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There’s Sh!t In My Yogurt!


Written by Josh Gitalis.  Read Josh’s bio here.

There is more bacteria in and on our body, than human cells. We are outnumbered ten to one. You might even say that we are more bacteria than human. The implications of this are becoming more and more evident.  Bacteria influence our health in hundreds of ways. Everyday there are new discoveries on how these microorganisms interact with human physiology.

The benefits of consuming probiotics (“pro” meaning “for”, “biotic” meaning “life”) are truly abundant.  However, the cultured foods that are available are usually of the lowest quality and advertised to consumers through clever marketing. An example of one of these products is Activia yoghurt by Danone.

Activia uses a strain of bacteria known as Bifidobacterium Animalis (B. animalis) which they sometimes label as Bifidus Regularis (more on this in a moment). Just to give you a bit of background, bacteria species that are normally found in humans are not found in animals and visa versa. B. animalis (as the nomenclature suggests) comes from animals.It is found in the feces of rats, chickens, rabbits, calfs, and in sewage. You read that right- the bacteria culture in Activia yogurt is derived from poop.

Why do they add this particular strain to their yogurt?

This strain helps humans to be more regular- temporarily. This is why their marketing ploy involves suggesting you take on the “Activia challenge”- consuming their product for 14 days to see if it helps get your digestive system “back on track”, or your money back.

Here’s the BIG catch, once you stop eating Activia, your digestion goes right back to the way it was. The reason is that since B. animalis is not a resident of the human digestive tract, as a result it eventually gets eliminated. In addition, it displaces the resident probiotics that should be taking up residence in your gut. This means that yes, Activia might make you more regular while you eat it, but might actually cause more digestive challenges when you stop. Sounds a lot like pharmaceuticals- treating the symptom, not the cause.

Probitoics, the kind that body can actually utilize have major benefits.

Some Benefits of Probiotics:

  • Regulate the immune system
  • Prevent diarrhea and constipation
  • Decrease Inflammation
  • Reverse Allergies
  • Treat/prevent yeast infections
  • Promote strong bones
  • Prevent cancer
  • Relieve acid reflux

Most indigenous cultures consume at least one fermented and/or cultured food. And chances are our great grandparents included cultured food as well.

What is a better option to getting the kind of probiotics into our diet that will actually stick around and help rebalance our gut flora?

Nowadays most people don’t even know what a fermented/cultured food is. You might want to try a top quality probiotic supplement or some amazingly delicious naturally fermented foods including:

These foods inoculate our digestive tracts with good bacteria (probiotics).

Question of the Day: What are your favourite digestive friendly health tips? Share below!

42 responses to “There’s Sh!t In My Yogurt!”

  1. Anna says:

    Ewwwwwww!!! That’s disgusting! I don’t eat activia but it upsets me that people (myself included) don’t know what’s in their food.

    Pickles are good for you? You mean the one you can find at the grocery store? I thought they were filled with sodium..

  2. Erica L. Robinson says:

    Yeah activia has always upset me! Though I wouldn’t get hung up over the shit part as human microflora supplements are also derived from poop, according to every single supplement rep I’ve talked to on the subject. Granted the animal poop probably has quite a few more issues with it if derived from factory-farmed animals!

    • Josh says:

      Erica, you are absolutely correct. The point here is that human-strain probiotics are able to set up residency in the gut much easier because they are meant to be there.

      Animal flora is not found in human gut flora and thus are only transient. The study also mentions the fact that animal probiotics push out the normal human resident bacteria, ultimately having a negative effect on the balance.

  3. Samantha Angela says:

    That’s a really interesting fact about the B animalis bacteria.

    Doesn’t all yoghurt contains probiotics though? Wouldn’t Activia contain some ‘good for your gut’ probiotics as well as the B animalis that they add?

    • Josh says:

      Samantha, yes they do add some other good probiotics. The fact of the matter is that they are using a non-resident strain to fool people into thinking the yoghurt is beneficial when in fact it is not optimal.

      There are many other better choices for yoghurt and probiotic-containing foods.

