MorningLong before the media was a buzz of ads about why you need a probiotic, naturopathic doctors knew the value of an optimally functioning GI tract for immunity and a host of other health benefits. Your GI tract is teeming with billions of organisms (friendly bacteria species) which help you make and absorb vitamins and minerals, form natural killer cells to fight infection and of course, digest your food for the nutritional support your body needs on a daily basis.

Everything is not all good down there in the dark!

There are also harmful species as well that can interfere with how the GI tract is regulated. Dysbiosis is the condition of a dysfunctional GI tract due to the "bad" bacteria gaining control. Signs you may have dysbiosis include trouble with digestion or elimination, yeast overgrowth and poor immunity such as having the tendency to "catch" everything that comes your way of a viral or bacterial nature.

Taking a probiotic supplement helps your body rebuild this important ecosystem and promote wellness. But have you ever thought about when might be a good time to take your probiotic? Most labels instruct you to take it on an empty stomach or between meals. Since probiotics help re-colonize friendly bacteria in the GI tract, it makes sense to take supplements without food to interfere with its transit to the GI system. But a new study says otherwise.

Numerous published studies confirm what naturopathic doctors knew decades ago. Your health is only as good as your GI tract function. For instance, recent evidence shows the GI ecosystem influences genes, weight, mental clarity, bone health, inflammation and even cancer survival. Given the many reasons to take a probiotic, why you take it is more important than when.

One such study is the Milan study, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in April 2017 which used two primary GI bacteria species, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium longum. Twenty subjects (12 women, 8 men) were divided into two groups and given the probiotic combination either 30 minutes before a meal on an empty stomach or 30 minutes after eating.

What the researchers discovered was surprising. There is no difference in the ability of the probiotic to colonize the GI tract based on when you take it. They did find some interesting statistics, however, that may influence you to take a probiotic if you are not already taking one.

After only one month of supplementing, they noted a significant impact on the type of bacteria affected, particularly for harmful species. There was a 50% reduction in Firmicutes bacteria. An overabundance of this species is found in obese individuals with a tendency for increased body fat. There was also a 58% reduction in Proteobacteria. This species is linked to organisms which can lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease per the researchers. You may know some of those organisms: Campylobacter, enterohepatic Helicobacter and Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The names of some species may sound strange, such as Akkermansia muciniphila, but the benefits are easy to understand. This particular species is associated with body fat mass, glucose intolerance and helps maintain the intestinal barrier functions. Protecting the intestinal wall is important as some things need to stay in your GI tract and eliminated as opposed to being able to enter your bloodstream and traveling to other body systems. According to the researchers, A. muciniphila also prevents intestinal inflammation which plays a "pivotal role in the host's overall health". Probiotic supplementation increased the numbers of these beneficial bacteria.

While the study size was small, the researchers concluded that the results indicate the two probiotic strains "exert a beneficial effect on the bacterial ecology of the GI tract" based on the "many significant positive changes in gut microbiota composition".

Bottom line: You'll get the benefits of your probiotic whether you take it with meals or on an empty stomach.Evening Moon One additional note. The natural rhythm of the body is to detoxify or "cleans house" at night while you're asleep and eliminate those toxins with an a.m. bowel movement. Taking your probiotic at night before bed seems to help facilitate that rhythm so we often suggest taking as part of your before bedtime ritual.

©TyH Publications (M. Squires). For informational purposes only.

Source: World Journal of Gastroenterology 2017, Volume 23, Number 15.

Read More in the TyH Online Health Library

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  • Probiotics: Healthy GI, Healthy You
  • Probiotics, Missing Piece for Weight Control?

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©TyH Publications (M. Squires). For informational purposes only.