Probiotic drinks have become increasingly popular, but there are a number of popular misconceptions about them. It’s therefore time to set the record straight with an examination of what probiotics are, what they do and weigh up their value.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics is the general term for the bacteria and yeasts which live in people’s gut and ensure efficient digestion. Although we associate bacteria with infections, probiotics are ‘friendly’ strains of bacteria.
Yogurt and other fermented dairy products are all natural sources of probiotics, but some people prefer to consume them in capsule or liquid form.
What are the Health Benefits of Drinkable Probiotics?
Marketed as drinkable yogurts, a probiotic drink has the consistency of milk. These drinks are sold in many flavours, and many people choose them as a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks. Others point out their health benefits.
Apart from being a valuable source of protein and calcium, fans of these drinks also claim that they can:
maintain balance in the digestive tract and aid digestion
treat and prevent diarrhoea and other medical conditions affecting digestion such as irritable bowel syndrome
strengthen the immune system
give an energy boost
detoxify the body
What Other Types of Probiotic Drinks Are Available?
For vegans or for people who are lactose-intolerant, there are alternatives to this diary-based drink. Kombucha tea is made from black or green tea, to which sugar, yeast and sugar (in the form of unrefined/cane sugar, fruit or honey) are added. Kombucha UK sales have increased over the past decade as a healthier substitute for carbonated drinks. Instead of buying this tea over the counter, it’s relatively easy to make your own at home as well.
Are There any Reservations about Probiotics?
Despite claims about its health benefits, the medical evidence from the testing of probiotic products has been mixed. Although it might help some medical conditions, more research needs to be done to support the claims made by its advocates.
Another point to remember is that just because a substance is good for the human organism, it does not necessarily follow that ingesting larger and larger quantities of it will lead to improved health. The digestive tract is made up of millions of microorganisms which work together in harmony. It does not take much to upset this delicate balance.
There is a wide variety of different strains of yeast and bacteria, and these are used in different combinations in probiotic products. However, until more research is done, it’s still unclear how they work together, and which ones are the most beneficial.
Except for some gastrointestinal side-effects (such as gas), probiotics have not been proven to have any harmful side-effects although some groups of people should seek medical advice before consuming large quantities of probiotic products.
Whether taking these products helps the human organism is still not proven. If people follow a well-balanced diet, they might not need any supplementary probiotics. But as an alternative to the empty calories of sugary, carbonated beverages, these drinks are vastly superior.