  4. peace says:

    Hi Josh,

    Do you have references/sources that we can read to confirm that the particular strain is derived from animal feces (particularly the rat feces). I had trouble finding any sources.

    Thank you

    • Josh says:

      Hi Peace (great name!), yes, all of these claims are backed by references. I’ve included them below.

      Jan-Hendrik Hehemann, Gaëlle Correc, Tristan Barbeyron, William Helbert, Mirjam Czjzek & Gurvan Michel.Transfer of carbohydrate-active enzymes from marine bacteria to Japanese gut microbiota . Nature464, 908-912.
      Tannis, Allison. Probiotic Rescue. Wiley: 2008.
      Ishibashi et al. Bifidobacteria: their significance in human intestinal health. Mal J Nutr 3: 149-159;1997.
      Salminen et al. Lactic Acid Bacteria: Microbiological and Functional Aspects. Third Edition. Marcel Dekker Inc.:2004

  5. Lauren says:

    What brand of yoghurt do you suggest? I live in az and have stopped eating yoghurt because I just don’t know what brand is best to eat .

    • Josh says:

      Lauren, I would recommend you look for sheep or goat yoghurt without any flavouring (flavour it yourself) or organic plain cow yoghurt. Raw yoghurts are best if you can find them.

      Also, there are yoghurt making kits which are also very good. Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking The Vicious Cycle recommends making your own yoghurt.

  6. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat says:

    Great post! MY favourite sources of probiotics by far are tempeh and kombucha. Tonica is the best! Regarding probiotic supplements, I initially thought that they all had to be refrigerated, but came across some that are dry-filled – the Life Brand at Shoppers Drug Mart to be precise. What is the difference between these and the ones that have to be refrigerated? I know there is a common perception that store-label products aren’t of as high quality, but what are your thoughts on dry-filled vs others? Thanks Josh!

  7. Donniel says:

    Great article! To think I was only avoiding it because of the sugar.

  8. Eleanor says:

    This makes me sad. So many family members and friends of mine look to yogurts like Activia to help them without knowing what’s actually in it and how it works (or rather doesn’t work.) I think the best yogurt I’ve ever had is the stuff I make myself from raw goat milk and kefir grains. I eat a few tablespoons of that and I can feel the awesome effects for days! Sauerkraut and kimchi are my favorite probiotic foods though, I have weeks where I eat them with every single meal. Mmmm.

    • Anna says:

      What kind of awesome effects? Please tell us more. That sounds so interesting. How do you make your own yogurt anyway?

      • Eleanor says:

        Well for one, my skin looks clearer and brighter when I consume kefir a few times a week. I find this really ironic because most other dairy products make me break out. And of course digestively things seem to move along a lot better after eating some kefir. I’ll share a bit of a personal example… one day I decided to make pizza for my family, into the crust I added in some leftover sprouted beans that were sitting in my fridge. I guess these beans developed some kind of funky growth that I didn’t notice and I ended up poisoning everyone. I have a fairly sensitive body so I had diarrhea for 3 days, followed by the most awful 5 days of constipation ever. I tried all sorts of tricks for that but nothing worked. Finally I had a nice big mug of raw kefir yogurt for breakfast with apple bits and spices and by the end of the day I was having flawless bowl movements and feeling great! (excuse the personal details, but hey, digestive health is something to not be shy about in my opinion)
        I make the yogurt but adding in kefir grains into raw whole goat milk and letting that sit on the counter and ferment for 12 – 24 hours until it thickens up and has a pleasant sour smell. Then I remove the kefir grains and plop the mixture into a jar and line the opening with a coffee filter. I flip it upside down and set it into a sieve balanced over mug. There’s other easier ways to do this I’m sure, but I only ever do small batches so this method works for me. I let this sit for a few more hours in the counter, or over night in the fridge. This step lets the whey separate and seep down into the mug and inside the jar you’re left with a nice creamy probiotic yogurt :) It sounds like a lot of work but it’s fairly simple and mostly just waiting. Hope I gave you some useful information.

