Microbiomes + Probiotics + Skin Health

Probiotics are a huge rage right now. Whole Foods Market experts call it a "Culture Craze": whether shoppers are seeking gut health or go-for-it flavor, fermented foods and probiotics are growing like good bacteria – and they’re not just for hippies anymore. Fiery picks like kimchi and gochujang will continue to gain steam, while innovative options like chiogga beet kraut and non-dairy tonics will add variety.

Top row: Kevita sparkling probiotic tonic; SunWarrior Illumin8 protein powder; SUJA juice; Melt probiotic vegan butter; YUMButter probiotic almond butter protein spread; Farmhouse Culture spicy kimchi shot; Orbit popsicles; Gochujang Sriracha sauce

Top row: Kevita sparkling probiotic tonic; SunWarrior Illumin8 protein powder; SUJA juice; Melt probiotic vegan butter; YUMButter probiotic almond butter protein spread; Farmhouse Culture spicy kimchi shot; Orbit popsicles; Gochujang Sriracha sauce

Eczema, Allergies + The Microbiome

Talking and learning about the "microbome" (gut environment) is also a science trend right now. It is the location doctors and scientists are focusing on to discover more about health issues, including everything from allergies, to IBS, to ADHD, acne and eczema. In fact, I went to a health symposium recently, hosted by Herbalife, and was really surprised at all the wonderful microbiome and probiotics/prebiotics studies they have done or are working on currently. (Herbalife is becoming more and more known for their efforts and focus on prevention and healthy living as a means to optimal health). 

When I was 19 I realized I had super bad allergies. I had horrible eczema all over my body and I ended up "alleviating" it on my own, despite a handful of doctors telling me there was absolutely nothing I could do and I would have it for the rest of my life. I learned that..

Skin Can Be The First Sign Of Larger Internal Problems[1]

What I discovered after years of cleansing, experimenting, etc. is that my gut was a mess. I needed to rebalance my gut bacteria (that's why they say probiotics are good for the skin)! It wasn't a quick process by any means. It took me years of cleansing and rebuilding the good flora to get my body where it needed to be in order to be free of eczema and allergies. 

Avoid Chemicals, Fragrances and Perfumes

Lotions, body oils, body scrubs, sunscreen, cleaners, dusting spray, laundry detergent, perfumes, and soap will make eczema itch even more. Figuring out what ingredient(s) is causing the inflammation or reaction is almost impossible, so I suggest replacing all of it with super natural fragrance free versions. 

Body oil and lotion (natural or not) can make the skin react as well. Steroid creams made my skin itch even more. 

Change Your Diet // Elimination Diet

Not only did I rid my house of fragrances and perfumes and chemicals, but I had to completely change my diet as well. Something was causing my skin to react. It wasn't just one food in particular so I got rid of all allergenic foods like gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, and even fried or cooked foods to really get rid of the root problem. I also upped the probiotics. I started with a super clean raw food diet - high in juice and vegetables - lower in fats. 

I now can eat a clean diet and don't have to stick to a fully raw diet. And I have no sign of eczema. 

Avoid Antibiotoics If You Can

One of the things that I also avoided was antibiotics. The years of taking antibiotics as a kid had created an imbalance in the gut bacteria. The good stuff was gone so my body was having a hard time with proper digestion, causing inflammation and all kinds of allergy issues. The skin, my eczema, and my upset intestines were telling me something was wrong. 

Probiotics Galore

Twenty years into this healing process, and three kids later, I ended up with strep throat. I had to do antibiotics for the first time since that process started and I was really nervous about it. My doctor told me to just suck it up, take it and worry about the gut later. So that is what I did. 

Needless to say, I've been a probiotics and prebiotics fanatic and quite possibly a little obsessive above it. I now don't overdo it. I'm over the freak out stage. But I can happily say my gut was messed up for a few weeks but is now doing just fine (sigh of relief). 

Fun Fact: you do not need yogurt to get extra probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are found in dirt, believe it or not. Yep, dirt is a superfood. These soil based organisms are found in our vegetables and plant-foods. We are so accustomed to eating only the shiniest prettiest fruit but next time, maybe don't wash off all the dirt (yes, all the germs from people handling food is pretty gross, but the dirt and grime, is full of healthy probiotic bacteria!). 

Probiotics are like the new "gluten-free"; they are the trend of 2016. So many companies are adding probiotics to their goods (quite possibly in hopes for an increase in sales) and today I am sharing a few that I've learned of and/or enjoyed over the past few months. 

