5 reasons eating yogurt will improve digestion

It's unusual for people to willingly eat food that contains bacteria, but yogurt is one exception. Like all dairy products, yogurt is a good source of calcium and protein, but the real benefits may come from "good" bacteria added by the manufacturer. Here's why.

5 reasons eating yogurt will improve digestion

1. Good bacteria

When most people hear the word bacteria, they think of nasty germs that make people sick. However, the body is home to millions of "good" bacteria that help keep the bad kind in check. One type of these bacteria helps maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive tract. Many yogurt makers now add it and other types of bacteria, known as probiotics,  believed to have health benefits to their products.

2. Lactose intolerance

People who lack a certain enzyme in their gastrointestinal tracts can't digest lactose, or milk sugar, which may cause them to develop gas, bloating or diarrhea if they consume more than a small amount of milk. While yogurt contains lactose, it also contains the "antidote" -- called lactase. Studies show that when people with lactose intolerance consume yogurt, they experience fewer gastrointestinal symptoms than when they drink milk.

3. Diarrhea

If you've ever gotten diarrhea while taking antibiotics,  it was likely because antibiotics kill indiscriminately, wiping out both bad and good bacteria, the kind that keeps your gut healthy. This can lead to diarrhea and other tummy troubles. But taking probiotics, the good bacteria in yogurt, can help. In a recent study of 135 hospital patients receiving antibiotic treatment, just 12 percent of the group who were given probiotic milkshakes developed diarrhea compared to 34 percent of the group who received a placebo drink. Yogurt can also help with diarrhea caused by infections, a common problem in children.

4. Peptic ulcers

Most stomach and intestinal ulcers are caused by a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Treatment with antibiotics and drugs can cure peptic ulcers, but this first-line therapy fails to eliminate H. pylori in some patients. Studies in humans show yogurt containing live cultures suppresses the activity of the bacteria.

5. Other gastrointestinal problems

Several studies have shown that the probiotics found in yogurt may relieve some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including abdominal pain and bloating. Less is known about the benefits of yogurt for inflammatory bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. However, a recent study found that eating yogurt containing probiotics for one month reduced levels of inflammation in a group of patients with these two conditions.

The healthy bacteria that yogurt provides is a major reason to make it a part of your diet. And it tastes good too.

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