Gut health and dairy foods

Gut health benefits

There is growing evidence around diet and gut health including the role of fermented foods, such as yoghurt, in helping to achieve a healthy, functioning digestive system.

Growing research supports the role of gut health in overall health and wellbeing. The gut microbiome (the collective term for microorganisms and their genetic material that live in the digestive system) plays an important role in digesting food and absorbing nutrients. In recent years, research has linked poor gut health to the development of conditions such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease

The foods we eat play an essential role in maintaining the diversity of the microorganisms in our gut, and the proper functioning of our gut. Recently, there has been an explosion in research around diet and gut health. This includes the role of fermented foods in helping to promote a healthy digestive system. Some fermented foods contain probiotics; active bacterial cultures with unique characteristics that allow them to survive in the gastrointestinal tract. When consumed in adequate amounts, they provide a health benefit and have the potential to maintain the natural balance of the gut microbiome. The health benefits of probiotics are always specific to the strain.  


What foods contain probiotics?

Nowadays, probiotics are easily incorporated into the daily diet. Fermented dairy products such as probiotic yoghurt, cultured drinks and kefir are some of the most common and easily available sources of probiotics. Other fermented foods and drinks include kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Fermented dairy foods are a common vehicle for probiotics as the composition of milk (which includes protein and fat) protects probiotics to help their survival from the digestive system through to the gut, including the harsh conditions of the stomach


What's the science around dairy and gut health?

The most commonly studied fermented dairy product in relation to gut health is yoghurt.

Following yoghurt consumption, a study has reported a slight increase in microbial diversity in some individuals, while increases in beneficial gut bacteria (Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) have also been observed with several different types of probiotics. Daily consumption of a probiotic yoghurt is also thought to decrease pathogens in the gut

Some have argued that probiotics in yoghurt are unlikely to have any health effect as it has not yet been determined whether they stay in the gut. There are still many knowledge gaps in relation to the way dairy products might affect the composition of the intestinal microbiota and we are learning more about the role of diet and gut health everyday

One of the most scientifically recognised health benefits related to dairy and gut health is yoghurt's role in managing lactose maldigestion. Yoghurt is usually better tolerated when compared with milk, and this is a likely consequence of the live bacteria within the product. In addition, the unique yoghurt matrix results in a longer digestion time than milk, helping with the absorption of nutrients and reducing gastrointestinal upsets