Did you know that, right now, there's a big party happening in your gastrointestinal tract, with billions of bacteria? It's known as your microbiome, and it's filled with both healthy and unhealthy bacteria, including probiotics—a healthy kind that can provide your dancer bod with a bevy of benefits. Dance Spirit turned to Tiffany Mendell, MS, RDN, CDN, of Lara Metz Nutrition in NYC, for a crash course on all things probiotic, and the best ways to incorporate them into your diet.
What Are Probiotics (and Prebiotics)?
"Probiotics are the good guys—bacteria that help in everything from aiding digestion to synthesizing vitamins like vitamin K, which is essential for strong bones," says Mendell. "They also play a key role in your immune system by maintaining a protective layer around the GI tract, which prevents toxins from entering the bloodstream." Prebiotics are "basically the food for probiotics," Mendell explains. They help sustain the population of probiotics in your gut.
Where Can I Get Them?
"The best way to incorporate probiotics into your routine is through food itself," Mendell says. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, tempeh, or kombucha. When it comes to prebiotics, reach for fiber-filled foods like oats, leeks, asparagus, garlic, onions, or bananas. Mendell stresses that "while all prebiotics contain fiber, not all fiber is prebiotic."
Wondering how to include these foods in your diet? Mendell suggests the following: "Oatmeal with nuts and berries for breakfast; a salad with tempeh, steamed leeks, and gouda cheese for lunch; yogurt and a banana for a pre-rehearsal snack; and a turkey burger with pickles, sweet potato, and asparagus for a post-performance dinner."
What's Up with Supplements?
Supplements are sold over-the-counter, but Mendell advises getting probiotics through food when you can. "However, taking a probiotic supplement when you're on antibiotics for an illness is fine, though it's important to consult your doctor first," she says. That's because antibiotics not only help kill the unhealthy bacteria in your system, they also wipe out all the good bacteria in the process. Supplements help to replenish it.
How Can They Help My Dancing?
There's nothing worse than having to make it through a tough class while feeling bloated and uncomfortable. "If you're prone to gastrointestinal issues, increasing your intake of pre- and probiotic-rich foods can promote a healthy GI tract," Mendell says. Additionally, probiotics play a key role in your immune system, and can help stave off every dancer's winter nemesis: the common cold.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Going Pro (biotic)."
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.