6 Probiotic Foods for Better Skin, Gut Health, and Mood
Bacteria often get a bad rap, but despite the common misconception, they aren’t necessarily the convicts and criminals we’ve made them out to be. Even the word “bacteria” itself is enough to make the most ardent of germaphobes squeamish. But behind all of the disease, criminality, and (loads) of Purell, there is an interesting duplexity. Aside from making us sick, bacteria keep us healthy. Aside from wiping out civilizations, they nourish our bodies. Aside from spraying Lysol left and right to rid of the germs, bacteria penetrate every crevice of the world. Let’s explore the good side of this duality by diving into how bacteria keep us healthy; here are 6 probiotic foods loaded with good bacteria that you can incorporate into your diet for better skin, gut health, and mood.
- Probiotics are a type of friendly bacteria that keep us happy and healthy and can be found in certain foods, dietary supplements, or skincare products.
- Probiotic foods include kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and pickles.
- Probiotics have strong links to improved gut health, which has connections to improved physical health and skin conditions.
What are probiotics?
According to estimates, you have anywhere from 39 to 300 trillion bacteria living inside of you; yes, trillion. Although the range is quite large, and we don’t know the exact number, it is a known fact that it’s certainly a large one. Additionally, most of these bacteria occupy your gut, and the vast majority wouldn’t hurt a fly. In fact, most of them reap tremendous benefits.
A certain type of friendly bacteria is known as probiotics, which are defined as live microorganisms that are meant to have health benefits when either consumed or put on the body. Essentially, these probiotics keep your body happy and healthy on a daily basis. While we’ve already discussed the duplexity of good versus bad bacteria, there are specific requirements for a good bacteria to be considered a probiotic.
The requirements include being able to:
- Survive in your gut after being consumed
- Have a distinct, proven benefit to the body
- Be isolated from the human body
- Be consumed in a safe manner
Probiotics are microscopic, so it is critical to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture. These probiotics, found in certain foods, dietary supplements, and beauty and skincare products, are just a fraction of the big picture concerning bacteria and your body: otherwise known as your microbiome. Your microbiome is the community of microorganisms that inhabit your digestive tract, catered to your unique body. No two microbiomes are the same! (Even identical twins have different microbiomes!)
So how do probiotics work? Their main job is to preserve a healthy balance throughout your body. Think about it in terms of keeping your body in “neutral” gear. When you’re sick, the good bacteria work to fight off the bad bacteria and reinstate balance in the body, making you feel better. Other tasks of bacteria include helping your body digest food, creating vitamins, breaking down medications, and supporting the cells that line your gut.
6 probiotic foods to incorporate into your diet
Consuming probiotics via a dietary supplement is a popular (and beneficial) way to support your gut health, but incorporating probiotic foods into the diet is another great way to aid digestion and reduce inflammation, ultimately improving your skin, gut health, and mood. Fortunately, there is a wide range of foods rich in probiotics. Here is a list of 6 foods that you can incorporate into your diet to support your body from the inside out.
Pronounced “kee-feer,” this drink is made from fermented cow, goat, or sheep’s milk. It is often compared to Greek yogurt, with a sour-ish taste that originates from the fermentation process. The main difference is the thinner consistency of kefir, as usually you drink it, rather than eat it with a spoon. Kefir is known to contain at least 30 unique probiotic species and a multitude of vitamins that support the body’s digestive processes.
Kimchi is the national food of South Korea and is a spicy pickled dish often made out of cabbage, scallions, or radishes soaked in garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and chili peppers. The vitamins and minerals found in kimchi (choline, vitamin K, vitamin A, and calcium, just to name a few) support a healthy and properly-functioning body and reduce symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders and inflammation, ultimately contributing to healthier digestion.
Kombucha is another naturally fermented beverage made from tea, herbs, spices, and other botanicals. Good kombucha is one of the most beneficial drinks you can drink, but make sure you’re buying a reputable brand that is jam-packed with only the best ingredients.
Tempeh is a traditional soy-based product that originates from Indonesia. It is a popular meat alternative that is made from cooked and fermented soybeans. It can be a great source of protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and magnesium, and aside from supporting gut health, incorporating tempeh into your diet can support bone health and manage cholesterol levels.
5. Sour dill pickles
We all know about dill pickles, but what’s the best way to reap all the probiotic benefits? There is a difference between “quick pickles” (made in vinegar) and fermented pickles; fermented pickles contain more probiotics. When shopping for probiotic pickles, it may be necessary to spend the extra dollar, do some digging on the labels, or even consider making your own.
Ahhhh… fermented cabbage. Definitely doesn’t sound like the most appetizing food, but it may be tastier than you think. Due to the fermentation process, sauerkraut offers a plethora of nutritional benefits that extend far beyond simply eating fresh cabbage. Eating just a small serving of sauerkraut every few days, or whenever your stomach is upset, can be a great weapon in fighting off the symptoms of IBS or ulcerative colitis.
How do probiotics improve skin, gut health, and mood?
We’ve mentioned that probiotics are critical to keeping the body healthy and happy, but specifically, how? How does something so small play such a big role in nearly every aspect of our bodies?
The gut is often referred to as our “second brain” due to the large role it plays in mood, immune system functioning, and overall communication with our brains. Overall, probiotic foods lower pH levels in the colon (which helps keep things moving and grooving), as well as establish balance in the guts of people that suffer from uncomfortable gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and IBS. Most importantly, probiotics allow your gut to better and more efficiently absorb the proteins, vitamins, and nutrients from your diet to support your gut and nearly every other area of your body.
What do probiotics have to do with the skin? The microbiome in your skin regulates inflammation and serves as the protective barrier against dangerous pathogens and bad bacteria from the environment. Using skincare products that are loaded with probiotics can restore balance. Additionally, using probiotics in supplement form, as well as consuming plenty of probiotic foods supports the prevention and treatment of skin conditions including dry skin, acne, eczema, and UV-induced skin damage. Essentially, certain probiotics are linked to the production of ceramides that trap moisture in the skin and keep the bad, acne-inducing bacteria in check.
We know for a fact that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in the gut, and 50% of dopamine production happens in your gut. The study of nutritional psychiatry explores in depth how focusing on gut health and your diet can positively affect your mood. Studies have found that there is a large (and increasing) correlation between diets that are high in refined foods and damaged brain function. Overall, nutrient-dense and probiotic foods lead to good bacteria, good bacteria leads to neurotransmitter production, and more neurotransmitters lead to better moods. It’s a chain reaction– and one that is of the utmost importance!
In conclusion, who would’ve thought that something we can’t even see plays such a critical role in our skin, gut health, mood, immune system, and more? Taking the time to invest in your gut health and consuming more probiotic foods will result in some serious ROI. Get creative with your meals and try to incorporate some tempeh, sauerkraut, or kimchi. It’s definitely an investment worth making!
Written by Morgan Taylor