How “human” is human?
In all our experience, there is what we see and what we don’t see; what we know, and what we don’t know. And how often do we let what we know be directly informed by what we see? Even in language what is actually said is worth less in communication than looks and tone. Most everyone has probably had opportunity to feel sarcasm and judgment in simple language. (I absolutely love a bit by Eddie Izzard talking about just this – the 70% is how you look, 20% how you sound and 10% what you say.)
So, with the body – there is what we see, which we call a human; but if you looked at what comprised that “human,” you would see we harbor 100 trillion microbes and that, in fact, 9 out of 10 “human” cells don’t even contain the human genome. In the gut alone there are 5600 known unique strains of bacteria just hanging out and loving life. Well, until you flush them down the drain, of course….
The benefit of probiotics
Probiotics are a great way to support the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can find them in fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. Alternatively, one can purchase them as a supplement in powdered or pill form. These supplements can range in quantity, some providing 1 billion to over 100 billion cells per serving. A number of companies now source dairy-free options as well.
Probiotics for the gut after antibiotics
Antibiotics can do a serious number on our good bacteria – washing it out with the bad. We often see symptoms of diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance here. I get a lot of questions about how to replenish what gets lost and whether yogurt is a good idea. I am immediately reminded of when I had strep as a kid. It was so painful, and I felt like I could hardly eat anything. At the time, I don’t think anyone in my family had even heard of probiotics, but we definitely knew about yogurt. And I’ll say – sure, it felt great to have something easy to swallow and cool to the throat – but boy, not 2 minutes later did the awful feeling come over me that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to breathe… oh, mucus! Truth is, yogurt is pretty low in probiotics, and while it may not actual increase mucus in the body, it may increase the viscosity of mucus. And anyone who’s felt the heavy hand of mucus on their breathing can tell you – increasing its thickness is not ideal! Probiotics? Great idea!
Probiotics for mood
In 2011 they did a study on Lactobacillus rhamnosus in mice and found that the strain was able to actually reduce stress-induced corticosterone and subsequently modulate behaviours associated with anxiety and depression. In fact, 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. Want to feel groovy? Think bowels!
For more on mental health and probiotics, consider reading my post, “Psychobiotics: How Gut Bacteria Mess with Your Mind.”
Probiotics for immune support
In 2009 they showed kids who supplemented with probiotics for 6 months had fewer sick days and missed less days due to illness than their peers. And kids have the upper hand in disease prevention – if you want to prevent eczema or allergy, you know it… consider probiotics!
A closing thought
If we are in part what we “aren’t,” consider where our lives might overlap with the lives of others. What do we share in common? How can we treat the lives of others–humans, animals, or other–with the same “humanity” each deserves? May we endeavor to be kind, and always consider that in any situation, there may be more there than meets the eye!