Yakult: Friendly Bacteria For Your Gut

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Yakult (ヤクルト) is a daily probiotic dairy drink containing the bacteria Lactobacillus, used to aid digestive health. The name yakult is derived from the Esperanto (used as an international language) word jahurto, which means yogurt. Unlike yogurt, however, Yakult is free of extra coloring and preservatives so it’s considered a high quality probiotic dairy product. Yakult is also considered to have the highest concentration of probiotics compared to other probiotic dairy products on the market today.

In 1921, disturbed by the amount of children dying from diseases caused by unsanitary conditions brought on by Japans economic instability after World War I, Dr. Minoru Shirota made the decision to attend Kyoto Imperial University in order to study medicine. Dr. Shirota decided to focus on preventive medicine and research microorganisms in hopes that he could lower the death rate in the country. It was in this research that Dr. Shirota discovered that lactobacilli, a bacteria found in lactic acids, helped suppress harmful bacteria in the digestive system. He went on to be the first person to successfully culture his own, stronger strain of lactobacilli. With this strain Dr. Shirota and a team of volunteers worked to create a tasty yet inexpensive beverage in hopes that people throughout Japan would be able to benefit from the lactobacilli drink. In 1930 they began to perfect their product and in 1935 they were finally able to send the drink to the public markets.

Yakult grew from a single drink introduced to local markets to an entire company in 1955. In 1963, Yakult even started a home delivery system called Yakult Lady, a service that is still around today in many Asian countries and some South American countries. The Yakult Lady began as a simple delivery service that grew to a profession similar to how the Avon Lady is in America. Yakult Ladies (and some men) travel from person to person to advertise and sell Yakult drinks in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. Today there are over 40,000 Yakult ladies in Japan; in fact, Yakult Ladies account for more sales of Yakult than stores and supermarkets!

In 1964, Yakult began operation in Taiwan, starting its global expansion, soon followed by other Asian countries in the 1970s. A few years later, Yakult expanded to the western market, finally hitting the American markets very recently in the year 2007. Even now Yakult continues to plan expansion into many other countries, following along the original philosophy to make this healthy drink available to as many people as possible so that everyone can appreciate its benefits.

To make Yakult, the raw ingredients are first mixed together; the lactobacillus strain is cultured at the same time. Sugar is added to the mixture in order to add sweetness and to balance out the naturally sour flavor and also to provide lactobacillus bacteria a source of food to ensure that they stay alive and useful when they reach your body. The mixture is then sterilized at a high temperature for a short time in order to destroy any bacteria that may be resting in the mixture. After the sterilization process, the mixture is cooled and the live lactobacillus strain is added to the mixture, then the drink is given around a week to ferment in order to allow the lactobacillus to concentrate. The drink is then put in bottles produced on site then delivered to stores throughout the country.

The lactobacillus bacterium, specifically Lactobacillus casei Shirota, helps complement the growth of healthy bacterium used by your body to maintain a healthy digestive system. A Yakult a day is also very beneficial to those taking antibiotics, as many often remove any bacteria from the body, including some that bodies need to function. Drinking a bottle of Yakult a day while taking antibiotics can help keep healthy bacteria in your body. Yakult doesn’t only add to the healthy bacteria in the body, it also decreases the level of harmful bacteria that can be found in your digestive system

Yakult is a good way to enhance anyone’s daily, balanced diet! Even children can start the Yakult lifestyle as soon as they reach one year of age. It is also healthy for pregnant women, the lactose intolerant (as Yakult uses skim milk powder in it’s creation, it contains only 1.0 gram of lactose) and can fit into a vegetarian diet, as well.

While we may not have local Yakult ladies in Austin yet, you can pick up a fresh package of Yakult at Asahi, so be sure to stop by and add Yakult to your everyday life!

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