This blog post is sponsored by MegaFood®, but as always, all opinions and suggestions are my own.
My Story + Why I Take Probiotics
For a while now, I’ve focused my writing towards planetary wellness (aka the health of our planet and the ways we need to get involved) but I’m still rooted in personal wellness and wanted to revisit a facet of that which is a HUGE part of my personal wellness journey – GUT HEALTH.
I started taking probiotics frequently after a mishap I had back in 2013. I had a fairly serious surgery and my doctor prescribed me a heavy dose of antibiotics, without any recommendations to protect my gut flora, and sent me out the door. Fast forward six months, I definitely had an overgrowth of candida in my body causing a yeast infection, intense sugar cravings and chronic fatigue.
Since that winter all those years ago, I have consulted different doctors, naturopaths and done a lot of research about gut health. Turns out that gut imbalances are very common and manifest in all sorts of ways, including fatigue, weight gain, chronic inflammatory diseases and skin conditions like eczema.
These gut imbalances result from a plethora of things in our lives. Some examples are chronic stress, a high-sugar processed-food diet (sadly this is VERY common among Americans), other dietary extremes, certain diseases, bacterial infections and parasites.
But in my case, it was antibiotics. Antibiotics are one of the most common contributors to gut imbalances. We as a population have been overprescribed antibiotics from childhood on – it’s ingrained in our culture that antibiotics are the solution for every infection and a good solution to prevent them too… Yet, every time we take an antibiotic, we disrupt our gut flora for up to a year.
The Journey To Now
I have taken the time to learn about the important role our gut plays in our overall health and have worked to build up my immune system by specifically addressing my gut health. I have tried all sorts of gut flora support: from fermented foods, to soil based probiotics, to kefir, to specific probiotics made for women. I’ve recently starting taking the MegaFood® Women’s Health* Shelf-Stable Probiotics, which helps support gut microflora as well as and urinary tract health.
These uniquely curated probiotic strains help build your foundation to good health,* which is so important when we’re talking about our gut. The best part? These shelf-stable probiotics don’t need refrigeration, so you can take them wherever in the world you are headed. As you know, we travel often so this is perfect for our lifestyle.
Thank you to Mega Food for sponsoring this blogpost. As always, all opinions and suggestions are my own.
To start. . . Let me explain our gut microbiome and what it does for our bodies.
What is gut flora and what role does it play in our health?
Our gut microbiome plays a very vital role in our health from birth and throughout life by controlling the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system and other bodily processes. Gut bacteria work with the immune system at the level of the lining of our intestines to protect against disease-causing bacteria or other substances.
Our gut microbiome provides our bodies with vitamins and other nutrients essential to our health. It is said that our gut is our ‘second brain’ – which demonstrates how important it is.
“A healthy gut microbiome controls gut health by communicating with the intestinal cells, digesting certain foods and preventing disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the intestinal walls.” – Dr. Ruairi Robertson, PhD
On the contrary, an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders as I shared earlier.
There are a whole slew of things we can do to help support the growth of healthy microbes in our gut…
Here are things to consider to care for your gut flora:
- Eat a variety of delicious, nutritious foods: Eating a diverse range of foods leads to a diverse microbiome, which is an indicator of good gut health. In particular, fruits, legumes and beans contain lots of fiber and can promote the growth of healthy bifidobacteria.
- Eat fermented foods: Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, unsweetened yogurt and kefir all contain healthy bacteria, mainly Lactobacilli, and can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut.
- Eat prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. Prebiotic-rich foods include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, oats, apples and dandelion greens.
- Take a probiotic supplement: I’m sure you’ve heard this before! As I mentioned above, I’ve taken a probiotic supplement for years and absolutely recommend it. Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore gut flora balance after dysbiosis (microbial imbalance in your gut) by “reseeding” it with healthy microbes.
- Take antibiotics only when necessary: Antibiotics kill many bad and good bacteria in the gut microbiome which often sends your gut flora for a loop and your body into a state of candida overgrowth. Only take antibiotics when medically necessary and make sure you’re doing all of the above while you’re taking them.
- Limit your intake of artificial sweeteners + sugars in general: Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame commonly found in soda’s like Diet Coke) increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae in the gut microbiome. Too much sugar in the body in general can cause an imbalance in your gut flora.
