Happy New Year! Praise baby Jesus, 2016 is over.
…Damn, 2016. You were vicious! Don’t even get me started on all the celebrities we lost, because we lost our humanity for a hot minute and I think that’s a bigger deal. It was like a poop cloud of negativity hung over the entire year in the form of politics, social media, and the news (ok, and celebrity deaths). Most of the time, I felt like I was a very reluctant extra in a HORRIBLE episode of North & South. On a personal level, it was actually a good year for me and my husband. DESPITE the presidential debates, we can’t complain (#DodgedThe2016Bullet), but man, our hearts have been breaking for so many dear friends and even strangers who are hurting from last year.
Here’s all I have to say about the Wretchedness Which Was 2016: whatever personal opinions and views we value, let’s make sure we value people as well. I hope 2017 is marked by our kindness and desire to unite with one another instead of attack view points that our different from our own. I hope our resolution this year is to live an authentic life with compassion and love, never compromising core beliefs, but living out what we believe with grace.
So, now that we got that little bit out of the way, let’s talk about one of my personal obsessions: PROBIOTICS. Yaaaaaas, boo. Just what you need for you’re new year. Right? Actually, you do. For real. Scout’s honor.
I’m sure you’ve already heard about the glorious benefits of probiotics (there are literally dozens and dozens), but I want to hit on several points that many people aren’t aware of quite yet. Knowing how to take them and what to look for is just as important as knowing why you should add probiotics to your daily routine, so we’ll chat about that, too.
SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS (or: Probiotics ARE LITERALLY MAGIC)
• We are a really, really tired society of people. I mean, SO. TIRED. Diet has a huge role in the quality of our sleep cycles and our energy levels, and so do probiotics.
80% of your body’s energy goes to digesting food, which is why you feel sleepy after a huge meal. Meat is incredibly tough for the body to digest, because we lack the necessary enzyme that carnivorous animals have to break down that meat. The diet we tend to gravitated towards as Americans isn’t a whole foods diet, and the combination of excess meat, GMO “foods”, refined sugars etc., have really messed with out digestive track. Probiotics aid in digestion, and in turn, give you a mega energy boost. If you’re suffering from chronic fatigue, try switching up your diet to a more plant based diet with a side of probiotics. I personally noticed a huuuuuge (yuge? too soon? For me it is) difference.
PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS
One of the biggest tragedies of our SAD (Standard American Diet) is that it wrecks our bodies in almost every way—and our outward weight reflects that inward turmoil of our bodies. There are numerous issues that contribute to weight gain/loss, but I know far too many people who constantly have to diet and live in a cycle of deprivation because they can’t lose the weight. Food cravings are usually a huge sabotage to our weight loss/maintenance programs. A balanced gut absorbs nutrients better, which in turn helps regulate appetite as well as burn stubborn belly fat.
The gut has a huge part in mood regulation and serotonin production and loss. Scientists even consider the gut to be the “second brain.” This is incredibly long and in depth, and I’ve nerded out on a ton of articles and medical journals relating to this topic, because it’s SO fascinating. Essentially, serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter found in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets, and the central nervous system. Many antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs alter serotonin levels, which stabilizes the patient’s mood. A healthy gut does much the same thing, only naturally. I want to be clear: antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds exist for a reason–a life saving reason, in fact. Never, ever, abruptly quit, and ween your meds ONLY with the guidance of a doctor. I’m not saying that to in a token kind of way; I’m saying that because those are powerful medications that give many, many people the extra strength they need to health and thrive. I personally prefer holistic treatments, but I fully support anything that enhances our mental well-being. Thank God for modern medicine and good counselors.
IMPROVED IMMUNE SYSTEM
60-80% of the immune system is located in the gut. Blame your cold on that pizza you ate last night, because apparently, the gut is a bigger deal than we realized. Have you ever noticed a correlation with eating horrific foods/drinking too much over a weekend, only to wind up sick on Monday? I think if we’re all being reeeeeally honest, we know we often abuse our digestive system. When I sit down to eat, I don’t naturally think, “How will this impact my gut health?” I mean, if we’re being perfectly real here, I rarely think that. THe good news is we can protect our health just by following a plant based diet and taking a probiotic.
BUT HOW DO I TAKE THEM?
So yay, we’ve decided to take probiotics: now what? Cue deer in headlight look. Choosing the right probiotic is a little overwhelming, let’s be honest.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PROBIOTIC:
1. Numerous strains of bacteria:
Research shows it’s not the total number of bacteria in a product that is most important; it’s the number of different strains of bacteria it includes.
The best probiotic supplements will include at least these three most important strains:
- L. acidophilus—This is the most important strain of the Lactobacillus species and, it readily colonizes on the walls of the small intestine. It supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods.
- B. longum—Like L. acidophilus, B. Longum is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall. It is particularly active as a scavenger of toxins.
- B. bifidum—This strain, found in both the small and large intestine, is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products. This is especially important as you grow older and your natural ability to digest dairy declines. B. bifidum also is important for its ability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.
- L. rhamnosus—Known as the premier “travel probiotic,” this strain can help prevent occasional traveler’s diarrhea.
- L. fermentum—This Lactobacillus strain helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion and promote a healthy level of gut bacteria.
2. Delivery system:
The best probiotic supplements will use delivery systems that ensure a significantly high percentage of bacteria will reach your intestines alive. Probiotic bacteria are living organisms, their health can be affected by their environment. It’s tremendously important to select a probiotic based on the manufacturers packaging and delivery system, because it won’t matter which product you select if its delivery system doesn’t work.
The “delivery system,” refers to how the probiotic is created and how that form enables the bacteria both to remain alive and healthy while on store shelves so it can reach the areas in your gut where they’ll be most effective. A probiotic supplement full of dead bacteria—or bacteria that only die once they reach stomach acid—is a waste of money.
Currently, one of the best ways to take probiotics is via a controlled-release tablet (or caplet). “Beadlet” technology is still viable, and capsule formulation has come a long way since the days when those pills were instantly obliterated by stomach acid.
Make sure you store your probiotic supplement in a place where it’ll be protected from light, heat, and moisture.
Side note about yogurt: unfortunately, yogurt is a pretty ineffective way of getting probiotics. In reality, you get such a small amount of probiotics per serving. If you are a yogurt loving fiend, make sure you get ORGANIC yogurt. Most people have trouble digesting diary, and unless you’re getting organic yogurt, there’s a chance your yogurt comes with a side of antibiotics, hormones, and all the other horrific things found in meat and dairy products these days.