Probiotic drinks are gaining popularity as a natural way to prevent or treat lactose intolerance, diarrhea, urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. Probiotics are live micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi that may protect you from infection and promote digestive health. If you follow a vegan diet, are lactose intolerant or simply want to explore the different probiotic drinks on the market, you may want to try some of the non-dairy options. Probiotics are classified as a food product by the Food and Drug Administration and are not approved for medicinal use.
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Kefir has been touted as a health remedy in Central Asia for centuries. Traditionally prepared with cow's or goat's milk, this beverage can also be made with fermented soy for a probiotic drink that resembles yogurt in taste and texture. Unlike yogurt, kefir contains beneficial yeasts along with bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. The probiotics in kefir may encourage healthy digestion, prevent diarrhea and reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotic Soy Milk
If you don't like the acidic taste of cultured soy drinks, you might prefer non-fermented soy milk fortified with probiotic bacteria. In a 2004 study at the University of Missouri, researchers demonstrated that probiotic bacteria could thrive in non-fermented soy drinks. Researchers proposed that adding Lactobacillus species to uncultured soy drinks could prevent the damage done to probiotic bacteria during the fermentation process. If you're already used to drinking soy milk because of lactose intolerance or taste preferences, you may find additional health benefits in probiotic soy beverages.
For vegans or people with allergies to milk products, fruit or vegetable juices fortified with probiotic microorganisms offer an alternative to probiotic dairy beverages. Lactobacillus bacteria cultured in oatmeal or other non-dairy media have been added to fruit juices to provide this beneficial microbe to consumers who can't tolerate milk or yogurt. Probiotic juices are available in different sizes, ranging from the traditional 16 oz bottle to miniature bottles known as "shots." Probiotic juices blended with kombucha, a probiotic Asian tea, are also available.
Made from green or black tea fermented with probiotic microorganisms, kombucha is a centuries-old Asian remedy. The colonies that supply the probiotic content, commonly known as "mushrooms," are actually clusters of yeasts and bacteria, says MayoClinic.com. Kombucha contains high levels of vitamin B and may improve digestion, support immune function and provide antioxidant protection. You can brew kombucha at home using commercially available starter cultures or purchase it as a bottled beverage. The Food and Drug Administration cautions against the use of home-brewed kombucha, which is prone to contamination by pathogenic microbes. Clinical evidence has not verified that kombucha has any therapeutic or preventive properties.