Reader Matt asked a good question in the comments:
What’s with the time factor – before vs. after the meal? Stomach emptying is in terms of hours. Seems like if consumption of probiotics 30 minutes before was within the optimum timing, maybe something other than raising the ph could be going on?
I wondered the same thing – why is 30 minutes before a meal optimal? According to the study, before and during a meal were both better than after a meal. But survivability was best before a meal. Well it turns out the answer is pretty simple. Probiotics come in capsules, and it takes a little bit for the capsules to open and release the probiotics:
The bacteria survival, when given before a meal, can be explained by the fact that the pH in the stomach remained higher for a longer period of time after the probiotic capsules opened due to the important buffering effect of the spring water and the saliva. The saliva secreted in response to the intake of the capsules, taken with water, raised the gastric pH and then when the meal entered the stomach, 30 minutes later, the gastric content was further buffered. When the capsules were given after the meal, the number of bacteria surviving stomach and duodenal passage was greatly reduced as the bacteria arrived about the same time as the pH of the system began to decrease.
So it turns out that 30 minutes before provides just the right timing for the probiotics to be released into the buffered pH of the stomach. Remembering to take something 30 minutes before a meal is a bit much for me, so as far as I’m concerned, taking them right before a meal, or perhaps right as I’m starting to prepare a meal, should probably do just fine.
But I don’t regularly take probiotics anyway, unless I’m curious about experimenting with something. I prefer to consume fermented foods. And guess what doesn’t come in a capsule? Fermented foods. And how are fermented foods usually eaten? Not 30 minutes before a meal. We traditionally eat them with a meal.
Sometimes it all makes so much sense it hurts.