'Good' gut bacteria and the beneficial role it plays in our health has received a lot of attention these past few years. As a result, we've seen a surge in popularity of many fermented food products like kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha - a big win for digestive tracts everywhere.
As a dietitian, I am frequently asked to explain the difference between kefir and Bio-K+ probiotic drinks - "Do I need a probiotic if I'm eating fermented foods like kefir?"
The answer is yes! Both kefir and Bio-K+ are fermented dairy products* that provide a source of probiotics. While that makes them seem similar at first glance, when you dig deeper you will see there are some big differences.
What is Kefir & Bio-K+?
If you aren't familiar with kefir, it is a fermented, probiotic beverage made from milk. It can range from mildly tart to super sour in flavour, and if it is properly produced, is often effervescent.
The process of making kefir (mixing the milk with active cultures and yeast), results in a drink that has more probiotic bacteria, fat, and protein than most commercially made yogurts. As a traditional food, it is believed to be beneficial to gut health and is widely available in supermarkets across the country.
Bio-K+ drinkable product is 100% probiotic liquid, produced by fermenting the 'starting liquid' with three unique cultures. This process happens right in that distinctive Bio-K+ bottle. We say 'starting liquid' as Bio-K+ is available in both dairy and non-dairy versions, making it accessible to a wide variety of dietary preferences. This patented process ensures the potency and the purity of the product.
Bio-K+ tastes slightly tart due to the active cultures. Like kefir, it is available in a wide range of flavours and can be taken straight, blended into smoothies, or incorporated into no-bake recipes (heat will kill the bacteria).
Strain + Dose = Effectiveness
While kefir can be a great addition to a healthy-gut diet, it does have some limitations.
CFU (colony forming units) is a way we measure active bacteria cultures in a product. Kefir typically ranges from 10-37 billion CFUs per serving, depending on brand and type, but as labelling specific strains is not required in Canada, we aren't exactly sure what bacteria or the dosage of each strain is present in this product.
Each 98g bottle of Bio-K+ contains 50 billion CFUs, which is guaranteed to the best before date on the product (not the manufacture date as with some products). Their unique formulation includes three research proven strains; a combination you won't find anywhere else on the market. They even offer a dairy-free probiotic for anyone following a vegan diet.
Because we know which strains are present, we also know that the three cultures found in Bio-K+ work synergistically together, meaning that they aren't competing for the same 'tasks' in our body, but rather working together to enhance the overall health benefit.
Diversity is essential for our gut health. Ideally, we want bacteria that happily live alongside each other, performing different jobs to keep us healthy.
While kefir may have different probiotic cultures, we don't know what the strains are, so we don’t know if they provide a synergistic benefit.
As mentioned, Bio-K+ has three synergistic probiotic strains that play nice together - L. acidophilus CL1285®, L. rhamnosus CLR2®, and L. casei LBC80R®.
- L. acidophilus CL1285® helps keep 'bad' bacteria in check.
- L. rhamnosus CLR2® helps create a healthy environment for good bacteria to grow.
- L. casei LBC80R® helps maintain gut integrity and supports our immune system.
Together they create a product that’s effective in several different ways: improving our gut health, preventing the growth of 'bad' bacteria, and supporting our immune system.
Survival of the Fittest
The GI tract is a harsh environment (think stomach acid and bile salts), and some probiotics culture just aren't cut out to survive it.
Bio-K+ uses technology to help the bacteria in its products survive the long journey to the large intestine, where they work their magic.
While some of the bacteria in kefir seems to reach the large intestine, we’re not sure what percentage actually do.
Fermented Foods + Bio-K+ = Advantage
Fermented foods like kefir have their advantages and should be a part of a healthy diet. Don't count them out as the only ally in supporting your digestive health. Pairing fermented foods with a proven, high-quality probiotic, however, sets you up to optimize your gut health, and overall well-being. It's my go-to combination to give you the ultimate gut-health advantage.
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*Bio-K+ also offers non-dairy and vegan flavors: blueberry, mango, coconut and Bio-Kidz Raspberry for kids. Our Extra drinkable vegan probiotics contain functional active ingredients for added benefits.