The time of day you take your probiotics supplements may be just as important as the type you take, and it depends on what ails you. Here’s what you need to know about probiotic timing.

Probiotics 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 deal with diarrhoea following a course of antibiotics or restore populations of healthy bacteria after a 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 diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, skin outbreaks and vaginal infections. Probiotics can help restore the natural balance.

You can get probiotics in supplement form, but you can also get them by eating fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi; different strains of bacteria will have different effects on your health and wellbeing. 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 Dr Robert Zembroski, a functional medicine specialist, 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 ‘good’ bacteria did not survive in high numbers. If you are looking to supplement your diet with probiotics, you’ll want to look at 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 Dr Zembroski. 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 traveller’s diarrhoea, start a few days before travel and continue during travel.

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