Have you found yourself grabbing a poppi or Olipop prebiotic drink from the Arbor before class, reassured with the probiotic labeling, or adding that free “gut health” supplement into your Blenders In The Grass smoothie of choice? You’re not alone; the concept of improving your gut health is becoming more popular every day.

Companies such as poppi and Olipop are two popular brands with prebiotic soda alternatives. Founded by a couple from Texas in 2016, poppi was able to grow its roots with an investment from the popular entrepreneur show “Shark Tank.” Since then, the company has been able to fill shelf space in retail stores nationwide. The drink is a popular pick for people craving a guilt-free “full-of-flavor soda with benefits” or for those wanting the benefits of gut-healthy ingredients such as apple cider vinegar without the harsh taste.

The main ingredients in poppi’s prebiotic soda drinks are agave inulin prebiotics, apple cider vinegar and fruit juice concentrates. Consumers often think that foods with fewer ingredients are healthier, and companies like poppi cash in on this “clean ingredient” craze. 

But do they actually make your gut healthy?

To fully understand the components of a healthy gut, it is important to consider the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. Mayo Clinic defines probiotics as foods that contain microorganisms that help to maintain the “good” bacteria in the body, which allows for the body to absorb nutrients more smoothly. Similarly, prebiotics are described as being used to improve the balance and health of these microorganisms.

The specific source of prebiotics in poppi drinks is agave inulin, which is a type of prebiotic derived from the agave tequilana plant. Prebiotics are necessary to maintain the health of our gut microbiomes because they provide our digestive systems with nutrients that can be broken down into fatty acids. According to the National Library of Medicine, prebiotics are broken down into short-chain fatty acids that are released into the bloodstream. This allows for the effects of these prebiotics to affect not only the digestive tract but also other organs in the body, incorporating sources of prebiotics. 

While these “healthy soda drinks” likely will do no harm, drinking exclusively these prebiotic sodas is not going to heal your gut alone. Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Hannah Holscher says dietary fiber is one of the key components to a healthy gut. High-fiber foods such as beans, fruits and vegetables allow the body to regulate our gut microbiota and digestive tracts. The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which have important roles in regulating the digestive tract. Soluble fiber absorbs water and transforms into a gel that is then consumed by gut bacteria. Insoluble fiber stays intact throughout the digestive tract and adds bulk to stool. Both types aid in the regulation of keeping your digestive tract running smoothly, and many experts like Holscher believe that the more diverse a diet you maintain, the more healthy your gut will be. 

In addition to fiber, there are many other types of foods that can assist in maintaining a healthy gut including, but not limited to, probiotics, seeds, nuts and overall a diverse and nutrient-dense diet.

If you are drinking poppi to improve your gut health, it is important to consider making vaster changes to your diet holistically. In short: poppi and other prebiotic sodas come with real benefits but are not an all-in-one solution to healing your gut health.