Your colon or large intestine is home to about four pounds of bacteria that enter your system from food and the environment, many of which are “good” bacteria that are vital to your health. Emerging research shows that these probiotics help improve digestion and absorption of foods and nutrients. Probiotics can also activate your immune system and prevent the bad bacteria from taking over your body and making you sick.
When you lose “good” bacteria in your body—by taking antibiotics, for example—probiotics can help replace them and balance your “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep your body healthy. Eating a diverse diet of whole foods is the best way to ensure and increase healthy bacteria levels. You can also drink probiotic beverages sold at most local supermarkets, Target, and natural food stores.
What should you look for in probiotic products?
The product packaging will list the types of bacteria—the more types, the better. The most common probiotic found in yogurt and other fermented foods, Lactobacillus, can relieve diarrhea and help people digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Bifidobacterium, found in some dairy products, may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other GI conditions. The packaging may also indicate the dose. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics the best dose ranges from 100 million to one trillion CFUs per day. However, the highest dose may not always be the best. Look for words such as “live”, “active”, “raw” or “unpasteurized” on packaging to ensure that the manufacturing process hasn’t killed the probiotics.
What’s the difference between probiotic drinks?
- Yogurt drinks: Yogurt, in general, contains a few types of probiotics. Siggis Swedish-Style Filmjolk, a non-fat yogurt drink contains billions of probiotics and eight grams of protein and about one-third of your calcium requirement for the day. Raspberry is my favorite flavor. Chobani’s Coconut Based Non-Dairy Drink is another great tasting probiotic drink and contains less sugar than other non-dairy brands.
- Kefir is similar to yogurt, but fermented in a different way, which allows for more types of healthy bacteria to grow. While it is most commonly milk-based, it can also be made with non-dairy alternatives.
- Kombucha, another common probiotic drink, is made by fermenting sweet tea with yeast and bacteria.
- Other non-dairy alternatives are fruit juice and water-based drinks. At my local natural food store, I sampled Kevita sparkling probiotic drink (watermelon rose) and Farmhouse Gut shot (ginger beet) which were both light and refreshing and a perfect summer beverage.