- Probiotic supplements that contain a substantial amount of calories may be considered as breaking a fast. However, this depends on the individual person and how strict they want to be with their fast.
- Many probiotic supplements are recommended to be taken with food and so whether probiotics break a fast depends on the fast in question.
- The most important thing when it comes to probiotic supplementation is consistency. Find a convenient time to take your probiotics each day and make it a habit
What Is Fasting?
Essentially, fasting means to stop eating completely, or almost completely, for a certain amount of time.
The practice of fasting has been around for thousands of years. And is common in nearly every major religion – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
Aside from religious practice, many people fast to improve their health. Intermittent fasting is one of the world’s most popular wellness trends.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling periods of fasting and feeding periods when you can eat. For example, one method restricts your daily eating period to 8 hours, with a fast of 16 hours in between.
Weight loss is the most common reason people try intermittent fasting, and it shows promise as a weight loss and maintenance method. (Source)
However, research also shows that intermittent fasting may play a role in the following:
- Protecting against type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance (Source)
- Reducing inflammation (Source)
- Improving heart health (Source)
- Maintaining brain health (Source)
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that naturally live in our gut but can also be found in certain foods such as probiotic yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and probiotic supplements.
These friendly bacteria help keep our gut working properly by digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and regulating inflammation.
But there are also other bacteria present in the gut that can be harmful to our health.
If it gets to a stage where there are more harmful bacteria in our gut than beneficial bacteria, also known as dysbiosis, we can experience digestive problems such as bloating and constipation and more serious issues like inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
We naturally have probiotics living in our digestive system but consuming probiotics is a great way to increase the number of these beneficial bacteria in our gut. This can lead to a decrease in the number of harmful bacteria, leading to improvements in digestion and overall health too. (Source)
Much research has been done on probiotics, but there is still much to be learned about their benefits to our health.
Research so far shows that probiotics may help to:
- Restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut (Source)
- Improve digestion (Source)
- Regulate bowel movements (Source)
- Improve energy levels and immune function (Source)
- Improve mood (Source)
- Contribute to vaginal health (Source)
There is also research to show that probiotics may play a role in alleviating: (Source)
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Do Probiotics Break A Fast?
Determining whether probiotics break a fast depends on the fast in question.
For instance, during Ramadan, Muslims cannot ingest anything during fasting. Therefore, taking probiotics would break this fast.
However, things are a bit different when it comes to intermittent fasting.
Probiotic bacteria themselves do not contain calories and so would not be considered to break a fast.
However, consuming probiotic foods such as probiotic yogurt, kombucha, kefir, and tempeh, would break a fast as these foods contain calories.
But what about probiotic supplements? This is where confusion can creep in.
Many people opt to take probiotics in supplement form, and while there are zero-calorie probiotic supplements available, some probiotic supplements contain calories.
The calorie content of probiotic capsules is likely minuscule, so it should not affect your fast. But probiotic supplements that come in the gummy form or as part of a dietary powder may have a more substantial calorie content and affect fasting.
If unsure, check the product’s labeling before purchasing or contacting the product’s customer care team.
When Should I Take Probiotics When Fasting?
If you are getting your probiotics through probiotic food, eat these foods during your non-fasted window.
Regarding probiotic supplements, you might have noticed that some supplement manufacturers recommend taking probiotic supplements on an empty stomach, while others recommend taking them with a meal.
If your probiotic supplements are to be taken on an empty stomach, try taking them up to 30 minutes before your first meal of the day.
And if they’re to be taken with food, have them alongside your first meal.
Most importantly, you’re taking your probiotic consistently each day. Find a time that’s convenient for you and stick to it.
Some probiotic supplements can be taken during fasting periods and will not break a fast, as they have negligible to no caloric content.
Other probiotic supplements, such as gummies or those in dietary powders, are likely to contain some calories and so may be deemed to break a fast. However, this comes down to the person and how strict they want to be with their fasting.
Some probiotics are best taken with food anyway, while others are recommended to be taken on an empty stomach. Taking them about 30 minutes before your first meal is a good option.
And those fasting for medical reasons or under the guidance of a healthcare professional should consult their practitioner before taking a probiotic supplement.
Lucy Brennan is a registered associate nutritionist (ANutr) and freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition and wellness content. She holds a BSc. (First Class Hons) in Public Health Nutrition and has over 4 years’ experience working in health communication, which is where her passion lies.
She has worked in roles with The Irish Food Board and FleishmanHillard PR, on their healthcare team, working with national and international health companies. Using this experience, Lucy now writes content in a freelance capacity. Lucy is dedicated to providing evidence-based content that is both engaging and accessible and inspires readers to make informed choices regarding their health.