        • Anna says:

          You are awesome! I’m super constipated because I recently found out I’m anemic and one of the side effects of the iron pills I’m taking is constipation and I feel terrible. I’ve tried everything you can get over the counter to relieve the symptoms but nothing seems to work. I guess I’ll have to try kefir. Thanks so much. Your comment really helped! Now I’m wondering if there’s a more natural way to treat anemia.

          • Steven says:

            Most OTC iron’s are constipating. If you find one with iron picolinate, it is non constipating.

  9. Jules says:

    Even before changing my eating habits, the whole probiotics in yogurt craze really irked me. People are eating crap and think eating a yogurt is a quick fix. I eat yogurt because it tastes good, but I love real full fat real greek yogurt, plain, with just a bit of drizzled honey and sometimes granola.
    Thanks for shedding light on this.

    I tried the Tonica Kombucha the other day. It caught my attention due to it’s low sugar content. (I’ve looked at other Kombucha brands and they are much higher). I’m not a fan of fermented stuff like wine and beer to begin with, but I liked the Tonica. At 3.99 for one bottle, it’s a little too pricey for my budget though. Any leads on where one can get it (even by the case) for a good price (k-w, toronto area) would be great!

    • Val says:

      Try making your own! There are tons of resources online for it, and I believe Meghan did a post on it a while ago. If you leave about half a cup of raw kombucha sitting out in a jar (covered with a cloth so it can breathe), it will eventually form a scoby (kombucha culture) you can use.

  10. julia says:

    i heard that a healthy level of probiotics in the gut also effect serotonin levels in the body… do you have any information about this?

  11. Christa says:

    Such great information here, Josh, in the post and comments… sadly with taking yeast out of my diet for now, I’m not able to drink kombucha, and with taking dairy out of the picture as well, yoghurt is out. I am currently investigating the starters I can use to make my own almond and coconut yoghurt, but thank you for posting other alternatives to check out. I need to add more tempeh in my life! In the meantime my naturopath has put me on HMF powder supplement to keep me going… hopefully this is a safe alternative?!

  12. tanya says:

    thanks for all this, and upon checking out that book you reccomended to Lauren ‘breaking the vicious cycle’ and the author’s website of the same name, i now have a completely unrelated question but maybe someone could do a post on it sometime?
    why are mucilaginous veg (including seaweed, aloe etc) ruled out in her approach to gut healing (SCD)? this seems so counter-intuitive to me yet there must be something to it… could it be a stage thing? rule them out at first to get rid of all the bugs and then reintroduce them to replenish and soothe? it’s kind of fascinating… there really are so many different perspectives out there… any thoughts?

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      I believe they leave sea weeds out because of the sugar chains in the carb structure. There is a quote a bit that is suspect on that list that is included- things like monteray jack cheese, for example. I refer to it for more the info and less for their specific food list.

  13. Rosie Battista says:

    Great post! Thanks so much for bringing this out and making others aware of the false advertising of these products. Of course Activia makes you go… your body wants you to get rid of sh*t you are eating! Read your labels and start Cooking Naked! Thank you Meghan for the great work you do.

  14. Marilene says:

    Wow-za! Thanks for the info Josh… I always wondered how the peeps at Danone could advertise that 14 days of activia makes you regular. Thanks for doing the research!

