Probiotic myths: you can get all the probiotics you need from your diet

Bio yogurt containing probiotics

Forget the advertising hype: probiotic yogurts and fermented food just aren’t the same as taking a probiotic supplement. And eating well is not alone guaranteed to deliver the same health benefits to your gut bacteria as a good probiotic supplement

Your diet is the first place to start for many aspects of your health. To look after the health of the bacteria in your gut (your micro biome, route of good health) it’s helpful to increase probiotic and prebiotic consumption to boost overall friendly bacteria numbers, and to decrease fast food, sugar and alcohol consumption which work negatively against the microbial balance.

Common food sources of prebiotics (food to feed the probiotic bacteria include:

  • onions
  • garlic
  • bananas

Common fermented foods containing micro-organisms include:

  • natural bio yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • kimchi

Whether these foods are purchased in a shop or fermented at home, the live cultures they contain will vary from batch to batch depending on the growing conditions. In this way the live cultures content in fermented foods is much less certain compared to a probiotic food supplement that has been created to contain the strains stated on the packaging. One cannot comfortably compare a fermented food to a high-quality probiotic supplement that has been shown in clinical trails to give particular health benefits.

Probiotics vs fermented food While the bacteria content in fermented food is subject to the fermentation environment, the number of micro-organisms in commercially available fermented foods is often undermined and in many cases is thought to be lower than in probiotic supplements. To match the doses in probiotic supplements high amounts of fermented foods usually need to be consumed.

Probiotics vs bio yogurt Live yogurt is the most popular fermented food in the West but intolerance to dairy products is not the rise, and many yogurt and yogurt drinks containing live cultures are loaded with as much as 3tsp of sugar per serving.

Probiotics vs diet Most importantly, there are certain aspects of health for which specific probiotic strains, not commonly available inner diets, are best researched. For example:

  • S boulardii for diarrhoea
  • B lactis BB-12 for constipation
  • L rhamnosus Rosell-11 and L acidophilus Rosell-52 for diarrhoea from taking antibiotics

So in these cases fermented food is unlikely to give sufficiently targeted probiotic therapy to see the outcome you desire, compared to specifically researched probiotic strains.

Bottom line: we recommend fermented foods as part of a healthy diet, alongside but not instead of a quality probiotic supplement. 

Information supplied by Optibac