What is your favorite probiotic right now? In addition to kimchi? And sauerkraut? 

p.s. The products listed above are merely for fun. Their effectiveness is unknown. I just found these items to be so interesting; it's for sure a new trend and something to think about. Supplementing with probiotics is my first choice for really getting the gut healthy! 

[1] American Academy of Dermatology


    SweetGreen's {vegan} Umami Bowl

    I have been talking so much lately about my pet peeve when dining out: the only vegan options are "we can leave off the cheese". That's true, if the cheese is the only part that's not vegan, then just leave it off the dish. But I'm sure the dish was created with that cheese in mind; taking it away would ruin the essence of the entire dish. 

    That being said, I often eat vegetarian at restaurants because otherwise the food doesn't taste that great. My dream would be for almost every restaurant to have just one dish on the menu that catered to vegans; I would be awesome to see a cashew cheese or a special avocado dressing or a faux meat option that was made for those not eating meat or dairy. One day my dream will come true. 

    But thankfully, for now, at least some restaurants are on top of this and do care about their vegan customers. sweetgreen's has a new Spring Menu which includes a dairy and meat free Umami Grain Bowl that is designed just for us dairy- and meat-free eaters. Hooray!

    Even more exciting - they are sharing this fun recipe with us here today. You can get creative on how you roast your mushrooms and tofu. And of course you can play around with the bowl ingredients as well. One of my favorite things is mixing cooked/roasted with raw for variety of textures and flavors (super fresh and early with more oily and rich/salty). Try adding some toasted nuts if you feel up to it as well. 


    organic quinoa + farro

    swiss chard

    pea shoots

    roasted mushrooms

    red onion

    spicy sunflower seeds

    roasted organic tofu

    miso ginger sesame dressing (below)

    Chop everything into a bowl and add the miso sesame dressing. 

    Miso Sesame Ginger Dressing Recipe


    2 Tbsp Sweet White Miso Paste

    2 Tbsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

    1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

    2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar

    ½ tsp Sesame Oil

    ¼ cup Warm Water

    2 Tbsp Mirin

    1 Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger, Peeled and Minced 1

    Garlic Clove, Smashed and Minced


    Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, blend on low until smooth, and increase speed to medium while adding: ½ cup Grape Seed Oil Taste this and make adjustments to your own taste.

    sweetgreen is a destination for delicious food that’’s both healthy for you and aligned with your values. We source local and organic ingredients from farmers we know and partners we trust, supporting our communities and creating meaningful relationships with those around us. We exist to create experiences where passion and purpose come together.

    Balanced Diet For Plant-Based Athlete

    This article is something I'm really excited about because I often get asked by extreme athletes, or friends training for marathons and Ironmans what kinds of plant foods they need to be eating everyday. I am not a big athlete - although I used to run at least 26 miles a week - so I hesitate to give advice or suggestions.  

    Instead Tara Martine is the guest blogger today, sharing her diet tips and plant-based meal ideas with us all. Tara is a vegan athlete, Registered Dietitian, nutritionist, endurance athlete & owner of Whole Impact Nutrition, LLC. 

    And shhhh - I'm like now obsessed with this girl and I want to start running 7 miles a day again! 


    Excellent nutrition is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for peak athletic performance.  A vegan diet can help you become stronger and faster by:

    1.     Improving the state of your cardiovascular system to enhance blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscles.  If you are eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you can expect the initial stages of atherosclerosis to begin in your early teens.  Over time, the resulting plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.  However, for athletes, this also means reduced and restricted blood flow to working muscles, which translates into reduced aerobic capacity.  To improve your athletic performance and endurance, you need to clean out those arteries!  The only proven way to reverse atherosclerosis is to base your diet on whole plant foods.

    2.     Providing antioxidants and phytochemicals to reduce inflammation and speed recovery between workouts.  Antioxidants and phytochemicals are nutrients found in plants that protect our DNA against damage, slow the aging process, and help heal our tissues.  The quicker you can recover from one workout, the sooner you can push yourself harder in the next one.  Remember, plants are nutrient-producers; animals are nutrient-consumers.

    3.     Making it easy to reach your optimal competition weight.  Whole plant foods are chock full of nutrients which satisfy your body at the cellular level without contributing excess calories to your diet.  Because these foods are so high in fiber they naturally fill you up and it is virtually impossible to overeat.  All of a sudden, getting to a lower body fat percent and maintaining it becomes easy.  Furthermore, ditching the fast, fried, processed, pre-packaged foods and animal products will allow you to be free of cravings and give you endless energy.  