  15. Dr Gregor Reid says:

    Josh, I think it’s great that you take an interest in the food we eat and in probiotics. However, if you don’t mind I would like to correct you on a few things.
    1. Firstly, bacterial species can be found in animals AND humans, so don’t give the impression that something from a rodent could not be inside us. Mammals came from bacteria hundreds of millions of years ago and we share more than you think.
    2. If we consume bacteria, then you would expect to find them in sewage through our excretion, so I would not want your friends to imagine that sewage is all bad! Likewise, animals rely on beneficial bacteria to keep them alive and functioning well, as I am sure you appreciate.
    3. Just because a bacterium is isolated from stool, doesn’t make it a bad organism. The vagina has many bacteria that originate from stool and of those, the lactobacilli that transfer along the perineum from the rectum to the vagina, help retain health. Another example of the benefits of our gut organisms comes in the over 90% success rate of fecal transplant in curing Clostridium difficile infections. Basically, half of feces is bacteria, and by removing the waste and taking the organisms from the stool of a healthy person (no hepatitis, HIV, IBD etc), and inserting the liquid into the bowel, the organisms take over and displace the pathogen. This has saved many lives and is an example of how we each harbour beneficial microbes in our ‘shit’.
    4. I am not hiding the fact that I have interacted with Danone and our institute has received funding from them. But, I remain an independent scientist and applaud Danone for being one of the few food companies to actually do studies on products such as Activia. You can find their studies published in peer-reviewed journals, unlike many so-called ‘probiotics’ on the market. In that volume of work, you will see that Activia is comprised five strains and the key to the activity is how they and their by-products interact with the host. The ad campaign no doubt is to encourage product purchases, as they are a for-profit company, but the 14 days is based upon providing the consumer sufficient time to see if Activia helps with regularity. In some people the effect could happen sooner. The intent is genuine in my view, as having the food move through our system at a reasonable rate clears the waste rather than have it staying and blocking the tract through constipation.
    5. In fact, Activia does not displace the resident organisms, as has been shown by McNulty et al. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious scientific journal. Rather, the organisms grow and produce beneficial by-products as they move down the gut, and this helps with motility. You are correct, once the product is stopped, the effects of probiotics do not remain, but you are incorrect, the problem does not get worse. In general probiotics do not ‘colonize’ or persist for long periods of time, as the resident microbes are so entrenched, mostly from early in life. The idea of a probiotic is to help return a person back to normal, but if ‘normal’ means constipated regularly, then some type of intervention is needed on a long term basis, whether it be Activia or a prescribed medication.
    6. I admire your enthusiasm, but be careful when you state ‘facts’. The term probiotic should only refer to strains and products that are defined (to the strain level) and shown in human studies (versus placebo or other products) to provide a benefit. Sadly, many ‘probiotics’ have not fulfilled this requirement and regulatory agencies are reticent to do anything about it. Your readers say they eat a variety of fermented foods. This makes sense to me, especially if they are organic and freshly prepared. But, products like Kefir, Sauerkraut and kimchi are not probiotics per se – they are fermented foods and beneficial at that. Also, you don’t have probiotics in you, unless you’ve administered some. You may have the same species (Lactobacillus acidophilus) in you, but they are species not probiotic, unless you define them etc as above. It might seem a mute point, but some guidelines are needed to help people understand the difference.
    7. Also, be careful when you say probiotics prevent cancer or reverse allergies. The data is sparse on both, and only certain strains under specific conditions can potentially have an effect against some cancers or allergies. Likewise, you would not treat yeast infections solely with lactobacilli, but you might treat with anti-fungals plus probiotic Lactobacillus GR-1/RC-14 to improve cure and prevent recurrences.

    Okay, I don’t normally intercede in blogs, but I thought it might be helpful here. After many years of being somewhat ridiculed for promoting the science of probiotics, I remain undaunted and passionate about the importance of our beneficial microbes in health. It’s not perfect science, but it offers a lot of hope for changing the way we approach health restoration and maintenance.
    Good luck on your quest for healthy eating.

  16. Michael neuwirth says:

    I work for the company that makes Activia and the probiotic culture Bifidus lactis in Activia was isolated from a traditional fermented dairy product. In addition to the comments from Dr. Reid on this blog post, i suggest you take a look at some of the ‘frequently asked questions’ about Activia at

  17. Roger says:

    I’ve always wondered why I felt so bloated and gassy after eating a cup of Activia! No other yogurt has made me feel this way!

  18. candy says:

    So my question is, if Activa is not a good yogurt that will help replenish your natural gut flora, what is? When I look up bio-yogurts I only get places in the UK, Canada or Australia.

  19. Boiling says:

    Well, maybe Activa is using the wrong species of bacterium but the article headline is absolutely wrong and misleading and plain trying to be sensational. Even though the bacterial species may originally have been isolated from animal feces, that does not mean companies spend their time purifying bacteria from animal poop and adding it to yogurt. Scientists can easily purchase pure strains of this bacteria and culture it in labs on large scale which is what most companies do these days. Then, you cannot claim that there is shit in your yogurt.

