How to Choose Drinks That Are Good for Gut Bacteria

Three Parts:Looking for a Probiotic BeverageIncorporating Drinks that Help Improve Gut BacteriaImproving Gut Bacteria with Other Foods

Many people are interested in improving the health of their GI system by taking probiotics. These helpful bacteria are thought to be "good bacteria" since they help protect your GI system and can even promote better gut health. Probiotics are found in a wide variety of foods and beverages.[1] However, many foods that contain probiotics are either dairy foods or fermented foods which may not fit into everyone's diet or lifestyle. Drinking a beverage that has probiotics may be tastier and easier to do for some people. Consider purchasing probiotic drinks so you can help improve you gut health.

Part 1
Looking for a Probiotic Beverage

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    Read the label. Whenever you're looking to buy a supplement or food with a specific ingredient, it's important to review the label. You should look at the nutrition fact panel, ingredient list and any other labels available on products.
    • Pay attention to the expiration date. Since probiotics are live organisms, it's essential to make sure you look at the expiration date to make sure the product is not expired. Also, choose a beverage that has a expiration date that isn't coming up soon. You'll want to make sure you drink it in time.[2]
    • Also look for beverages that say "contains live or active cultures." This means the manufacturer has added probiotics to this beverage.
    • Since you're purchasing a drink, also review the nutrition label. Make sure to purchase something that will fit into your diet guidelines. You may want to look for a lower calorie drink, something without added sugar or something without fat. You'll find this information on the nutrition fact panel.
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    Look for drinks with at least 5 billion CFU (colony forming units). All probiotic supplements (including supplemental beverages) will have the number of individual bacteria contained in the product listed on the label. Aim to find a beverage that has at least 5 billion CFUs.
    • You will see probiotic drinks containing a wide range of CFUs. The higher the amount, the stronger and the more effective the beverage will be at promoting the good bacteria in your gut.
    • Studies have shown that certain levels of bacteria provide the best results. Typically, any supplemental beverage that contains at least 5 billion CFUs is encouraged by health professionals.[3]
    • Only supplements and supplemental beverages will list the CFUs. However, not all beverages that contain probiotics will list the CFUs (like kefir or kombucha). Only beverages marketed as a dietary supplement will list the CFUs.
    • Even though some beverages may not list the CFU count, that doesn't mean they are not effective or will not provide your gut with any benefits. It's just an added benefit if you find a beverage that does provide this information.
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    Purchase a supplement that needs to be refrigerated. You may notice that some drinks are shelf stable, while others are only found in the refrigerated section. Most health professionals advise to purchase supplements and drinks that need to be refrigerated.
    • Since probiotics are bacteria that are alive, they need to be kept alive to be active. Drinks that are refrigerated contain live cultures that have been shown to be the most effective at improving gut health.[4]
    • Beverages that are shelf stable will contain probiotics that have been more processed in order to be viable at room temperature.
    • Make sure that after you buy them that you also keep the beverage refrigerated unless you drink it immediately.
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    Try to find a beverage that contains Bifidobacteria or Lactobacilli strains. There are a large variety of different probiotic strains that are found in beverages and supplements. Make sure you're purchasing a beverage that has the best and most beneficial strains of probiotics.
    • Studies have shown that out of all the different strains of probiotics, two of the most effective are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.[5]
    • When you're reading the labels on your probiotic beverages, flip the bottle over and look at or near the ingredient list. This is where you will find the probiotic strains listed (if available).
    • Not all beverages that contain probiotics will have the type of strain listed. This doesn't mean you shouldn't consume these beverages or that they are not beneficial. It's only an added benefit if you can find the name of the exact probiotic strain.

