Given that every human contains about as many bacteria as body cells, it’s no surprise that probiotic foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and certain types of yogurt have become so popular. Fortunately for those who aren’t into fermented cabbage, research suggests that drinking a strong beer a day could also help to maintain a healthy community of gut microbes.
Speaking at an event organised by probiotic drink manufacturer Yakult, Eric Claassen from the University of Amsterdam presented his research on beer, explaining how certain brands contain huge numbers of beneficial micro-organisms.
While most beers go through just one fermentation process, some of the stronger Belgian brews are fermented twice in order to break down more of the sugars in the plant material to alcohol. Unlike the first round of fermentation, this second round typically uses a type of yeast that produces acids that are poisonous to many of the bacteria that cause illness.
Each time a person drinks one of these beers, they reinforce their intestinal army of microscopic defenders with millions of these pathogen-busting booze microbes. While this could potentially have a beneficial effect on the drinker’s health, Classen is keen to point out that moderation is needed.
“In high concentrations, alcohol is bad for the gut but if you drink just one of these beers every day it would be very good for you,” he told attendees.
Previous studies have found that heavy drinking damages gut bacteria, leading to an abnormal composition of intestinal microbiota, so relying on beer to boost one’s health clearly isn’t a good idea.
It’s also worth noting that, in spite of the many claims made about the health benefits of probiotic foods, we still don’t have much evidence to back up most of these assumptions. Most probiotics contains bacteria belonging to the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium groups, and while it is thought that these microbes can help with everything from diarrhoea to eczema, researchers don’t yet know which specific bacteria are helpful for what.