On my professional blog I wrote about how hugs can benefit mental health, and basically, why we can always use more hugs. (If you don’t like being hugged, self-hugs also totally count, as do cuddles with pets). There are a lot of physical health benefits I outline in the post as well, including decrease in blood pressure, improved heart health and decreased pain.
I don’t know about you but I find that what I eat really affects how well I’m feeling. For example, back in 2019 I went to Costa Rica with one of my best friends. Neither of us had ever eaten healthier in our lives. Everything was farm or ocean to table. Fruit was literally picked off the tree. There were no preservatives in anything. I could pretty much eat anything without any problems. Unfortunately back at home that can be harder to do because of costs and availability. There has been so much talk over the past several years about the benefits of probiotics, and more recently on prebiotics. And then I was falling this Flo Living diet last year that emphasized eating fermented foods during certain parts of your menstrual cycle. So this got me thinking, what should we be taking/eating?
Since this isn’t an easy question to answer, I thought we’d just look at the benefits of each. Let’s start with prebiotics. So this week on the podcast I had on Beau Berman from Layer Origin, and they specialize in prebiotics (though they also make probiotics) and he gives a very thorough explanation of what prebiotics are and the benefits of them, so I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s the Apple link, the Spotify link, and the web link. My quick summary is this, prebiotics helps stimulate the growth of gut bacteria that are important for digestion and can improve the immune system. Some of the benefits are:
pay help prevent colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease
helpful in relieving constipation
may be helpful in preventing obesity and lowering cholesterol
and may improve your ability to absorb minerals such as calcium and magnesium
What about probiotics? These can promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, but they don’t stimulate the growth of what’s already there (basically you’re introducing new strains – listen to the podcast for more on this). Here are some of the potential benefits:
prevent and treat diarrhea
may promote heart health
may reduce severity of some allergies
may reduce symptoms of colitis and Crohn’s
boost the immune system
may help you lose weight
may help with mental health – some strains have been linked with improvements in anxiety, depression, and OCD
Finally, there are fermented foods. Fermented foods are full of probiotics, so they are similar to taking probiotic supplements in many ways (with the benefit of getting to eat food instead of taking pills or powders). Since they are similar to probiotics, they also improve the digestive and immune systems because they add new bacteria strains to your gut. Here’s some benefits:
helps to manufacture vitamin B and synthesize vitamin K
may help with lactose intolerance because they break down lactose in food, so foods like yogurt are easier to digest
and may help with mental health as they have been linked with the production of serotonin in the brain
My conversation with Beau has inspired me to try out probiotics, and for me, I think I’ll stick with fermented foods as opposed to taking probiotics because they are honestly more delicious. I think it really comes down to each of us figuring out what works for us and what seems to be helping. Talk with your healthcare team before making any changes because they may have some suggestions on which route to go. Everyone, keep making the most of it!
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