Gut Check: Fermented Foods and the Microbiome

How are fermented foods made?

How do fermented foods affect gut health?

Fermented ≠ Probiotic

  • While many fermented foods may still contain live and active cultures when they make it to store shelves, many of these microbes do not have known health benefits — one of the key requirements of being considered a probiotic.
  • I hate to break it to you, but a cup of yogurt once in a while or a few spoonfuls of kimchi with your takeout probably aren’t going to make much of a sustained impact on gut health. Studies suggest that probiotic bacteria have to be eaten regularly to maintain a presence among the microbes that have already staked their claim to valuable real estate in the gut.
  • Because there is no recommended daily allowance for probiotics, it’s not clear how much we need to eat to optimize gut health.
  • It’s also unclear if probiotics are particularly beneficial for people who are already in good health. However, there is evidence that fermented dairy products may have therapeutic properties in some people with severe Clostridium difficile infection, by repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria and reducing risk of regrowth of harmful microbes.

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The International Food Information Council is a nonprofit organization communicating science-based information about health, nutrition and food production.