    Well, what about the insulin injections we use? Is there shit in insulin diabetics use because we use E.coli to manufacture insulin on a large scale?

    You may be nutritionist but you cannot misrepresent facts like this. And this is not the first time. Didn’t you write artificial vanillin was isolatef from beaver’s ass which you later corrected. I blindly believed you and even told several people about it –

    Besides, none of the references provided state that Activa isolates bacteria from shit and adds it to yogurt. They only talk about probiotics and different species of probiotics. So again that is misleading.

    I am particularly rankled because scientific explanations with references are being misused and the general public will swallow it all without questioning the momen we cite some reference articles.

    I have absolutely no allegiance to any company and I advocate whole foods and holistic health but I do not really like misleading articles and misrepresenting facts and misinforming public who have absolutely no idea about microbiological productions in the industry.

    I have never ever tried Activa and yes it is wrong if do not use species specific for humans but I cannot believe companies are spending time collecting animal poop and purifying it to add to our food when growing bacteria in the lab is damn easy.

  20. Trust Your Gut: What's All The Fuss About Probiotics? | MOBB says:

    […] Food Matters and Meghan Telpner have put together a host of suggestions about where to get the best probiotics in your foods, some […]

  21. Christine Cordone says:

    I have never bought Activia. The only product out of the ones I have tried that worked and worked dramatically (there is no doubt in my mind) is a product called Latta Russian Kefir. It is made with grass fed milk and has 12 live kefir cultures (according to the label). It worked after the first cup. I am 70 years old and have had trouble with my gut and many other problems all my life. I am gluten and grain free and eat grass fed and free range meats and eggs and organic milk and fruits and vegetables. This regimen took care of most of my problems, but my gut still was not right until I found this product. It is expensive so I do not eat it every day. I eat it probably twice a week.

  22. Tracey says:

    Why is yogurt on the list of alternatives to yogurt?

  23. kay cano says:

    Wow, could this be in other yogurts? I buy whole foods plsin yogurt and a yogurt I get from a farmstand I get containing pastarized milk. The yogurt from the farmstand just says milk and cultures, could yogurt from farmstands contain this ingredient?

  24. kay cano says:

    I love fresh yogurt made from raw milk, especiallybsince the milk getsvpastarized during tge process. Iv even used soured raw milk, as I heard raw milk is safe soured. But I just realized, when u cook with soured milk, does it becone danferous since its not raw anymore?m Iv used soured raw milk akso for creamy soups where milk gets heated to a simmer.

    • Elaine F. says:

      kay cano, for lots of info on raw milk uses, go to Weston A. Price Foundation website. Cooking with raw milk probably destroys most it not all of the bacteria, so you are most likely safe using sour milk for cooking. I’ve used sour raw milk for years with no issues. Now it is harder for me to get raw milk, so you are very lucky to have access.

  25. kay cano says:

    Sorry, my last message does not make sense. I said, I love my homemade yogurt made from fresh raw milk. Tge milk gets pastarized during the process. I use soured raw milk for yogurt and cream based soups, as I read soured raw milk is safe. But I just realized, is soured raw milk still safe even when it is cooked?

  26. kay cano says:

    Im sorry about my typos in my previous messages. Im terrible withbtouch screens. The one message I noticed was very hard to read. I Havnt made yogurt in a long time and have been buying whole foods yogurt. But anyway, iv made my own yogurt ftom both fresh and spured raw milk. Fresh is the best and smoothest tadting. I also use raw cream when I can get it or commercial cream, which makes a smooth creamy yogurt. Soured raw milk I read is safe, but I wonder is it still safe to use soured raw milk in cooking when it reaches tge temperature where milk pastarizes?

  27. Sondra Thomas says:

    Hi my doctor says if I use a probiotic, use for only 1 month, if you use Activia, how come they say use for 2 weeks. By eating probiotics are we putting bad bacteria into our bodies? Also if we eat sauerkraut, how much should we eat, & also how many pickles?? Thanks!

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