Chances are you’ve heard a bit about probiotics, one of the buzziest topics in the wellness world. (And if you haven’t, at the very least you remember those cringey Jamie Lee Curtis Activia commercials.) The friendly bacteria can be found in fermented foods, like kombucha and yogurt, and can also be taken in pill form. And while the thought of consuming live bacteria can be unappetizing, to say the least, growing scientific evidence says that probiotics can help with an array of health issues (and can even make your skin more radiant). So we tapped Dr. Roshini Raj, gastroenterologist and created of probiotic skincare line TULA, to educate us on the magic of these good-for-you bacteria.
All About Probiotics
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are bacteria that are good for the tummy. They help keep your digestive tract on track, which plays a huge role in your overall health (more on that in a second).
Gut Bacteria And Your Health
"One of the reasons your gut has so much influence on your health has to do with the 100 trillion bacteria that line your intestinal tract," says Dr. Raj. "There are many types of good-for-you bacteria that are naturally found in our bodies that help assist in digesting food smoothly."
She says these bacteria function like an organ, and do everything from aiding in digestion of protein, fat and carbs, to preventing overgrowth of bad bacteria. They also help your body absorb key vitamins and nutrients.
The Mind-Gut Connection
"Our mind and digestive tract are interconnected. In fact, the gut is often referred to as the 'little brain.' Stress can affect people in various ways, such as IBS, diarrhea, acid reflux or even just the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. This feeling occurs when the neurotransmitters in the mind affect the movement of the intestine, sometimes making food move too quickly through the digestive tract," says Dr. Raj.
"Your gut can also impact the health of your skin. If your digestive process isn’t working properly, you may be more prone to skin inflammation, acne and even signs of aging. That’s one of the reasons why there’s so much research coming out around the use of probiotics internally to aid in skin health."
Who Should Take Probiotics?
"Anyone can take probiotics to help supplement their diets. Internally, probiotics can improve digestion and strengthen immunity," says Dr. Raj. "If someone is suffering from a specific GI issue, I recommend they speak to their gastroenterologist or doctor about whether probiotics can help."
How Do Probiotics Help?
"When you ingest healthy bacteria you are restoring the balance of healthy vs. unhealthy bacteria in your gut. This will help you digest certain components of your food, strengthen the intestinal lining which helps decrease overall body inflammation, and help with bowel regularity," explains Dr. Raj.
Probiotics can also help improve your skin when taken internally or applied topically. "Probiotics have great benefits for the skin such as protecting the skin from free radicals, decreasing redness and calming inflammation," says Dr. Raj. "These good-for-you bacteria help create the production of vital defense cells that make our skin healthier, but also more resistant to damage from the environment and aging. We’ve conducted clinical tests at Tula that show that probiotics can help strengthen the skin barrier, which again helps your skin protect itself against the environment and retain moisture, which is the Holy Grail for skin health. For example, the probiotics in our Day & Night cream are clinically proven to help boost elasticity and immediately retain moisture."
Eat These Probiotic-Rich Foods
"There are many different foods out there that can maintain a healthy gut. Probiotic-fortified yogurt is great for gut health because it contains a good amount of probiotics," says Dr. Raj. "Fermented foods, such as Miso soup or kimchi, are also loaded with good bacteria, which can improve bowel health, aid digestion and improve immunity."