Can You Take Probiotics on an Empty Stomach?

Written by: Kari Raman, PharmD, RPh
Published July 28, 2023

As a pharmacist, one question I get sometimes at the pharmacy counter is “Can you take probiotics on an empty stomach?” My straightforward response to this is: yes, you can, but there’s more to it than just a simple “yes” or “no”. The effectiveness of taking a probiotic can depend on numerous factors such as the type of probiotic, your personal health condition, eating habits, and more. So let’s take a look at the details. 

Probiotics: Should You Take Them With or Without Food? 

Many people find it easier to incorporate their probiotics into their meal times. This is understandable since it easily fits into their routine, and you are probably going into the refrigerator where you store your probiotics anyway. Some studies even suggest taking a probiotic supplement with a meal or just before or after may enhance its effectiveness. The idea behind this theory is that the food can potentially shield the probiotic bacteria from the harsh stomach acid, thus enhancing their survival rate and effectiveness in the gut.

But don’t let this mislead you into thinking it’s the only way to go about it.

Contrary to this, many doctors suggest that probiotics taken on an empty stomach might prove more effective. This is because it allows them to pass swiftly through the stomach and reach the small intestine where they can colonize and thrive. This could be beneficial especially in the morning, even before your morning cup of coffee!

Then again, others propose that probiotics may work better when taken at night due to the gut microbiome’s active state and lesser chances of having a bowel movement that could eliminate the supplement from your body.

As you can see, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. If there is a time that works best for you to stay compliant with taking probiotics, stick with that time of day. It’s also advisable to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice for the probiotic product you are taking and your specific health situation.

The Role of Stomach Acidity

One factor we cannot ignore when discussing probiotics is stomach acidity. How acidic your stomach is can greatly influence the survival rate of the microbes. Generally, your stomach is least acidic in the morning when you wake up since no food has been consumed that needs digesting. Yet, this varies from person to person and can be influenced by factors such as diet, stress, and medications. (Side note, stomach acidity is an important factor for people who want to take probiotics with apple cider vinegar.)

Consistency Is Key

When it comes to taking probiotics, consistency is the name of the game. Taking your probiotic at the same time each day helps to establish a consistent routine and ensures you don’t forget your supplement. Moreover, it helps maintain a steady level of beneficial bacteria in your gut, providing a healthy environment for these bacteria to thrive.

Consistency is much more important than if you are taking them on an empty or full stomach – it’s making sure that you get a dose each day that matters, as you need enough CFUs regularly going into your stomach to keep your gut colonized. So again, as mentioned previously taking probiotics at the time that works best for you will provide the best results from the probiotic product. 

Taking Probiotics Every Day

A vital piece of advice I offer to my patients is the importance of daily probiotic supplementation. Probiotics are living organisms that need to be consistently replenished to maintain their population in your gut. They are constantly fighting against your stomach acid, digestive system, and other gut microbiota that work to push out these new bacteria. Therefore, a regular daily dose is required to maintain an effective level of probiotics in your system.

The gut microbiome plays a critical role in human health, encompassing digestion, possibly immune function, and even mental health. Factors such as stress, antibiotics, and a poor diet can easily disrupt this balance, causing harmful bacteria to flourish. Taking a probiotic supplement regularly can help restore this balance by introducing beneficial bacteria that can crowd out harmful ones and support the growth of other beneficial bacteria. However, it takes time for them to colonize and establish themselves in the gut, which is why daily and consistent supplementation is key.

In Conclusion – you can take probiotics on an empty stomach

The question of whether to take probiotics on an empty stomach or with meals ultimately depends on individual needs, the specific type of probiotic, and the personal health conditions of the individual. There’s no definitive answer applicable to all. As with all health supplements, it’s always best to consult your healthcare provider before starting to take them. Remember, consistency is key when taking probiotics, and finding a routine that works for you will go a long way toward maximizing their potential benefits.

Some of my other articles

I’ve been writing about these supplements for a while now. Curious to delve deeper into the fascinating world of beneficial bacteria and their countless strains? Eager to understand the significance of CFUs and how they influence your health? Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s safe and effective to consume these helpful microbes during certain times of your monthly cycle? I’m glad to inform you that I’ve authored in-depth articles on each of these topics! No jargon, just easily digestible facts (pun intended) that are bound to expand your knowledge. So, why wait? Start your learning journey now and explore the secrets of these micro-world wonders!

Pharmacist Kari Raman

I’m Kari Raman PharmD, RPh, and I am a licensed, practicing pharmacist. I hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy from The University of the Pacific, and I’ve served patients in retail, compounding and hospital pharmacies.

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I hope Pharmacist Probiotics helps you find out if there is a type of probiotic that works for you!