5 Things You Didn’t Know About Probiotics
Probiotics are something of a buzzword in the world of holistic wellness, with health experts and nutrition gurus touting the benefits of this seemingly miracle bacteria. While science is conflicted as to the extent of their reach, probiotics have shown a capacity to heal the gut, quell digestive issues, boost immunity, and improve overall health. From kombucha to kimchi to the ever-ubiquitous supplement, probiotics also come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. With a litany of information out there, however, it’s quickly becoming clear that we are in a new age of probiotics, which have never been more visible (or controversial). Below, we spotlight five emergent trends in probiotic science– most of which can be traced back to healthy bacteria in soil.
Probiotics Are For Skincare, Too
Much of the discussion surrounding the benefits of probiotics has to do with internal probiotics– the supplements and fermented foods designed to nourish one’s insides by supporting healthy digestion. But there are a number of topical beauty products popping up that also include probiotics, as beneficial bacteria is as good for the surface of our skin as it is for our guts.
I particularly like Marie Veronique’s Probiotic + Exfoliation Mask and Mother Dirt’s AO+ Face mist. The benefit of using all natural, plant-based skincare is that it doesn’t strip your face of beneficial oils, which frequently contain beneficial bacteria that these products work to replenish. You should never use alcohol-based skincare products because they are so harsh that they can dry your skin out, which in turn increases oil production while stripping the face of beneficial bacteria that can keep it in check. If you do use strong cleansers, it’s great to do a probiotic mask every once and a while (this is a common spa treatment, but you can also make your own mask by mixing equal parts yogurt, manuka honey, rolled oats, and a squeeze of lemon– leave on clean skin for 10-15 mins then rinse with warm water).
Try The “Potato In The Smoothie” Trick
Probiotics like the kind found in kombucha and kimchi are useless to our digestive track unless they stay there, which means they need other nutrients to feed on. Human gut flora feed on resistant starches called “prebiotics” which can be found in high fiber root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, and tigernuts. Dr. William Davis, the New York Times best-selling author and cardiologist behind Wheatbelly (the book that catalyzed the gluten-free movement) recommends putting around 20 grams (or about a 3-inch chunk) of raw peeled potato into any smoothie to boost the prebiotic fiber content. Doing so nourishes gut flora and helps bolster the probiotics we already have in our gut. Because skinless potato doesn’t really have a taste, a small piece will simply thicken the smoothie without changing the taste (you can also add 1/2 an inch unripe green banana, but some people say that green bananas upset their stomach).
Probiotic Mouthwash Is A Thing
We’ve previously written about the dangers of keeping one’s home too clean (this is Germ Theory 101). But the benefits of probiotics extend beyond home cleaning, skincare, and internal medicine: probiotics also affect what goes on in your mouth, which is home to several million naturally occurring (and often helpful) bacteria.
In the same way that hand sanitizers can be detrimental because they kill off all bacteria– even the beneficial kind– most alcohol-based mouthwashes are so astringent that they can actually kill off beneficial bacteria that ward off plaque, tartar-forming bacteria, and the bacteria that cause chronic bad breath (also know as halitosis). For a gentler approach to oral hygiene, try incorporating a probiotic mouthwash.
Not All Probiotics Are Created Equal– You Need One That Is Soil-Based
It’s best to take a soil-based probiotic that contains SBOs (soil-borne organisms). Otherwise, the flora won’t resist digestion and will just pass through your system without taking up camp in your digestive tract. Alternative recommendation: you could also just try playing in the dirt, and get your probiotics through osmosis (seriously).
Timing Is Everything
It’s best to take probiotic supplements at least two hours after dinner, at night, and at least 1 hour before bed. This is because acids in the food you eat (or digestive competition from food) can prevent the body from getting adequate probiotic uptake. To mitigate the possibility of probiotics getting lost in the shuffle, take them at night– and never take a probiotic supplement with hot water, alcohol, coffee, or hot tea as this will kill off the bacteria before it reaches your gut. You want to take a probiotic at least an hour before bed because lying down can cause beneficial bacteria to creep up the digestive tract into the esophagus…and that’s not good. It can cause undue heart burn or other GI tract issues. The solution: take your probiotic at night, and reap the benefits of a healthier gut in the morning.
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