Medically reviewed by
Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
7 min read
So you're interested in trying probiotics — cool! But maybe you have questions about when and how to take them? On an empty stomach or with a meal? AM or PM? We've got your most common questions about taking a probiotic covered.
Probiotics help balance and regulate the microbiome of your digestive system by colonizing your gut with beneficial bacteria. Generally, our bodies are good at maintaining a healthy balance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. But sometimes, things like illness, medications, and other factors can create an imbalance.
For example, an antibiotic is meant to wipe out bad bacteria in your system, but it also eliminates some good bacteria along the way. When you’re experiencing an imbalance of bacteria in your gut flora, you can add more probiotics to your diet or take a probiotic supplement to help restore the balance of good bacteria in your body.
Research has shown that probiotics can help improve gut health, alleviate bowel issues, and even support a healthy immune system. So how do you get enough probiotics? Probiotics can be naturally found in fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, or miso. Or you can take a probiotic supplement.
Before determining when to take a probiotic, you should first determine if you need a probiotic at all. The list of scenarios when a probiotic is beneficial is very lengthy. Some of the strongest evidence supporting the use of probiotics exists for those that need digestive system support or immune function support. Research shows that probiotics can improve a person’s gut health and also boost their immune system. In addition, probiotics are most commonly used when a person is taking an antibiotic. As mentioned above, antibiotics tend to eliminate both good and bad bacteria from our bodies, so it is important to add good bacteria back in. Typical of any supplement, it is important to speak with your doctor if you want to take a probiotic to improve your health.
Once you’ve decided that taking a probiotic supplement is right for you, the next important consideration is when to take it. Does the time of day matter? Short answer, no. There’s no evidence that taking your probiotics at any specific time (either morning, mid-day, or evening) will impact efficacy. But what is important is consistency.
The most important thing to consider when deciding when to take your probiotics is choosing a time that is easy for you to remember to take and stay consistent. Are you most likely to remember first thing in the morning or with breakfast? If so, that might be a good time for you. Maybe 30–60 minutes before lunch works better with your schedule. Regardless, it’s important to consider the time of day that you are most likely to develop a successful habit. Consistency is key.
So you’ve found a time to take a probiotic that works best with your routine and now you’re wondering whether you need to take probiotics with food. There aren’t any specific strategies that improve a probiotic’s efficacy in all people. There are, however, several recommendations that health professionals often provide to increase the success that a person has with a probiotic. You may need to try different strategies and see which one works best for you. The strategy that works best for you is the one you should stick with.
First, some people recommend taking a probiotic on an empty stomach. This can mean up to 30 minutes before a meal or at least 2 hours after a meal. Doing so reduces the risk of bacteria being destroyed by the stomach’s high level of acidity.
Second, if your physician wants you to take a probiotic with food, there is an argument that a meal with some fat in it could improve the probiotic’s efficacy. You should not stress about changing your diet simply to improve the probiotic’s effect though.
Third, there is also an argument that taking a probiotic with your morning meal could improve the amount of good bacteria that are actually delivered to your body for use. Your stomach is not primed in the morning so it tends to be “weaker,” and a small meal adds an acidity buffer. Therefore, taking a probiotic with breakfast may yield the best results for some individuals.
Ultimately, you should take a probiotic at a time of day when you can form a consistent habit. The recommendation on the probiotic’s package, along with any recommendations from your pharmacist or physician, should also be followed to improve your chances of success.
If you are seeking a probiotic supplement, you may find the selection process overwhelming. Two probiotic formulations that may work well for you are a probiotic blend or a yeast probiotic. A probiotic blend combines a few of the most studied strains of bacteria to confer great health benefits in one capsule. A yeast probiotic contains a single yeast strain that may provide recently researched benefits for your gut. If you are unsure about which probiotic is best for you, a health professional can help you make a decision. Choosing a probiotic from a reputable source with transparent labeling is always important.