Can you take probiotics on an empty stomach? Evidence tends to suggest you shouldn’t. But there are thousands of probiotics products out there.
Whether you take a probiotic in capsule or powder form, the different usage directions can be confusing.
Let’s take a closer look at how the beneficial bacteria in probiotics work and what may happen when they are taken on an empty stomach.
Beneficial Bacteria: What Are Probiotics And Prebiotics?
You’ve probably heard about the beneficial effects of probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria and other microbes that are meant to support gut health.
The gut is made up of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract. These include the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The gut is also filled with digestive enzymes, which help break down the food you eat.
This area is home to trillions of bacteria, many of which can harm digestive health. Probiotics are GOOD bacteria that can help offset the negative effects of bad bacteria. You’ll find them in supplement form, but there are also many probiotic foods, as you’ll learn later.
Probiotics On Empty Stomach: How Stomach Acid Can Affect Good Bacteria
In addition to bacteria and other microbes, your stomach contains acid. The pH level of stomach acid can vary a great deal. It can sometimes have a pH of 1 or 2, which is very acidic. After a meal, it can get down to that level before quickly moving up to 3 or 4. After digestion, the pH will typically go back to the 4 or 5 level.2
The reason stomach acid is important when it comes to probiotics is that a low pH level can make it hard for probiotic bacteria to do their work.
Many types of bacteria simply can’t survive in that type of acidic environment, even if they come in capsule form with a protective enteric coating.
Certain probiotic strains start to break down when stomach acid is at a pH level of 3. Not all probiotic strains are built alike, however. One strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, has been shown to be resistant to a pH of as low as 2.5.3
Researchers conducting a study tested the resistance of four probiotic strains – Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus helveticus, and Bifidobacterium longum – to stomach acid.
They found that the bacteria had a better chance of survival when ingested with a meal. The bacteria also fared well when ingested shortly before a meal.4
Types Of Probiotics: Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Saccharomyces Boulardii, And More
There are a lot of different types of probiotic products, as you learned earlier. The different types of probiotic strains are just as numerous.
Here’s a brief look at some of the most important strains of probiotics.
Saccharomyces boulardii – This is actually a type of yeast that can help support normal bowel movements.5
Lactobacillus helveticus – This strain has been shown to help support healthy blood pressure levels.9
Lactobacillus rhamnosus – This is a strain you’ll find in a lot of probiotic products. This important member of the Lactobacillus family helps support digestive health.6
Bifidobacterium – This family of bacteria has several different members, including the powerful bifidobacterium lactis strain. These bacteria may help with bloating and other digestive issues.7
Diet And Probiotics: Fermented Foods And Other Probiotic Foods
The benefits of probiotics are well documented. They’re designed to help support your health and well-being.
If you want to increase your supply of probiotics through food, great sources include sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha (a fermented tea).8
It’s likely that you won’t consume enough of these good bacteria through food alone. If you’re looking to get more probiotics into your diet ask your doctor if taking a supplement is right for you.
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