    The number one rule when going plant-based is to eat enough calories.  Sometimes when athletes transition to the vegan diet, they are not accustomed to eating the volume of food required to provide them with enough fuel.  However, this is the beauty of a whole-foods plant-based diet - you actually eat MORE to weigh less, get faster, and be more healthy. 

    Just like an omnivorous diet, the vegan diet should be based on carbohydrates in order to provide you with energy.  Top sources of carbohydrates include all fruits, whole grains (i.e. oats, quinoa, barley, bulgur, brown rice), and starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and beans. These foods should be incorporated into every meal and at snacks.

    But what about protein?  Healthy protein sources for a vegan include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, tofu, & tempeh.   With that being said, as long as you consume adequate calories, you will naturally consume enough protein.  Protein deficiency is simply not something that Western populations need to be concerned about.  Instead, you should be more focused on getting enough fiber!  Are you getting at least 25 g/day as a woman or 30 g/day as a man?

    A quick word on fat.  You need to eat fat in your diet because it provides you with energy reserves, cushions your organs, helps with thermoregulation, and is an important component of your cell membranes.  Fat should be consumed as part of whole foods like nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados, and olives.  All refined fats, including oils, should be minimized. The only way to reach optimal health and performance is to base your diet on whole foods in the closest form to which they were grown.


    The Best Breakfast: Oatmeal

    -Old-fashioned oats

    -Blueberries (may be fresh or thawed from frozen)


    -Peanut butter or almond butter



    -Beet Performer Passion Fruit Beet Juice

    Place blueberries in large breakfast bowl.  Cook oatmeal on stove top as per package directions.  In the last minute of cooking stir in 1-2 Tbsp of nut butter, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed.  Pour oatmeal into bowl of blueberries.  Top with sliced strawberries.  Pair with 1 can of Beet Performer Passion Fruit Beet Juice.

    A Quicker Best Breakfast:  Overnight Oatmeal

    -Old fashioned oats

    -Soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

    -Raisins (or other no-sugar-added dried fruit)



    -Dried shredded unsweetened coconut

    -Beet Performer Beet Juice

    Mix 1 cup oats w/ 1.5 cups non-dairy milk in a tupperware container.  Add dried fruit, cinnamon, nuts of choice, & coconut.  Mix, cover, and store in refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, either eat cold or heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, until heated through.  Pair with 1 can of Beet Performer Beet Juice.

    Mid-Morning Smoothie Snack

    -Baby spinach or baby kale

    -Ripe banana

    -Frozen mango


    -Soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

    -100% orange juice

    Add a few handfuls of greens to bottom of high-powered blender.  Add a ripe banana, 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed, 1.5 cups of frozen mango, 0.5 cups non-dairy milk, and 0.5 cups orange juice and blend until thoroughly combined. You may need to adjust quantities of liquid to achieve desired consistency.  

    Pre-Workout Snack:  Fruit + Beet Juice

    Select a choice of 2 fruits (i.e. apple + banana) plus 1 can of Beet Performer Beet Juice 1-2 hours before your workout.  Beet juice contains nitrates which are converted into nitric oxide inside the body.  Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator which will improve the health of your arteries and help deliver more oxygen to working muscles.  Studies show that consuming beet juice prior to competition can increase the amount of time that you can workout before becoming exhausted, can increase your speed in a time trial, and enable you to go faster at the end of a race.

    Power Lunch



    -Slivered almonds


    -Cherry tomatoes


    -Shredded carrots

    -Chopped onion

    -Red quinoa, cooked

    -Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

    -Sweet potato


    Fill a large bowl or plate with chopped kale, spines removed.  Top with blueberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped onions, slivered almonds, edamame, & red quinoa.  Drizzle with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  Pair with a baked (or microwaved) sweet potato on the side, topped w/ cinnamon.  Eat a piece of fruit of choice for dessert.

    Post-Workout Protein Shake

    -Frozen bananas (peel ripe bananas & place in zip lock baggies in freezer)

    -Peanut butter or almond butter

    -Soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)


    -Cocoa powder

    Place 4 frozen bananas inside high-powered blender.  Add 1-2 Tbsp nut butter, dash of cinnamon, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, and 1/2-1 cup of non-dairy milk.  Blend until desired consistency is achieved.  Use 1/2 cup non-dairy milk for ice cream-like consistency and more for a shake-like consistency.  