- Try a plant-based diet: Vegetarian + vegan diets may help reduce inflammation, cholesterol and levels of disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli.
- Eat foods rich in polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil and whole grains. They are broken down by the microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth.
- Eat whole grains: Whole grains contain lots of fiber and beneficial carbs like beta-glucan, which are digested by gut bacteria to benefit weight, cancer risk, diabetes and other disorders.
When caring for our bodies, we also have to consider how the supplements and foods we consume were cared for before they arrive in our hands. Our personal and planetary wellness are 100% linked.
Fruits and veggies that are grown with pesticides, herbicides and nutrient deficient soil lack nutrients and have higher detectable levels of toxic pesticide residue. The same goes for ‘probiotic’ yogurt that has tons of sugar in it…This cancels out the probiotic nature. We want to make sure that the ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ things we’re putting into our body are actually healthy and natural.
We need to seek out nutrient dense, high quality, organic fruit and veggies and find premium supplements. By sourcing the highest quality, we are providing the possible support to our gut flora.
Here are some things to consider when purchasing a probiotic:
These are some of the qualities that I consider when choosing which probiotic where to purchase a probiotic (or any supplement for that matter) to purchase.
As I mentioned, I recently started taking MegaFood® Women’s Health* Shelf-Stable Probiotics because this supplement company checks off ALL of these boxes and completely understands that personal and planetary wellness are linked.
B Corp Certified
All businesses have a responsibility to make a positive impact in our world and this certification demonstrates their dedication to that. To become certified, companies have to meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In my opinion, by seeking this certification it shows that the company plans to keep improving and a level of transparency that I really respect.
High Quality Standards
When you are purchasing food, garments, supplements – whatever it may be – quality is key. You want to supplements with the highest level of quality control, safety, and potency possible.
Sustainable and Regenerative Business Practices
Factory farming and GMO farming has led to soil nutrient depletion and a much less healthy way of farming. Soil quality is depleting at an alarming rate, which is diminishing the nutrient levels of the food grown in it. And as a result, most people aren’t getting the nutrients they need from food alone. Regenerative agriculture can solve this soil crisis, help with climate change, replenish water cycles, restore soil fertility, and increase nutrient density.
Invest in companies who are rebuilding the soil, conserving resources, and supporting thriving livelihoods.
Glyphosate Residue Free
Glyphosate is a chemical in Monsanto’s signature herbicide, Roundup, typically used in GMO crop product systems. It is the most commonly used herbicide in the US.
Glyphosate inhibits an enzyme found in plant life that is needed to survive and in the process, it may kill the microbes in the soil that are essential to growing healthy food, and put our digestive health at risk.
MegaFood is actually the first supplement brand to have its entire line of products certified Glyphosate Residue Free* by The Detox Project, an independent research and certification organization that works with independent, third-party laboratories to test for glyphosate and the glyphosate metabolite AMPA.*
(Also, I love that Megafood is lobbying against Glyphosate. The sad reality is that instead of curbing this dangerous practice, the EPA is allowing Big Ag companies to spray 300 times more glyphosate on oats and other grains that was legal in 1993—THREE HUNDRED TIMES THE OLD LIMIT. So they’re taking a stand by lobbying to ban glyphosate use! You can sign their petition here.)
Ethical Employment Practices
As mentioned in both this post and this post, supporting companies who employ not only sustainable but ETHICAL business practices is so important. All employees must be treated fairly and paid a living wage (or better!)
Something that I love is when a company has partnerships with farmers rather than owning a bunch of factory farms. This tends to ensure better working conditions, more attention to detail, etc.
For example, MegaFood is partnered with Kaua’i Organic Farms over on our neighbor island of Kaua’i. They source ginger, turmeric and galangal from them which is awesome.
You want to verify that your supplements are simply-plant based, free of any animal-derived materials.
I definitely recommend finding supplements that are sold in glass or metal containers and recycling them when you’re done. Sadly, only 9% of plastic EVER CREATED has been recycled so it’s best to avoid bringing it into our waste stream.
Companies like MegaFood that are paving the way towards a more regenerative, restorative future are the ones I choose to support and it was an honor to share this really important facet of my wellness journey with you.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease
As always, if you have additions to what I shared or have questions –
leave a comment below or connect with me on social!