The human gut is a complex ecosystem that contains trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more. This intricate community, often referred to as the “gut microbiome,” plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health. There has been a growing interest in beverages enriched with live beneficial bacteria, known as bacteria drinks. These drinks have gained popularity for their potential to positively impact gut health. In this article, we will explore what bacteria drinks are and how they can impact the gut.
Bacteria drinks are beverages that contain beneficial bacteria known as probiotics.
Probiotics have been shown to improve gut health, immune health, weight management, and even mental health.
Be sure to choose a drink that has good probiotic diversity, low sugar content, and is stored cold. Probiotics are organisms, so keeping them cold keeps them alive and active so they can make their greatest impact.
If you have specific health concerns or conditions, you should consult with a healthcare professional before adding bacteria drinks to your diet.
Bacteria drinks, often marketed as probiotic beverages, contain live beneficial microorganisms. Probiotics are typically strains of helpful bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are known for their ability to promote gut health. Bacteria drinks can be found in various forms, including dairy-based drinks like kefir or bubbly, effervescent drinks like kombucha.
Health benefits of bacteria drinks
Consuming drinks that contain probiotics can have several positive effects on gut health. Here are some examples:
Improved digestive health
Probiotic drinks are often associated with improved digestion and more regularity in bowel transit time. This means probiotics can help with things like constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and distention. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology found that probiotics can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as abdominal pain and bloating, in a significant percentage of patients.
The gut plays a pivotal role in the immune system. Research published in the journal Nutrients suggests that probiotics can modulate immune responses, potentially reducing the risk of infections. Probiotic supplementation reduced the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections by 42% in a randomized controlled trial involving 465 children.
Gut microbiome composition is associated with body weight. Studies have indicated that certain probiotics may contribute to weight management. The journal Nutrition Today found “that manipulating the gut microbiota could facilitate weight loss or prevent obesity in humans. Emerging as possible strategies for obesity prevention and/or treatment are targeting the microbiota […] through the consumption of live bacteria (probiotics), nondigestible or limited digestible food constituents such as oligosaccharides (prebiotics), or both (synbiotics).”
Mood and mental health
The gut-brain connection is a topic of growing interest. Emerging research suggests that gut health may influence mood and mental well-being. Approximately 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, is produced in the gut. Clinical Practice Journal found that “probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance, and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.”
Probiotics have shown promise in managing inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis (UC), arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Studies in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed “some microbial species have been associated strongly with anti-inflammatory roles, in particular, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii” making it a promising strain to continue to study in regards to inflammatory conditions.
Probiotic drinks offer so many health advantages, they could be a potential tool in your arsenal of disease prevention.
Bacteria beverage options
Here are some of the most common and popular probiotic drinks on the market:
- Buttermilk. Probiotics and live cultures are added to milk to give it a tart taste. Buttermilk is great for baking.
- Kefir. A dairy/milk-based drink with the consistency of a yogurt smoothie.
- Kombucha. A tea-based fermented drink that’s effervescent like soda.
- Fermented fruit juices. Orange juice, lemonade, greens juice, apple juice, and other with added probiotics.
- Apple cider vinegar drinks. These are juices with apple cider vinegar (a fermented vinegar full of healthy probiotics) added to them.
Now that you know some available probiotic drinks on the market, let’s discuss how to choose the right one.
Choosing the right bacteria drink
Not all bacteria drinks are created equal, and it's essential to select products that contain viable and effective probiotic strains. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right bacteria drink:
- CFUs. The label should indicate the colony-forming units (CFUs), which represent the number of live bacteria per serving. ISRN Nutrition found that “it is generally accepted that probiotic products should have […] a total of 10^8 to 10^9 probiotic microorganisms [to] be consumed daily for the probiotic effect” which equates to 100 million to 1 billion CFU per day. You probably won’t get all of your CFUs in a single drink, but keep this number in mind when aiming for your daily dietary goals.
- Variety of strains. A good bacteria drink should contain a variety of probiotic strains to target different aspects of gut health. Look for clear labeling that specifies the type and quantity of probiotic strains in the product. The longer the list, the more diverse the probiotic strains in your drink.
- Sugar content. Be mindful of added sugars in flavored probiotic drinks, as excessive sugar intake can have adverse effects on health. You don’t want to undo all of the benefits of the probiotics by adding lots of unnecessary sugar.
- Storage requirements. High-quality bacteria drinks require refrigeration to maintain the viability of probiotics. Follow storage instructions to ensure the effectiveness of the product.
- Consult a healthcare professional. If you have specific health concerns or conditions, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before adding bacteria drinks to your diet.
In an age where the importance of gut health is increasingly recognized, bacteria drinks offer a convenient and enjoyable way to support our inner ecosystem. As research continues to uncover the intricacies of the gut-brain axis and the role of probiotics, the potential for bacteria drinks to contribute to our overall well-being becomes even more compelling. Improved digestive health, enhanced immunity, better weight management, and improved mood and mental health could be worth replacing your daily soda or juice with a beneficial bacteria beverage.
- Clinical Practice. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis.
- International Journal of Molecular Science. Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases.
- World Journal of Gastroenterology. Effectiveness of probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome: Updated systematic review with meta-analysis.
- International Journal of Molecular Science. Influence of Foods and Nutrition on the Gut Microbiome and Implications for Intestinal Health.