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What Are the Different Types of Bacteria in Yogurt?

A man making yogurt.
Acidophilus, often called a good bacteria or probiotic, is found in yogurt.
A bowl of yogurt.
Yogurt containing bacteria.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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It may come as a surprise to some that certain kinds of bacteria, such as those found in yogurt, are actually beneficial rather than harmful. Different types of bacteria in yogurt commonly include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and, in some cases, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacteria. Yogurt has been eaten for so long that no one is really sure how the idea of introducing bacteria to milk in order to produce this rich, tangy food first came about. What is certain, however, is that the bacteria in yogurt perform some important functions, from creating yogurt’s unique taste and texture to promoting a number of health benefits in its consumers.

Evidence suggests that yogurt has been eaten since at least 500 BCE, and it is believed that two types of bacteria have been involved in yogurt production since ancient times. These bacteria are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. When added to milk, these bacteria begin to feed on lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, and subsequently produce lactic acid. It is not known how these bacteria initially found their way into milk, though some suspect the process may have first occurred accidentally. Regardless, the lactic acid produced by the bacteria proved highly useful to ancient peoples, as it allowed dairy products to remain fresh longer than usual.

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Since the early 2000s, many yogurt manufacturers in the US and Europe have mounted advertising campaigns drawing public attention to the bacteria in yogurt. The bacteria referred to in such campaigns are often supplemental to the two types of bacteria which have always been found in yogurt. These supplemental bacteria can include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacteria. Collectively, these bacteria are often referred to as probiotics, a term which alludes to the range of health benefits they are believed to promote.

Indeed, in addition to creating a thick texture and a pleasingly tangy taste, the bacteria in yogurt are believed by many medical experts to benefit health in several ways. First of all, by breaking down lactose, these bacteria perform a function with which lactose-intolerant individuals struggle. As a result, yogurt is often tolerated better than other dairy products by the lactose intolerant, and can thus be an important source of calcium and protein. The bacteria in yogurt are also believed to promote a healthy bacterial balance in the intestines, in turn improving digestive health. Finally, the bacteria may help prevent yeast infections in women.

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Discuss this Article

ceilingcat
Post 11

Wow! I never knew the bacteria in yogurt made it so beneficial for people who are lactose intolerant. However, it does make sense to me.

My boyfriend is lactose intolerant, and he usually takes a supplement to help him digest dairy products better. In fact, the supplement he takes contains a lot of the same bacteria the article says are in yogurt!

It's good to know that he can still eat yogurt even if he forgets to take his medicine though!

KaBoom
Post 10

@JaneAir - You're right, it is always a good idea to do your own research about things. And I do see what you're saying about the supplements containing more of the "good bacteria." However, I know there is at least one brand of yogurt that specifically adds extra probiotics for health benefits.

So if you're looking to eat yogurt because of the good bacteria, look for a brand that adds extra. I know a lot of people don't like swallowing pills, so this could be really beneficial for some people.

JaneAir
Post 9

I think yogurt is yummy. It makes a great snack, and if you get the natural kind it isn't too sugary. Plus there is such a huge variety of flavors!

However, I would urge anyone who wants to eat yogurt because of the good bacteria to do some research. Most brands of yogurt don't really contain that many actual probiotics. If you want to get the health benefits of a probiotic, you should take it as a supplement.

Perdido
Post 8

@StarJo - My mom has diverticulitis, and her doctor did put her on a diet including yogurt after she had a flare-up. However, he told her that this diet could neither prevent nor treat her condition. It did give her intestines a much needed break, though.

If your dad has an acute attack, then a yogurt smoothie might help soothe the condition for a while. My mom first had to be on a liquid diet for a few days, and then she progressed to eating mushy foods like canned veggies and yogurt for about a week.

Even though doctors say it isn’t a cure, I think that sneaking yogurt into your dad’s smoothies is a great idea. All that beneficial bacteria is bound to do him some good in one way or another.