Part 2
Incorporating Drinks that Help Improve Gut Bacteria

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    Drink kefir. Kefir is a traditional drink common to Eastern Europe. It's a fermented dairy beverage that has the consistency of very thin yogurt. It's tart, but very tasty and contains a significant amount of probiotics that are very beneficial to your gut.[6]
    • Studies have shown that in addition to improving the health of your GI system, kefir has also been shown to have antimicrobial, antitumor and anticarcinogenic activity.[7]
    • Since the health benefits of kefir have become more well known, it's easier to find this fermented dairy product in your grocery store. It's typically found in the refrigerated section near yogurt or pre-made smoothies.
    • Many companies that produce kefir do list the types of live and active cultures they add or use to make their kefir. Look for drinks that advertise the use of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli strains.
    • You can drink kefir as is or mix it into a homemade fruit smoothie. Plain kefir is quite tart, however you can find fruit flavored versions that are a little sweeter.
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    Try kombucha. Kombucha is another fermented beverage that has become more popular. It's a fermented tea that has a little bit of bubbly carbonation to it. There have been many health claims made about kombucha including the promotion of good bacteria in the gut.[8]
    • Kombucha is a tea that's made by fermenting yeast and bacteria with tea. After fermentation, what results is a slightly sweet, slightly sour tea that has some natural carbonation.
    • A few studies have shown that kombucha has antibiotic and antioxidant effects which will help support the immune and GI system.[9]
    • You may find kombucha in your local grocery store in the refrigerated beverage area. It needs to stay refrigerated until you consume it. Also make sure to follow the recommended expiration date.
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    Choose fruit juice-based drinks. Some supplement companies also make probiotic beverages that are sold as a dietary supplement. These drinks are generally fruit juice based with probiotics added to them.
    • Many people may skip over the typical dairy-based probiotic beverages or foods because of lactose intolerance or a dislike of these foods. Companies are filling the gap by adding probiotics to fruit juices which have been shown to offer the same benefit.[10]
    • Studies have shown that the bacteria added to fruit juices can have a similar effect on the GI system as dairy-based probiotics.
    • Since these beverages are being marketed as dietary supplements, you will find a lot more specific information on the types and amounts of probiotics they contain. This is an item where you'd want the CFUs to be over 5 billion and the strains included to be either Bifidobacteria or Lactobacilli.
    • You will find these fruit juice probiotic supplements in a refrigerated supplement aisle or in the refrigerated beverage section of your grocery store. These should be consumed immediately or kept in the refrigerated until their expiration date.
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    Drink premade yogurt smoothies. Similar to the probiotic fruit juices, you will also find probiotic smoothies available. These are pre-made beverages that are dairy and fruit based and also contain beneficial probiotics.
    • These probiotic smoothies are generally made from either yogurt or kefir that contain live active cultures or cultures were added during the processing of the smoothie.[11]
    • Many people may enjoy these smoothies as they are a little less tart and more sweet and palatable compared to kefir or kombucha.
    • Note that some of these yogurt smoothies may have a significant amount of added sugar. Make sure to read the food label to see how much sugar is contained in one serving.[12]
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    Consider purchasing supplemental probiotic drinks. Outside of a typical probiotic beverage, some supplement companies sell little "shots" or small servings of liquid probiotics. These may be another option if you're looking to improve the healthy bacteria found in your gut.
    • In the supplement aisle, you may see a small refrigerated section with small-serving drinks listed as a probiotic supplement. They generally have a very high concentration of those good bacteria in a small amount of liquid.[13]
    • These are similar to taking a probiotic pill or tablet except that its in a drinkable form. The idea is that you can get in an appropriate dose of probiotics in one simple "shot" and not have to drink a large amount of other beverages like kefir.
    • As long as these drinks have at least 5 billion CFUs, the right strains of bacteria and fit into your dietary patterns (for example, being a certain calorie level), these are also appropriate to include.

Part 3
Improving Gut Bacteria with Other Foods

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    Include a serving of yogurt daily. One of the most common foods known to be high in probiotics is yogurt. You can find yogurts with live and active cultures at just about any grocery store. Adding this to your diet in addition to probiotic beverages can help support a healthy gut.
    • Many yogurt companies are now adding probiotics to their yogurts. It's common to see yogurts that are advertising "live and active cultures" on their products. Look for this labeling on yogurts before you purchase them.[14]
    • Choose yogurts that have little added sugars to them. You may want to stick to plain yogurt instead of flavored and add your own fruit or flavorings at home.
    • Including one serving of yogurt daily is a great way to get in a decent amount of probiotics. Aim for 1 cup of yogurt per serving.[15]
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    Try fermented vegetables. If you're lactose intolerant or do not enjoy dairy foods, there are plenty of probiotics found in fermented and pickled vegetables. These crunchy and slightly sour foods are a great source of gut enhancing bacteria.[16]
    • Vegetables that contain probiotics include: kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and pickled vegetables (like pickled cauliflower).[17]
    • If you're purchasing these foods from the grocery store, make sure to look for items that have not been pasteurized as this process kills the probiotics. It should say "naturally fermented" or "unpasteurized."
    • Include a serving of these tangy vegetables everyday to help increase the amount of probiotics you eat. A typical serving of vegetables is about 1 cup. This may be a lot when it comes to fermented vegetables, so consider splitting up this serving throughout the day.[18]
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    Eat vegetarian sources of protein. Another interesting place that you can find probiotics are in vegetarian protein sources. Both tofu and tempeh contain probiotics and can be a great alternative to either dairy or fermented vegetables.
    • Both tofu and tempeh are made from fermented soy beans. The probiotics result from this fermentation process making these protein sources beneficial to your gut.[19]
    • Since tofu and tempeh are considered a protein, it's important to measure out the appropriate serving size. Stick to a 3-4 oz portion of either per meal.[20]
    • If you haven't cooked with tofu or tempeh before, it's easy to get started. Both are great when marinated and can take on a lot of flavor. From there, they can be baked, added to stir-fries or crumbled and used in place of ground meat.
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    Add foods that contain prebiotics. All living organisms need a source of food or fuel - including probiotics. Their food is actually called prebiotics which are apart of different foods and promote the growth of these healthy bacteria.[21]
    • Prebiotics specifically are non-digestible components of foods (like the type of sugar called fructooligosaccharide) that act as food for the probiotics.
    • These food components are found in a very specific group of foods. They include: leeks, bananas, onions, garlic, artichokes, soybeans, asparagus and whole-wheat foods (like whole wheat bread or whole wheat pasta).
    • Try to combine these foods or eat a serving of a prebiotic and probiotic daily. For example, you can add sliced bananas to your yogurt or saute onions, garlic and tempeh together for a stir-fry.

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