The Hype Around Probiotics: Is It Real?
More importantly, should you get in on it?
One particular visit to my son’s dentist had us talking about pregnancy and how it’s a little harder to get pregnant these days—yes, regardless of age. In the flurry of medical terms and environmental factors that were thrown around, my selective hearing focused at the mention of “probiotics.” “Ah, Yakult!” I say, thoughtlessly but proudly. The dentist agrees, but says there might be more sugar in it than the good stuff. Apparently, keeping the gut healthy with the help of probiotics encourages, well, a healthy pregnancy.
But I’m not looking to get pregnant and I like the tangy sweetness of Yakult in my smoothie. So I forget about it until a year later and my body is plagued with a month-long flu and two episodes of food poisoning. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and probiotics, “to help replace the good bacteria.”
Naturally, I prioritize the antibiotics.
A few months later, in a meeting with our consulting director, she mentions “…My 70-year-old aunt swears by probiotics!” How can you not trust sage advice from a woman who looks and feels great in her seventies? I mull over it and decide to get a bottle on the next payout.
Payout comes, the bills are paid and I get sidetracked by a sale on BeautyMNL. The same day, I see an article on Violet Grey, a content and commerce company that was born out of Hollywood beauty culture; a beauty bible if you will, about probiotics and how it can help keep a flat tummy—or something along those lines. Now it has my full attention.
Finally, I decide to try them out. Now whether you’re already in on the hype or about to freak out because one gel capsule is priced at P50, read this:
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good, live bacteria and yeasts that keep your digestive system (also your gut) healthy. They’re found in supplements and food like yogurt and yes, Yakult, and are recommended by doctors for patients with digestive problems.
There are three types:
Lactobacillus: is found in fermented food and is especially helpful for people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar found in milk
Bifidobacterium: is found in dairy, and helps ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other similar conditions
Saccharomyces boulardii: is yeast found in probiotics and is thought to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems
Probiotics became a buzzword among the health- and wellness-conscious thanks mostly to articles that claim they help flatten the stomach. How? By helping reduce the belly bloat caused by the overabundance of bad flora in your gut. Meanwhile, The British Journal of Nutrition claims that probiotics help control appetite by way of reducing leptin, an appetite-regulating bacteria, and decreases intestinal bacteria related to obesity. Other benefits include improved urinary and vaginal health as well as oral health and, prevention of allergies and colds.
No wonder people have been buying probiotics by the bottle.
In beauty and skincare, probiotics is just as sacrosanct. Just in case you didn’t know, we have five microbiomes in our body: gut, respiratory, vaginal, oral and skin. Our skin, disgusting as it sounds, is made up of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that affect our overall skin health and complexion. When factors such as stress or poor diet throws off the balance in our microbiome, it spurs the overgrowth of bad bacteria and results in leaky skin. Because “just as we can have a leaky gut, we can have leaky skin, too,” imparts New York dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin to Violet Grey. What does leaky skin look like? Think a number of chronic skin conditions: acne, eczema, psoriasis, premature aging and rosacea.
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Incorporating Probiotics in Your Diet and Skin Regimen
If you’re anything like me and have a more reactive rather than proactive approach to health, then know that you and I have been doing it wrong. In health as in skincare, the focus should be on nourishing and supporting the body’s natural way of protecting itself from outside assault. This means getting your probiotics from food, like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, pickles, buttermilk, natto and some types of cheese. If these aren’t part of your regular diet, then you may want to consider supplements but do consult your doctor first. Meanwhile in skincare, many of us are obsessed with over-cleansing or over-exfoliating skin which leads to a collective breakdown of skin’s barrier. “Strengthen never disturb,” explains Sue Nabi, founder of natural skincare line Orveda, to Violet Grey. That said, you may want to switch to sulfate- and alcohol-free products and generally avoid vigorous treatments and the use of hot water on one’s face.
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While I’ve only been on probiotics for less than a few weeks, I do feel little improvements in my digestive system here and there. For one, it has helped relieve both gas and bloating issues, and noticed that I move more regularly. Also learned from a doctor acquaintance who takes supplements himself that probiotics are especially helpful to individuals who are susceptible to food poisoning or “take steroids as it increases one’s risk for salmonella infection.”
Skincare-wise, I’ve had less breakouts especially during the time of the month, but I wouldn’t say this can be directly associated to just probiotics; it could be the combination of probiotics and the switch I made to more natural skin-saving products, like Origins and the use of water-based toners.
Both doctors and skincare veterans have said that the gut and skin microbiomes have an impact on each other. This means what we put in our body largely affects skin quality and appearance; what we put on it topically is but a part of the picture. So instead of riding the bandwagon for a flatter tummy, consider a holistic approach. Add probiotics to your diet, manage chronic stress by making the necessary adjustments at home or at work and get plenty of sleep because all these allow the good bacteria in our microbiomes to flourish thus keeping the body’s barrier, yes including the skin, stronger than ever.
Art Alexandra Lara