StarJo
Post 7

My dad refuses to eat yogurt, because he says he won’t eat anything that’s “alive.” He’s referring to the live bacteria in it.

I believe he envisions squirmy little microscopic organisms weaving their way throughout the creamy substance. I wish I could get this image out of his head.

He has diverticulitis, so he could really use any digestive help he could get. I believe that eating yogurt would improve the condition of his intestines.

Does anybody know anyone with diverticulitis that has improved by eating yogurt? If so, I might start sneaking some into his smoothies.

OeKc05
Post 6

I used to get a lot of yeast infections. After my third visit to my doctor in a year, she recommended that I start eating yogurt. She said the acidophilus in it would possibly keep me from getting so many infections.

As bad as I wanted to prevent them, I told her I could not bring myself to eat yogurt. The taste of it turns my stomach, and I can’t even bear the smell of it.

So, she told me I should take acidophilus tablets instead. They would give me the bacterial benefits of yogurt without the taste and texture.

I started taking two acidophilus tablets a day, and I stopped getting yeast infections. I also became more regular, which was an added bonus!

wavy58
Post 5

@ElizaBennett - That’s great that you started your baby on yogurt at such a young age. Children learn to prefer what they were fed before they had a choice in the matter.

I started feeding my baby yogurt before she was a year old. When she got old enough to talk, she would ask me for yogurt as a snack. I was thrilled that she loved something so good for her!

As a newborn, she had a lot of digestive troubles. After I started feeding her yogurt, her problems went away. The pediatrician said that the bacteria in it had cured her situation.

John57
Post 4

Yogurt is one of those foods that is perfect for any meal or for a snack any time of the day.

I have found myself grabbing a carton of yogurt when I am late for work and heading out the door. This will usually stop my stomach from growling and keep me full until lunch time.

I have also eaten it many times for lunch, and love to top it with some granola or something crunchy.

If I have had a big lunch and want something light in the evening, I find myself reaching for some yogurt.

We have a local dairy that makes some of the best flavors as well. I think I could eat a yogurt every day for 3 weeks and not repeat the same flavor. Not to mention all the health and digestive benefits there are from eating yogurt.

bagley79
Post 3

It seems like many people are becoming much more aware of the benefits of eating yogurt. One carton of yogurt every day can really make a difference in your digestion.

Yogurt is very inexpensive and filling and there are so many different flavors to choose from that you never get bored. Many of them even come with fruit that is another added bonus.

Anytime my stomach starts feeling funny, I ask myself how long it's been since I had a yogurt. I find that if I am consistent with eating some at least 4-5 times a week, I feel so much better.

ElizaBennett
Post 2

@rugbygirl - I've always had good luck with yogurt, too. I had to have antibiotics after a scheduled C-section and I made sure to eat a lot of yogurt. When you're breastfeeding a newborn, the risk is that not only can you get a yeast infection, but also baby can get thrush. Then it's very hard to get rid of because mom and baby pass it back and forth. I was successful in keeping that away!

Not everyone knows that most babies can start eating yogurt as early as six or seven months (plain, whole milk yogurt; I like to add fruit puree for my babies). You can save a little money by making it yourself!

The funny thing about making yogurt at home is that the first ingredient is… yogurt. (You can also buy commercial "starter.") The active bacteria in the yogurt that you buy can be made to start multiplying again to turn plain milk into yogurt. You don't need any special equipment - anyone who's interested can easily find directions online.

rugbygirl
Post 1

I got a yeast infection a couple of times a year until I started eating yogurt every day. I know it's anecdotal, but it certainly works for me.

The thing is that a lot of commercial yogurt has so much sugar in it that it can do as much harm as good! Eating a lot of sugar actually encourages the growth of yeast.

So it's best to buy plain yogurt. You can still sweeten it a little. I like to add all-natural jam to mine, or sometimes cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract to make a nice tangy chocolate.

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