Milk: It Does a Body (and Gut) Good

Your mom probably told you to drink your milk for strong bones and teeth, but did she ever mention a healthy gut? Probably not, but a new study indicates that dairy products can actually boost the effectiveness of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that promote digestion and strengthen immunity. This research was published July 10 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Probiotics can be found naturally in several dairy products such as yogurt, kefir and some raw or aged cheeses, but there are plenty of other probiotic sources that are not in the dairy family. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and even pickles are rich in these gut-healthy microbes. While consuming any of these options will undoubtedly increase your intake of probiotics, researchers believe the key to unlocking their full range of health benefits is dairy.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis focused their study on the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei BL23 in mouse models with colitis, a condition which causes inflammation of the colon. They found that the mice who consumed the probiotic with milk had decreased symptoms compared to mice who consumed milk without a probiotic and mice that were given the probiotic in a nonfood supplement.

Corresponding author Maria Marco, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis, says these findings indicate that the delivery of probiotics can influence the effect that they have on the body. While dairy products are often the go-to source or individuals wanting to bulk up on probiotics, this is the first study to investigate whether probiotics are more effective in dairy versus other foods or supplements.

Probiotics are an excellent way to maintain balance in your digestive tract, and they are a safe and easy addition to practically any diet. Whether you choose supplements, fermented foods or products that have been fortified with probiotics, make sure to include dairy when consuming your probiotic sources. You’ll enjoy a wealth of health benefits and feel great about yourself.