- Probiotic and prebiotic sodas are gaining popularity.
- The sodas are made with ingredients said to support a healthier gut.
- Experts say probiotic and prebiotic sodas may help you hit your recommended daily fiber allowance, improve digestion, and support immune function.
- However, some have a high sugar content and may cause digestive issues like bloating and gas.
- Research on the health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics is limited.
What’s the first drink you reach for when you’re thirsty?
For many people, it’s a can of soda. But if you’re looking for a healthy swap, you could soon be replacing your usual beverage with a soda that claims to have added benefits.
Recently, prebiotic and probiotic sodas have been gaining popularity, thanks in part to reviews on TikTok.
In fact, search ‘probiotic soda’ on the social media platform, and you’ll get 119m results, with many users reviewing popular gut-health sodas from brands like Poppi, Olipop, and Culture Pop.
These fizzy and sweet drinks are said to have less sugar than conventional sodas and are made with ingredients believed to support a healthier gut.
What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
To put it simply, probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that live in our gut and keep it balanced and healthy.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that we can’t digest. They serve as food for the probiotics, helping them grow and flourish in our gut.
Probiotics and prebiotics work together to keep our digestive system healthy and balanced, so are there any benefits to consuming them in a soda?
Why the interest in probiotic and prebiotic sodas is growing
Marilia Chamon, registered nutritional therapist, gut health expert, and founder of Gutfulness Nutrition, isn’t surprised that prebiotic and probiotic beverages are taking off. She says their newfound popularity is the result of several factors.
Firstly, people are becoming more aware of the importance of gut health.
“Increasing awareness of gut health and the role of the gut microbiome in overall well-being has driven interest in products that claim to support gut health,” Chamon surmises.
Secondly, she says the appeal of these sodas is rooted in convenience.
“As a beverage, they provide a tasty way to incorporate beneficial microbes and dietary fibers into one’s routine, making them an attractive option for consumers who want to improve their gut health without making significant dietary changes,” she explains.
Are these sodas really good for your gut?
While a growing number of people are reaching for these drinks as a healthier alternative to traditional sodas, are they actually beneficial for your gut and overall health?
Chamon isn’t entirely convinced.
“I personally can’t see much benefit to it, apart from increased fiber intake,” she says. “If you eat a western diet, based mostly on refined sugars and carbohydrates, and a high intake of animal proteins and saturated fat with little consumption of whole foods, prebiotic sodas can contribute to your daily recommended fiber intake,” she explains.
“However, I would rather people focus on improving their dietary patterns instead of relying on prebiotic sodas to support their health goals,” she added.
While Chamon says these sodas can be a convenient and enjoyable way to incorporate dietary fiber into one’s daily routine, she believes they should not replace a diet rich in whole foods; one that includes:
Chamon says the main question to ask is, “What are you taking probiotics for?”
“Probiotics are strain-dependent and different strains offer different health benefits. Ideally, you should be looking for a strain that has been studied and proven to help with the specific symptom you are looking to address,” she explains.
Potential risks of drinking probiotic and prebiotic sodas
Karen Reyes, a board-certified nutritionist, says there are both health benefits and potential health risks to consuming these beverages.
On the one hand, she says they may improve digestion and support immune function by promoting the production of antibodies.
“Some studies even suggest that they may have beneficial effects on mood and mental health by promoting the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin,” she adds.
She also cites a 2016 review published in the Nutrition Bulletin, that suggests consumption of probiotics may be beneficial for various health conditions, such as gastrointestinal infections and inflammatory bowel disease.
On the other hand, Reyes says these sodas may cause digestive issues, such as:
Chamon shares similar concerns.
“Introducing probiotics can cause gas and bloating, especially for those with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO),” she notes.
“The prebiotic fiber used in these types of sodas is usually inulin, which is a common trigger for bloating and gas, particularly for those with a sensitive digestive system, or people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some brands claim their soda can relieve bloating but it can be quite the opposite,” she surmises.
In addition, some of these sodas have a high sugar content, which can contribute to heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and being overweight.
Research on the effects of prebiotic and probiotic sodas is still developing
Reyes believes it’s important to note that research on probiotics and prebiotics is still developing, and more studies are needed to fully understand their potential health benefits.
In the meantime, if you are choosing to drink a probiotic or prebiotic soda, she advises choosing brands with natural ingredients and no added sugars.
As for whether or not you should consume them every day, Reyes says there is no clear answer as it depends on a variety of factors, including your overall diet, lifestyle, and health goals.
However, both experts agree that in moderation they are generally safe for most people.
Ways you can improve your gut health
Given that it’s not entirely clear how beneficial probiotic and prebiotic sodas are, you might be thinking twice about consuming them.
However, there are other ways health experts say you can improve your gut health.
A diet that is high in fiber and low in processed high-sugar, and high-fat foods is key. Meanwhile, research suggests that eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut may improve the gut microbiome.
“Scientific research continuously demonstrates that eating a varied and well-balanced diet is the best way to support your gut and overall health,” says Chamon.
“The Mediterranean diet, which is centered around fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, has been linked to a large number of health benefits, including the prevention of many diseases, therefore you can support your overall health by following such dietary pattern.”
The bottom line
The jury is out on just how beneficial probiotic and prebiotic sodas are, both for your gut and overall health.
They could help you consume your recommended daily amount of fiber, but they shouldn’t act as a replacement for nutrient-rich foods and drinks.
Be aware of marketing claims, Chamon warns.
“No single drink or food can replace a varied and well-balanced diet,” she notes.
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