I was reading through the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition (March 2010), and came across some articles concerning the questionable benefits of probiotics (read for yourself here), which got me thinking, I'm tired of yogurt being promoted as a health food. Here's why:
Most people have heard that probiotics are beneficial for digestive and immune health, since they increase the beneficial bacteria, or "flora", in our gut. These "good bacteria" are responsible for improving immune function and keeping the levels of detrimental microbes (such as yeast and other pathogens) from rising. When we don't have enough healthy flora it creates a condition called "dysbiosis" which can and often does lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut means toxic debris from the gut and undigested proteins are entering the blood, which often results in food allergies and autoimmune diseases.
So, yes, healthy levels of good bacteria in the gut are essential. But do we really need to eat foods with probiotics, such as yogurt and foods with added probiotics? No. (Does the food industry want you to think so? But of course).
I know this might sound surprising, but in order to keep our levels of intestinal flora healthy we need to EAT HIGH FIBER FOODS.
The first reason a high fiber increases our beneficial flora is because the indigestible fiber itself works to clean out the intestines. It regularly (no pun intended) removes the toxic by-products of digestion, as well as viruses, yeast and other pathogenic bacteria. This is essential to avoid dysbiosis.
Also, the different types of fiber found in food, such as oligosaccharides, inulin and polydextrose, are known as "prebiotics", which stimulate the growth of beneficial intestinal flora. Prebiotics come naturally in the same foods where we find fiber: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds). Prebiotics aren't added to foods as are probiotics, and you don't have to pay more for them.
So forget the latest marketing gimmick, and stop kidding yourself that yogurt is a health food. Keep your gut and immune system healthy by eating healthful foods.