Dairy Foods' Role in Supporting a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Research shows consuming fermented dairy foods as part of a healthy diet may improve gut health.
Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are key food sources for supporting a healthy gut because they have a unique dairy matrix that contains essential nutrients, bioactive compounds and other biological components that work together to support digestion,
absorption and overall health. Eating yogurt and other fermented dairy foods as a part of healthy dietary pattern may improve gut health, which research shows helps improve immunity and reduce inflammation.
Key Message and Research Summary Highlights
- The gut is filled with a unique collection of bacteria that plays a critical role in human health. More importantly, the gut is impacted by the foods people eat, which may affect metabolism, immunity and, ultimately, health and risk for chronic diseases.1
- Advancing knowledge of the gut microbiome is driving science to look beyond the traditional nutrients in foods and examine lesser-understood components like bioactive compounds and microbes found within a food’s matrix. Fermented dairy foods
rich in microorganisms, or probiotics, are a unique group of foods that have shown promising benefits within this field of research.2
- With fermented dairy foods providing an ideal atmosphere for delivering probiotics in the diet, they contribute to improved gut health impacting a wide range of health benefits.
- Dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir and certain cheeses contain probiotics, live microorganisms that have a health benefit when consumed. Dairy products are a desirable probiotic “delivery vehicle” because they can protect probiotic bacteria
from high acid levels in the stomach, allowing higher levels of probiotics to reach the intestine.
- Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are key food sources for establishing a healthy gut because they provide essential nutrients including vitamins A and D, zinc and protein and have a unique dairy matrix that contains nutrients, bioactive compounds
and other biological components that work together to support digestion, absorption and immunity.2
- Research on the importance of a healthy gut microbiome is growing, with increasing evidence of its role in supporting the health of other systems throughout the body including cognition, mental health and mood.2
- Emerging research identified functional foods, including yogurt, whole-grain products and others, that have been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is important to note that, despite having anti-inflammatory effects, no single
food has a significant impact on inflammation. Rather, including these foods within a healthy, overall eating pattern leads to health benefits that are greater than the sum of their individual parts.3
- The digestive system is connected to the body’s immune system. A healthy gut helps the body fight off viruses and infections and helps minimize inflammation throughout the body. Nutrition and health experts believe out-of-balance gut microbes
can contribute to impaired immunity and increased risk of obesity, autoimmune diseases and other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.2
- Health experts are exploring how the gut and brain communicate back and forth and positively or negatively affect each other, referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” Scientists believe microbes in the gut can impact mental health and that
brain function can influence the types of bacteria living in the gut.4
- Emerging research is exploring how the gut microbiome affects bone health. It is thought that certain gut bacteria may help regulate components inside bones to weaken or strengthen bone mass, depending on the microbes present in the gut. Milk and
dairy foods are especially important for people of all ages to consume regularly because the key nutrients in dairy foods interact with one another to support healthy bones and a healthy gut.5
1. Karlsson F, Tremaroli V, Nielsen J, Backhed F. Assessing the human gut microbiota in metabolic diseases. Diabetes. 2013;62(10):3341-3349. Doi:10.2337/Db13-0844
2. Kaur H, Kaur G, Ali SA. Dairy-Based Probiotic-Fermented Functional Foods: An Update on Their Health-Promoting Properties. Fermentation. 2022; 8(9):425. https://doi.org/10.3390/fermentation8090425
3. Luvian-Morales J, Varela-Castillo FO, Flores-Cisneros L, et al. Functional foods modulating inflammation and metabolism in chronic diseases: a systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;62(16):4371-4392. Doi:10.1080/10408398.2021.1875189
I. The gut-brain axis: historical reflections. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2018;29(1):1542921. Published 2018 Nov 8. doi:10.1080/16512235.2018.1542921\
4. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-1272. Doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.7000
5. Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(4):28-32.