a comparison of these two methods would be most welcome.

    March 4th, 2015 1:46 am Reply
  • barb

    I watched Dr. Oz the other day and his expert on the show said to take probiotics 1/2 hour BEFORE meals. His reason was that if you take it with a meal your digestive juices are working full force and the probiotics will get killed. If you take it before your meal this is little digestive juice to affect it. Hmm…it is soo frustrating when you get opposite information.

    March 2nd, 2015 9:53 am Reply
    • Michelle S.

      That makes more sense to me.

      March 3rd, 2015 3:33 pm Reply
    • elena

      When you take it after a meal your digestive juices are diluted by the food and liquids that you consumed, so the probiotics are able to stay intact on their way to the intestines.

      March 3rd, 2015 11:10 pm Reply
    • Alvar

      I’d love to hear more about these two ‘schools of thought’ as well.

      March 4th, 2015 1:47 am Reply
  • Nat

    So, I am nearly done with the Master Cleanse but need to know how best to come off my fast including which probiotics/probiotics. History: migraines (allergic to tyramines!!), anemia, systemic candida. Thanks for any feedback!

    October 29th, 2014 12:24 am Reply
  • Jeanne

    How long after my meal do I wait to take the probiotic? …right after the last bite? …30 minutes after?

    October 17th, 2014 5:29 pm Reply
  • Donna

    I have been put on a daily dose of Keflex for the past four months ( and was on Nitrofurantoin 8 months before that) for constant urinary tract infections. Even while taking that, I still have gotten two infections with a more potent strain of bacteria, Pseudomonas. I read your article on antibiotics but in my case there is no ” after your course of treatment is finished..” Because there is no end in sight. I am so concerned about my gut health and overall health. I take an OTC probiotic, Align daily. What do you recommend?

    September 10th, 2014 2:22 am Reply
    • Janice

      1/4 lemon (juice + rind) in hot/warm water first thing in the morning or better still Oreganol gel caps extra strength daily, 1 gelcap am 1 gelcap pm

      March 4th, 2015 1:05 pm Reply
    • Kaydee

      There is a supplement, d-mannose, which helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

      March 12th, 2015 7:36 pm Reply
  • Tom Vaughan

    I take Probiotics Assurance which contains Bacillus Coagulans before going to bed and it really helps me keep regular and feel great (I hardly ever get sick).

    The reason I prefer a Bacillus Coagulans probiotic is because it is a spore forming bacteria which means it has a protective spore or capsule around it which protects it from being destroyed in the strong stomach acids on its way to the intestines. Once Bacillus Coagulans reaches the hospitable environment of the intestines, the bacteria breaks out of its capsule and starts to thrive.

    Other probiotic bacteria, like Acidophilus, cannot survive the stomach acids so only a small percentage of the total probiotic reaches the intestines whereas close to 100% of Bacillus Coagulans probiotic reaches the intestines.

    Also, because Bacillus Coagulans has the protective spore or capsule around it, Probiotics Assurance does not need refrigeration.

    August 29th, 2014 11:24 am Reply
  • Deborah

    I am wondering why Dr. Mercla’s Complete Probiotics are not are your list. Since I started taking them it has changed my life. I suffered with severe constipation my entire life. I no longer have this problem.

    August 28th, 2014 8:11 pm Reply
    • Shelley

      Yes, I take either Dr. Mercola’s or Renew Life, both of which are very good probiotics and they’re not on the list.

      March 3rd, 2015 3:20 pm Reply
  • Max

    Unfortunately all the listed products are not available in Italy and they cannot even be delivered to Italy , not even through :-(

    August 28th, 2014 1:26 pm Reply
  • B

    My Prescript-Assist probiotics just arrived from your Amazon link, above.

    Are they supposed to have a really strong smell?

    I never noticed a smell from any other brand of probiotics. Now I’m afraid to take them.

    August 25th, 2014 1:37 pm Reply
    • Jan F

      Yes, they do have a noticeable odor. Some people have said that it smells like dirt.

      August 28th, 2014 1:49 pm Reply
    • Diane

      They are safe to take. I am a distributor for them and have helped lots of people get on top of bad bacteria in the intestines especially caused by taking antibiotics. They are soil based so they don’t need refrigeration and won’t spoil.

