The word "bacteria" typically evokes images of illness and disease. Your immune system works to keep harmful bacteria out, but not all bacteria pose a danger. Bacteria that benefit your health are called probiotics. These critters live harmoniously in your gut, for example, and are a normal part of your digestive system. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, contain probiotics. You can also find drinks that contain added probiotics.
Background on Probiotics
Often referred to as friendly bacteria, probiotics are live microorganisms similar or identical to those found naturally in your body. It may surprise you to know that as an adult, you likely have more microorganism cells than human cells, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Your body, particularly the lower part of your digestive tract, plays host to complex bacteria colonies. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey ranked probiotics as one of the top natural products parents give children.
Probiotic drinks are typically dairy-based beverages with a consistency similar to milk. Some manufacturers refer to their probiotic drinks as drinkable yogurts. You can find them in a wide range of flavors at your local grocer in the dairy aisle. They usually contain a mixture of probiotic strains. The common probiotics used in the United States are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Danone DanActive probiotic drink contains 10 billion live cultures, according to the company's website. Another probiotic drink called Yakult contains 8 billion live cultures, according to its website.
Uses and Benefits
Probiotic drinks are marketed for digestive health. Friendly bacteria help keep harmful bacteria in check, contributing to gastrointestinal wellness. Many people eat probiotic foods for general digestive health. Probiotics may benefit individuals with digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome, according to Harvard Medical School. Some women consume probiotic foods to prevent and treat yeast infections. Parents commonly use probiotic foods to combat diarrhea and other digestive issues in their children.
Consuming probiotic drinks may cause mild gastrointestinal side effects such as gas. The normal gut contains an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms, Harvard Health Publications reports. So, if you're healthy, you usually don't need additional probiotics. If you've recently taken antibiotics, suffer from recurrent yeast infections or have digestive issues, talk to your health care provider to see if adding probiotic drinks to your diet can help. If you have lactose intolerance, nondairy probiotic drinks are available.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Oral Probiotics: An Introduction
- Yakult USA: Yakult Nutrition Facts
- Danone: Drinkable Probiotic Yogurt
- Harvard Family Health Guide: Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
- Harvard Health Publications: Benefit of Probiotics: Should You Take a Daily Dose of Bacteria?
- Goodbelly: Non-Dairy Probiotic