The Probiotic Glow – Part Two “Beauty & The Bugs”: How to build a bug army for your skin.
So now that you know why probiotics are so vital for human health and therefore healthy skin (see The Probiotic Glow - Part 1), let's delve in and start recruiting a multicultural bug army! Here is where it all begins.
Our relationship with bacteria begins at birth. Like many other mammals we are born with Bifidobacterium bifidum - a core bacterium that helps keep bad bacteria out, and supports immunity, digestion and healthy skin. Bifidobacterium bifidum is also transferred to us via breast milk and is fortified into some baby formulas. We then start colonising a whole range of bacterium, the first stop is via the birth canal - yep if you were born via vaginal birth, you would have got a nice dose of your Mum's vaginal bacteria on your way through the birth canal, whilst cesarean babies miss out on this first dose, it is nothing to stress about - Since you will soon discover bacteria are everywhere, including our skin! Therefore simple skin on skin contact in those early months helps with colonising bacteria.
Nature + Animals
Whilst most of us love spending time in nature, life gets busy and it is easy to get absorbed in the material world, and therefore unfortunately from birth til death the average human spends approximately 90% of their time indoors (Klepeies et al. 2001).
Spending time in nature: such as walking through the bush / forest or spending time gardening - exposes us to what is called ‘airborne biocomponents’ which constitutes of plant life, fungi spores, insects, pollen, algal filaments and animal life which all produce a diverse range of microbes (Craig et al. 2016).
It is now understood that forests are beaming with microbes, from the bark on trees, stems and leaves to the needles and vegetative floors. All of these nature biproducts help support natural bacterium biodiversity which we obtain via inhalation and our skin.
Research is also revealing that children who grow up with pets or in farm environments have a better diverisity of gut bacteria, due to the animals who tend to frolic around outside frequently thereby enhancing microbiome diversity in the household – thus potentially reducing risks of developing allergies (Johnson & Ownby, 2017).
Food + Drink
Foods and beverages containing probiotics or "living bacteria" are generally created via fermentation. Fermentation is actually a centuries old traditional food processing method. Fermented foods have been part of our diets for centuries but they have dropped off the plate for the past couple of generations, due to the abundance of faster food processing methods, and year round fresh food availability. Fermentation takes time, the process involves creating life afterall. Here are some foods which contain good bacteria:
Raw Cheese: aged or made from raw, unpasteurized milk.
Fermented + Unpasteurised Dairy: Yogurt, Sour Cream, Cheeses: soft, aged + raw (raw dairy can also contain bacteria streptoccus c & g which can cause illness in babies, elderly and those with weakened immune systems, but harmless to most other people).
Fermented Vegetables: Sauerkraut + Kimchi (make yourself or buy from the cold section – look for raw, free from sugar, vinegar and preservatives for best cultures)
Fermented Soy: Tempeh, Tamari, Miso – choose non GM organic, and where possible raw/unpasteurised.
Apple cider Vinegar – Made from fermented apples, use unfiltered with “the mother”
Kombucha (fermented tea): Kombucha requires the presence of sugar to feed the bacteria, ideally the bacteria use up the sugar to produce a sour taste, if your drink tastes sweet there may too much sugar.
Kefir: (a Turkish food made by fermenting milk with kefir grains). Ensure it is made with full cream milk and live cultures- no unnecessary sugar or additives.
Raw Chocolate: Cocoa beans have to undergo fermentation to release the chocolatey flavours.
Supplements: In some cases where an especially high dose or a specific strain is required – probiotic supplements can be extremely useful. These can be purchased from healthfood stores, pharmacies or via your naturopath.
So now you can start to build your army, but how do you maintain it? In the third and final part of this series we will discuss how to feed your good bacteria and learn what factor can destroy them. Stay tuned.
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(Naturopath & Skincare Geek)
Craig, JM Logan AC and Prescott, SL “Natural environments, nature relatedness and the ecological theater: connecting satellites and sequencing to shinrin-yoku” Journal of Physiological Anthropology (2016) 35:1
Johnson, CC and Ownby, DR “The Infant Gut Bacterial Microbiota and Risk of Pediatric Asthma and Allergic Diseases”, Transl Res. 2017 January ; 179: 60–70.
Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, Robinson JP, Tsang AM, Switzer P, Behar JV, Hern SC, Engelmann WH “The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants.”J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 May-Jun; 11(3):231-52.