    On-The-Go Afternoon Snack

    Grab 1-2 handfuls of nuts of choice and pair with 2 fruits of choice.  Dried fruit makes a convenient snack, just make sure it doesn’t contain any added sugar.

    On-The-Go Afternoon Snack #2

    Use chopped carrots, cucumber, celery, bell peppers, or other veggies to dip into 1/4 cup of your favorite hummus.  

    Re-Fuel With Dinner


    -Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange)

    -Olive oil

    -Vegetable broth

    -Black beans (1 can)

    -Dark red kidney beans (1 can)

    -Light red kidney beans (1 can)

    -Corn (1 can)

    -Diced tomatoes (2 cans)

    -Tomato paste (1 can)

    -Chili powder



    -Hot sauce, if desired



    -Brown rice

    -Side salad

    Cook rice as per package directions.  Sauté chopped onion & bell peppers in 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add vegetable broth as needed to prevent sticking.  When onions & bell peppers are soft, add all beans (drained & rinsed) and corn to pot.  Add spices to taste (~2 Tbsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp cumin, 2 tsp turmeric, 2 Tbsp hot sauce) and stir all ingredients together.  Add canned tomatoes (undrained), tomato paste, and 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth.  Stir to combine.  Bring to boil, then lower to simmer for 20 minutes until heated through.  Serve over rice and top with chopped avocado & fresh cilantro.  Pair with a side salad.

    After-Dinner Snack Ideas

    Kiwi fruit, tart cherries, goji berries, raspberries, or almonds.  These foods contain natural melatonin, which may help you fall asleep faster and sleep sounder.  Better sleep =  better recovery = better athlete :)


    Creamy Potato Soup + Simple Eggless Pancakes

    This potato soup is one of my favorites because it's so creamy {cheesy} and filling yet made with only plants. No dairy, no flour, no grains, no sugar. Just potatoes, garlic and cashew cream. It's a smooth puree as opposed to a chunky soup. It goes really well with a green salad and chilled glass of white wine. 

    I topped mine with fresh pepper and some sriracha sauce for some added spice. You see more pics and get the entire recipe over on The Honest Company blog. If you're tired of minestrone and tomato bisque, you'll want to make this recipe. 

    And I've also been playing around with aquafaba for awhile now. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It's basically the liquid you find inside the can of garbanzo beans. You know that kind of gooey thick clear stuff that we normally throw out before using the beans? Well, for those of you vegans who don't like to waste anything, this ingredient is for you. 

    Aquafaba acts as a binder in recipes; it's an egg replacer so to speak. Think chocolate mouse and lemon meringue. 

    I decided to perfect a super simple, super healthy pancake recipe using aquafaba. Because we eat so many pancakes in this household. 

    The ingredients are so clean and with just a blender, you can make these delicious, egg and gluten free pancakes. 

    I always use real organic maple syrup and some kind of buttery spread with mine. But you can top your with bananas, cinnamon, chocolate chips, whip cream and so on. 

    My kids go crazy for these pancakes. 


    Yields 8 medium-sized pancakes


    2/3 cup almond meal/flour

    ½ cup gluten-free baking flour

    1/3 cup quick cook oatmeal {or 1 plain oatmeal packet}

    1/3-3/4 cup aquafaba {garbanzo bean liquid}

    1 ½ Tbsp cooking oil {plus extra for cooking}

    2 Tbsp coconut sugar

    1 very ripe banana {with brown spots on it}


    1. In a high-speed blender, blend everything on low, then medium and then high for about 30 seconds, or until mixture looks creamy and well blended. 

    2. Heat skillet on medium with a little oil to lightly coat the entire pan. Pour mixture onto hot skillet and cook until you see the batter bubble up a bit. Then flip. 

    3. Cook again for a good 2-3 minutes. 

    4. Keep flipping until you have desired pancake texture. 

    5. Repeat until batter is all gone. 

    Allergy note: If you’re allergic to nuts, forget the almond meal and just use extra gluten-free baking mix. I tried it this way as well and it works fine.

    I am also sharing really good cookie recipe using aquafaba over on the BasilHealth web site. Plus I talk more about this ingredient in the article as well. 

    Check it out...

    Cheers to happy and healthy weekend everybody! Enjoy and don't to be grateful.