      August 28th, 2014 9:48 pm Reply
  • Bianca

    A feel good way to get some goodness into the gut:
    1 TBSP raw apple cider vinegar + 8 oz sparkling water
    1 organic lemon, juiced + 8 oz sparkling water.

    These taste good, are refreshing, easy to do, and your body will thank you !

    I agree with Sara that a therapeutic strength probiotic may be required initially to overcome pathogens.
    Fermented foods are wonderful anytime, as are the above drinks ..

    August 20th, 2014 4:33 pm Reply
  • Pingback: Probiotics | Kathleen Berry-Hebert

  • Rachel

    Thank you, Sarah! I want you to know that God uses your blog to answer my prayers/questions/concerns. We just found out that our insurance partners with Metagenics, so we can get their products at wholesale; but I was concerned about the quality. I feed my son an autoimmune paleo diet in a GAPS wrapper, so to speak, so I am extremely careful what supplements I buy. I was so relieved to see Metagenics on your list of quality probiotics today!

    July 25th, 2014 2:04 pm Reply
  • Jan

    Thank you for the informative article, but I wanted to let you know, that when I click on GUTpro a different company appears. Hyperbiotics Pro-15. Is this not the intended product? If not, you may want to change it. Thank you.

    July 25th, 2014 9:24 am Reply
  • InalienableWrights

    These two You-tubes of Dr Natasha Campbell McBride on gut health are the best intro out there:

    July 25th, 2014 12:15 am Reply
  • Donnie

    I take home-maid water kefir twice a day during breakfast and during supper, one to two ounces each time mixed with what ever I’m drinking, usually pineapple juice. My poops have been great since I’ve been doing this. I used to get diarrhea every day, no more. Water keifer is cheap, if you make it yourself. That’s why I started making it. Probiotics are expensive. Get the kefir grains on line. They reproduce, save them in the frig. Someone will like to have them. Good advice though, maybe I should try it at the end of a meal.

    July 24th, 2014 11:42 am Reply
  • jemes soon

    Prebiotics create and observe after healthy conditions from the GI, which therefore helps to reduce inflammatory reactions from the gastro intestinal area. They promote digestive system health by encouraging healthy microorganisms (probiotics) which usually prevents “bad” bacterias overgrowth. Prebiotics assist with support the body’s defence mechanism, digestive functions along with colon health/bowel uniformity.
    Thanks for your informative content.

    July 24th, 2014 6:55 am Reply
  • Mary Kay

    I am taking Bio-Kult probiotics currently along with garlic and Vitamin C on top of prenatal vitamins to try to boost my own gut health that I am going to be sharing with a new baby in a couple more months. I have wondered, however, if the antibiotic properties of the garlic are cancelling out some or all of the probiotics. I can’t seem to find a straight answer about this online. Do you have any thoughts? Would you take the two together or at different times of day or separate them by weeks altogether?

    July 23rd, 2014 9:07 pm Reply
    • Ania

      No, garlic is actually a pre-biotic so it encourages healthy bacteria colonization in the gut.

      August 13th, 2014 9:20 am Reply
      • Ania

        It won’t kill your good bacteria. You can eat garlic and pro-biotics at the same time. Garlic encourages their growth.

        August 13th, 2014 9:21 am Reply
  • Dana

    I am reading about Histamine Intolerance and realizing this is probably my problem since I have had extensive food sensitivity testing and not coming much there.

    What is your opinion on eating fermented foods if someone has histamine intolerance and therefore cant break down natural histamine that would be found in fermented foods?

    I am torn over whether I should avoid fermented foods like yogurt or should I eat them to increase good bacteria. I do take probiotics every day.

    July 23rd, 2014 8:51 pm Reply
    • Jan F

      Many people with histamine intolerance do not tolerate fermented foods. However, I buy lacto-fermented blends from a local artisan and find that her products do not bother me. I usually limit my intake to a spoonful a day.

