General Question

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I've heard that eating yogurt will get your digestive track back in line, but can someone explain to me?

Asked by evelyns_pet_zebra (12903points) February 12th, 2009

how the live bacteria survives the trip through your stomach, as it is full of hydrochloric acid. I’ve worked with several types of acid, and hydrochloric is particularly nasty. How does the little bacteria survive that particular ‘ride through Hell’?

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12 Answers

eponymoushipster's avatar

The “active cultures” in yogurt are good for your gut flora, which helps regulate some functions of your body, up to but not limited to defecation and controlling the immune system (or working with it, I guess is better to say).

As for the “ride through Hell” part, i’m not sure, but apparently it works. Perhaps the acidity of the yogurt itself plays some role?

regarding the above article, i think it’s pretty amazing how babies have bacteria transfered to them almost immediately upon birth, and the rate at which it is transmitted. wild stuff

dynamicduo's avatar

Yes, most bacteria get destroyed before reaching the intestines (which is the desired place for these bacteria), but apparently there are some that do manage to survive. This Wikipedia page details probiotics in general. (That’s the golden keyword when doing searches for info about this issue – probiotic).

The bacteria themselves don’t get your digestive track back in line, per se. Yogurt, and other foods which contain probiotic bacteria, help to replenish the bacteria colonies. So say you had an illness that caused you to fully empty your intestines, the probiotics would help to get your digestive track back in line by means of reintroducing the bacteria that call your intestines their home.

One of the probiotic bacteria groups, Lactobacillus, is also found in other fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso paste.

Be cautious though, “active cultures” is a marketing term that’s meant to convince you to pay more money for that container of yogurt. First off, their claims have never lived up to what they advertise (scroll down to the Yogurts section), and furthermore, like you say, your stomach is going to kill off most bacteria anyway, so the difference between the amount of non-bacteria-added versus bacteria-added yogurt is really negligible. One last consideration: one of the groups, Dannon, that sells yogurt with “active cultures”, also sells Evian water, and everyone knows Evian backwards is Naive, which I feel fits their company precisely.

MissAnthrope's avatar

The key is that the pH of the stomach is not constant. A meal, for instance, can drastically raise the pH level, allowing the bacteria to pass through live. My bottle of acidophilus (one of those active cultures in yogurt) recommends taking the capsules with food, for this reason.

As an aside, one species of bacteria actually prefers to live in the stomach (Helicobacter pylori), despite the acid environment. It creates an enzyme shield that protects it from acid, then it finds niches between epithelial cells, where the environment is almost neutral pH.

“Some bacteria are really tough. They have protective layers around them that enable them to survive acid. Some viruses actually need the acidic environment of your gut in order to infect you. Some bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens which causes gas gangrene and Clostridium dificile (C.dif) form spores. These spores are tiny husks of dried up bacterium, almost in suspended animation, which can pass through the stomach without being damaged and they can come back to life in the relatively nice environment of the intestines.

“Other bacteria, like Helicobacter pylori, which is linked to causing stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, encode an enzyme called uricase. Uricase breaks down urea which is found in low levels in all our tissues, into ammonia, which is alkaline and neutralises the acid around the bacteria.” (Via)

Strauss's avatar

It can be especially important to refresh or renew your gut flora if you have been through a regimen of antibiotics. Sometimes the antibiotics can kill the beneficial life forms in your body as well as the bad ones.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Yetanotheruser this is true – i had to take acidophoulus <sp?> tablets for a month once when i got a mild staph infection.

imhellokitty's avatar

you’ve got your anti-biotic’s and your pro-biotic’s. Anti- biotic’s get rid of stuff that’s bad, pro-biotics aid stuff that’s good. You’ve got the pro-biotic’s in yogurt.

Ashpea9288's avatar

@Dynamicduo Your last paragraph is absolutely true. Things like Activia and that new Dannon stuff are a complete marketing ploy. You’re better off going with organic yogurt. It has I believe 6 more types of live and active cultures than non-organic, and it regulates your system a lot better than Activia. It’s also very good for regulating the stuff going on with your lady parts! The only issue is that, if you’re a non-organic yogurt eater, the taste and consistency may take some getting used to.

TaoSan's avatar

Actually, if you really want to take it up a notch, get Kefir

laureth's avatar

Eating yogurt helps, but you’re right, most of the little beasties die before they reached the Promised Land down there. The help from yogurt is minimal. There are products better suited to recolonizing the gut, which can be found at places like Whole Foods. (It’s usually chilled and comes in amber bottles, and has a much higher bacteria count.)

Organic doesn’t have more or different bacteria in it just because it’s organic – it all depends on what they inoculate it with to get the culture going. All told, though, yogurt makes a better snack than a medicine.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

As a skeptic, I am still skeptical of this process for getting probiotics into my guts, perhaps shoving them in from the other way might help avoid the stomach all together.

Strauss's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra These types of procedures (often referred to as a colonic or enema) are usually used to remove, rather than deposit.

rMacker83's avatar

*This was pulled from:
http://www.dairycouncilofca.org/pdfs/probiotics.pdf

Re: Intestinal tract health
1— ’‘Probiotic bacteria have (...) been shown to preserve intestinal integrity and mediate the effects of inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and alcoholic liver disease. In addition, lactic acid bacteria may improve intestinal mobility and relieve constipation, particularly in seniors’’

2— ’‘What level of probiotic consumption is needed to realize the desired benefits?
Many studies of probiotic bacteria on physiological effects such as diarrhea, lactose intolerance, and colon cancer biomarkers show an effect using a daily dose of 109 – 1010 organisms per day. This corresponds to an intake of about 3–½ cups of acidophilus milk or yogurt per day, formulated at the typical level of 2×106 cfu/ml. Effects of consuming lower levels have not been documented in research studies but may also be beneficial.’’

Pretty interesting stuff and a good read as well !!

1— see ’‘Nutritional Effects’’
2— see ’‘What level of probiotic consumption is needed to realize the desired benefits?’’

Information courtesy Dairy Council of California, year 2000

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