Several years ago, our veterinarian recommended giving yogurt with live, active cultures to our cats with digestive issues. He had read some research that said it helps with IBS.
I had no idea. At that time, I wasn’t a big yogurt person. All I knew was that I preferred Yoplait’s thick and creamy on the rare occasions I ate yogurt. (Today I wouldn’t touch it due to the additives, plus it does NOT have live AND active cultures.)
A year or so after our vet suggested yogurt came the Activia commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis. And then the probiotic pill commercials. “Buy this to keep your digestion ‘regular,'” the commercials tell us. Later, my partner’s gastroenterologist actually confirmed that probiotics are necessary.
So, our vet’s knowledge carries over to humans. Who knew?
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the live good bacteria that your gut needs to function properly. Gastroenterologists will actually prescribe a probiotic if you have stomach issues and can’t find any other underlying cause. Or if they find you do not have any of the necessary good bacteria in your stomach. That’s what happened to my partner. She had NO bacteria whatsoever. While no bad bacteria is a good thing, having no good bacteria is bad. That can still lead to digestive and other stomach issues.
There is also research that suggests there is a link to gut health and your brain. While there isn’t a lot of concrete probiotic research yet, there is enough to show this is more than just commercial hype and a new health fad.
If you don’t have digestive issues, you may not need a pill, but eating probiotic rich foods is still a good thing. Non alcoholic fermented foods (like yogurt) and beverages supply probiotics. I’m experimenting with fermented foods myself, but for now I’ll focus on yogurt.
What yogurts are the best?
As I said, CHECK THE LABEL. The probiotics are the live AND active cultures. My personal preference is to have at least L. acidophilus and B. lactis on the culture list, as these are two of the three probiotics in my partner’s doctor prescribed Florajen3. There are many other cultures, as well, that may be just as beneficial since which probiotics are the best still seems to be a guessing game. So, if you see live and active cultures, at this point you don’t need to stress over what they are. Unless you really want to stress over it.
I also recommend that you know everything that’s in your yogurt. I now make my own yogurt (including strawberry yoplait-style for my partner). The best yogurt is too expensive, and I want control over what’s in my yogurt and how it tastes. If you still want to buy your yogurt, just read the label. There are yogurts (like Siggi’s, a thick Icelandic style yogurt) that use just milk and cultures for their plain yogurt.
And for the record, Dannon’s Activia has their own patented culture. But I’m not aware of any independent research that actually says their probiotic is better than any others. If you check their ingredient list, Activia only says it has active cultures, and also has one of the rare ingredients that I recommend you stay away from . . .
Carrageenan! That’s a known cancer causing ingredient that’s used as a thickener in quite a few dairy (and non-dairy milk) products. Research also indicates it can promote glucose intolerance than can lead to diabetes, and exacerbate the condition if you already have it. The Food Babe and her followers have put pressure on organic companies to remove it, and several are now phasing out their use of carrageenan. I don’t like to be a food alarmist, but this is one additive I will not knowingly ingest.
In a later post, I will share my yogurt making recipes and tips. If you want to start now, feel free to do a google search. There are tons of how-to pages.
Yogurt is super easy to make, so if you have any cooking skills at all, you can do it!