Are probiotic foods really beneficial for your gut?Not only does eating a nutritious diet go a long way toward helping you live a longer life, it also helps you maintain good gut health.

I’m often asked if a diet focusing on probiotic-rich foods can have the same positive effects as taking a concentrated probiotic supplement.

The answer is complicated. Suffice it to say, the jury is still out about the advantages of consuming foods often associated with probiotics. Let’s take a closer look at foods that are made with bacteria to see how they compare to probiotics.

Kombucha: Made with sugar, bacteria, yeast and tea, this non-alcohol beverage is a often marketed as a “probiotic food.” Even its supporters say kombucha is an acquired taste due to its fermented odor and sour flavor. Also, the Mayo Clinic reports adverse effects linked to drinking kombucha (infections, allergic reactions and stomach problems).

Sauerkraut: Another famous probiotic food, sauerkraut is thinly cut cabbage that has been fermented with various lactic acid bacteria, including lactobacillus and leuconostoc and pediococcus. Unfortunately, most brands you’ll find at the grocery store are pasteurized, so they contain no live bacteria.

Miso: This traditional, thick Japanese paste, made by fermenting barley, rice and soybeans with salt and a fungus (kojikin) can be added to sauces, spreads or soups.

Sourdough bread: This kind of bread contains lactobacillus in higher amounts compared to yeast than others due to the fermentation process.

Are probiotic foods really beneficial for your gut?Pickles: The pickled cucumber is a popular food that has been put in a brine, vinegar or another solution and left to ferment for a specific time. But, avoid pickles made with vinegar, as they aren’t naturally fermented (like those made from water and sea salt).

Chocolate: A recent study found one probiotic strain (Bacillus indicus) combined with lemon fiber and maltodextrin in dark chocolate (50 percent cocoa) did survive processing at high rates and texture, taste and color wasn’t significantly affected.

Moreover, previous research concluded chocolate may be a better “carrier” for some probiotics because bacterial survival rates were four times greater.

Kefir: Called the “champagne of milk,” kefir is made from fermenting the lactose contained in milk to lactic acid and yeast that converts lactose into carbon dioxide, giving it a bubbly consistency.

However, consuming kefir may cause intestinal cramping and constipation, particularly when you start using it, according to WebMD.

Yogurt: This probiotic food is the most popular, but you have to make sure the yogurt you eat contains live cultures that are beneficial for your gut health. But that’s not all.

Part of the process in making commercially made yogurt brands includes high-heat pasteurization that kills any harmful bacteria and the introduction of new kinds of bacteria in widely variable amounts that may or may not make a difference to your health.

You’ll also have to choose between yogurt brands containing dairy fat versus sugar or artificial sweeteners, which come with their own individual sets of health problems.

And, if you like frozen yogurt, only a portion of the milk used to make much of it has been fermented, so not many brands offer the probiotic benefits you’re seeking.

The real problem

Are probiotic foods really beneficial for your gut?To enjoy bacterial benefits via this list of foods, in most cases, you’ll have to make them yourself. Also, you’ll have to change your diet substantially to make a dent in your gut bacteria.

Unlike studies in which patients are eating it two or more times a day, some experts believe consuming yogurt just once in a while won’t make a difference at all.

The good news: Taking a daily probiotic made from multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, such as EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, is far more effective in treating a wide range of health problems, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to traveler’s diarrhea, than eating foods containing limited amounts, or a single strain, of bacteria.

For children, giving them EndoMune Advanced Jr. will help protect their gut health and immune systems too.