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Should Probiotics Be Taken With Food?

There is considerable confusion and debate over how to best take probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that are so critical to our immunity and digestive health.  Some natural health practitioners recommend that probiotics be taken on an empty stomach to avoid provoking a fresh release of caustic digestive secretions (which includes bile salts, digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid).

Others point out that our Creator designed the human stomach to maintain a very low pH (high acidity) at all times, not only to facilitate protein digestion and mineral absorption, but as a front line of defense against pathogens that enter the body through the mouth.  Furthermore, since our natural intended source of probiotics is raw and/or fermented foods, it seems obvious that we were designed to derive our essential flora from our diet. 

It is interesting that God doesn't use microencapsulation technology or enteric coating to deliver probiotics through the harsh environment of the stomach and into the GI tract.  Like everything in nature, it is a numbers game; and to the survivors go the legacy.  When probiotics are ingested whether in raw or fermented foods or in supplements not all of them make it to the lining of the intestine where they perform their vital role in health. 

In recent years, growing interest and research into beneficial bacteria has produced probiotic strains that are more acid and temperature stable.  Strides have also been made in the area of microencapsulation so that phthalates and other toxic substances are being used with less frequency, but again, with few exceptions (such as systemic enzymes or highly specific probiotic strains and applications), those types of delivery systems  are not necessary.

As to the ongoing debate over whether probiotics are best taken with food, what is most important is that they are taken, and regularly.  A healthy balance of intestinal flora is one of the most foundational of all criteria for efficient digestion, strong immunity and vibrant health.