So, you’ve finally realized there are many reasons why you need to take a probiotic, but that’s only the first step toward improving your gut health.

How you take a probiotic — ideally with multiple species of beneficial bacteria — is even more important, as it helps you get the best value for your family’s health and your pocketbook.

Healthy kids and adults

Most healthy adults will get a much-needed boost to their immune system and gut health if they take a probiotic, ideally, about 30 minutes before eating a morning meal on an empty stomach.

This simple routine for most adults makes sense, based on the findings of a 2011 study featured in the journal Beneficial Microbes, that showed fewer good bugs contained in multi-species probiotics survived in smaller numbers through the upper gastrointestinal tract after a meal (when stomach acid is usually at its highest).

For small children age 3 or under, parents can protect their developing immune systems and reduce episodes of colic or diarrhea by sprinkling a probiotic in a powdered form (like EndoMune Junior) in a noncarbonated formula or liquid or on soft foods before or with a meal once a day.

Then, once your kids reach age 3, they can “graduate” to a chewy, fruity probiotic of their own (like EndoMune Junior Chewable).

When you’re sick

Another important consideration is how to take a probiotic when you’re sick. In fact, it’s becoming more common to see people taking a probiotic when their doctor prescribes an antibiotic, based on growing concerns about antibiotic-resistant infections.

Antibiotics can do a great deal of harm by wiping out the healthy bacteria in your gut and allowing bad bugs to hang around and cause more problems, like the persistent diarrhea associated with Clostridium difficile (C.diff).

Ideally, you’ll want to give your body at least a two-hour break in between taking a probiotic and antibiotic to allow those live and very beneficial probiotic bacteria an opportunity to protect your gut.

Before you begin taking a probiotic, it’s also critical to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have, especially if you have a health condition that requires taking specific drugs, like antifungal products or immunosuppressants.

Deciding on adding a probiotic to your daily routine is one of the easiest things you can do for your health. But knowing how and when to use a probiotic effectively can make all the difference in your health for the long haul.