      August 28th, 2014 1:55 pm Reply
  • MG

    My regimen for a couple of months, on the advice of a knowledgeable friend who does the same thing, is to empty a probiotic capsule into a bowl, and mix it with 4 T of potato starch and 1-2 tsp of psyllium. Then, add water and down it, or mix it into a smoothie, or whatever. His explanation is that the potato starch is a prebiotic which feeds the probiotic; resistant starches are also the only fibre which have been shown to help prevent colon cancer. Mixing it with the psyllium also ensures that the pro and prebiotics get deeper into the intestine, where they can reproduce. You don’t want to take this the same time as beneficial oils or other EFA as they need to be processed in the stomach, not the intestine. Has anyone else ever heard of this? I’ve never thought I had a gut problem, but my poops have been GREAT since I started this — they just seem so healthy 😉

    July 23rd, 2014 7:58 pm Reply
  • Helen T

    This is an amazing post on how prebiotics help probiotics:

    July 22nd, 2014 10:10 am Reply
  • milena ferreira

    hello Sarah
    can i give a bio-kult capsul to my 9 years old boy and then give him another in his mouth?
    isnt too much for him,2 capsules a day?
    thank you,i learn soo much with you
    love you, god bless

    July 21st, 2014 7:56 am Reply
  • Aleta

    Garden of Life, inc. by Jordan Rubin has a raw probiotic. What is your opinion of this brand?

    July 21st, 2014 6:36 am Reply
    • LC

      Stay away from all Garden of Life products. Their rice protein powders have super high levels of heavy metals in them and the company tried to hide it and threatened Mike Adams after exposing him. The company has no integrity anymore. I would go with Innate Response.

      July 26th, 2014 1:49 pm Reply
  • kelly

    What would you suggest for a 5 year old to take, which brand of probiotics?

    July 21st, 2014 1:28 am Reply
  • Merina

    What is your opinion about taking probiotics during a course of antibiotics, or while taking other antibiotic supplements?

    July 21st, 2014 12:17 am Reply
  • Jacque

    I noticed Custom Probiotics also list their as a proprietary blend on the Amazon picture label. Does that make it a bad choice too?

    July 20th, 2014 9:51 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Email them and ask. Online info can sometimes be outdated. International Nutrition was not forthcoming during recent email and phone requests for information about Nutrivene.

      July 20th, 2014 10:05 pm Reply
  • PP

    My confusion has always lain around the issue of whether fermented foods (esp sauerkraut) in some way adversely affect the beneficial bacteria in probiotics. I try always to have some form of fermented food with each meal, whether it’s kombucha or sauerkraut, but worry that if I’m also having my pro-biotics at the same time, that I’m cancelling out the benefits of the probes.

    July 18th, 2014 5:57 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Probiotics and fermented foods can be used together. I would suggest reading the book on the GAPS Diet which describes healing the gut using both.

      July 18th, 2014 6:17 pm Reply
  • Sara

    How does the birth control pill negatively affect gut flora?

    July 18th, 2014 2:32 pm Reply
  • Gary

    What about water Kefir? Are these two different things? If so how does Kefir and something like whey differ, should one do both? Thanks!

    July 18th, 2014 11:29 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Water kefir has probiotics in it … it is a fermented food. But, many folks trying to recover their gut health need a therapeutic strength probiotic supplement for a time to get the gut seeded properly and to help overcome pathogen dominance. Fermented foods are wonderful and great for maintenance once gut health has been reestablished and/or in addition to probiotics.

      July 18th, 2014 12:12 pm Reply
      • Rebecca

        I think you have it backward. Fermented foods have billions more good bacteria than any pill does. There is nothing that beats consuming homemade cultured products. No pill on the market can beat that.

        July 23rd, 2014 8:52 pm Reply
        • Carrie

          That’s what I heard from Dr Mercola, that fermented foods are way better than any pill!

          July 24th, 2014 6:27 pm Reply
          • Carolyn Graff

            I agree. See this article

            July 25th, 2014 12:30 am
          • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

            This is true and I’ve seen it before, but you can’t get the aggressive strains (soil based) that kill off pathogens and re-establish dominance in the gut with strong strains of probiotics from fermented foods. It’s not just about the bacterial count, it’s about the strains and how aggressive they are. This is why a therapeutic strength probiotic like Biokult is necessary for a time to kickstart the process back to gut health.

            July 25th, 2014 8:06 am
          • Jen

            I wonder if you use homegrown garden produce, especially root veggies like beets and carrots, without washing thoroughly (just brush off visible dirt), to ferment… would you get some soil strains in your cultured foods?

            August 2nd, 2014 7:13 pm

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