Kat Ka/ShutterstockProbiotics are the latest supplement trend—but this is one trend that has legitimacy, as research suggests probiotics can help balance your digestive system, improve your skin, and maybe even help you lose weight. Taking the right probiotic for what ails you is key. But the time of day when you take these beneficial bacteria may be just as important as which strains you consume.
The supplements first came into mainstream attention as a remedy for gut ailments, helping people tame diarrhea following a course of antibiotics or restore populations of healthy bacteria after trip to a country with sketchy water. When gut bacteria are out of balance, bad bacteria can take over and cause an array of health issues, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, skin outbreaks, and vaginal infections. To understand all that these supplements can do, check out the facts about probiotics.
You can get probiotics in supplement form, but you can also get them by eating fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi; different strains of bacteria will have different effects on your health and well-being. The most common groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium; some of the popular strains within these groups are L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and B. bifidum. Dosages are given as colony forming units (CFU) and can vary from several million to 50 billion.
If you are taking probiotics to improve your digestive health, the best time to take them is before bed and with a healthy snack that is rich in good fats, explains Robert Zembroski, DC, MS, a functional medicine specialist in Darien, CT, and the author of several books, including Rebuild: Five Proven Steps to Move from Diagnosis to Recovery and Be Healthier Than Before.
As the gut repopulates, symptoms such as gassiness or bloating can occur and it’s better to sleep through these, he says. Research shows that when people took probiotics with a meal that contained some healthy fats or 30 minutes before the meal, more bacteria survived and got where it needed to go. By contrast, when probiotics were taken 30 minutes after the meal, the bacteria did not survive in high numbers. If you are looking to supplement your diet with probiotics, you’ll want to look at these probiotic brands that nutritionists trust the most.
Each probiotic has a specific role, and stool testing is the best way to find out which ones your body needs, adds Zembroski. But if you want to try them for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea, Culturelle, Nature’s Way Primadophilus Fortify Age 50+ Probiotic or FloraStor tend to be good bets, according to research from ConsumerLab.com, an independent supplement testing organization in White Plains, NY. Start the probiotics when you begin your antibiotic regimen, and continue them for a week following the antibiotics. Take the probiotic at least two hours after the antibiotic. For traveler’s diarrhea, start a few days before travel and continue during travel.
You may also find that probiotics can help relieve your constipation; they can also ease abdominal pain in children and colic in infants. Try Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops twice daily a day (once daily for infants), according to ConsumerLab.com.