Q&A With Ashley Harris, Founder and CEO of LoveBug Probiotics

We sat down with Ashley Harris, founder and CEO of LoveBug Probiotics, to discuss gut health and ways to show your gut some love. 

What's your background and what inspired you to start LoveBug?
Before founding LoveBug my background was art and writing. Creating a company is such a creative enterprise. It’s the most creative thing I’ve ever done. From writing content for the website, to creating information and messaging, it’s taking all these things I’ve learned and manifesting something physical out of it. 

I founded LoveBug after the birth of my son Hudson 4 years ago. While in the hospital giving birth, I was put on broad-spectrum antibiotics as a preventive measure. Over the next few months both my son and I started getting sick. I began suffering constant migraines and noticed a weakened immune system. Hudson was very colicky, had digestive issues and then right around the same time we both developed eczema. I was determined to figure out what was happening to me and my son, and why. Ultimately, it turned out all of our issues were related to bad gut bacteria. Doctors tested me and found I had a severe imbalance in my microbiome and I had an array of digestive issues including candida, dysbiosis, and leaky gut. Essentially, my gut had very little of the good bacteria vital to good health – and plenty of the bad bugs.  

Probiotics very quickly transformed both my own health and my son's. I was so fascinated at how quickly and dramatically probiotics impacted our health that I had to learn more and the more I learned the more determined I became to share my newly acquired good gut health and create a line of probiotics for the entire family.  We use only the best probiotic strains and our tablets are made using the market leading delivery technology so that more bugs make it past the stomach acid barrier to the lower GI tract where they can have the most impact on overall health.

What are the benefits of taking a probiotic?
Probiotics have a positive effect on more than just digestion, though that's the most obvious one to note. It's incredible to think that scientists can predict whether people are overweight or thin more effectively from their bacterial makeup (90 percent accuracy) than from their genes (58 percent accuracy). By taking a daily probiotic, you're repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria that can help elevate energy levels, have positive effects on your mood, aid in vitamin absorption, boost immunity, promote healthy skin and aid in weight management. Aside from the huge benefits to your digestive health, 70-80% of your immune system is actually located in your gut. A healthy diverse microbiome filled with lots of beneficial bacteria keeps your body fighting for you rather than against you.  

You make several different types of probiotics. How should a consumer go about picking one?
What's great about LoveBug is that we've created an award-winning line of probiotics that target specific issues: Here's the Skinny is our Digestive Health blend that is great for people with issues related to metabolism, candida, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diarrhea, constipation, and leaky gut.  It contains 8 different strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacterium along with a prebiotic (which is food for the good bugs); Colds Suck is our Immunity blend and includes Zinc, Echinacea, and Vitamin C in addition to four strains of good bacteria known to boost immunity; Yeast is a Beast is our Women's Health blend and promotes urinary tract and vaginal health with 5 strains of lactoabacilli and cranberry extract; Labor of Love is our Pre and Post Natal blend with folate for pregnant and nursing moms; and last but not least we have our kids formulations - Tiny Tummies and Little Ones, the first staged probiotic babies from birth to ages 4 plus.

Should everyone be taking a probiotic daily?
Yes. Taking a daily probiotic is something that can benefit everyone. Our gut health is consistently being weakened from the foods in the Standard American Diet (low in fiber and high in sugar) to the antibiotics in both our food and prescribed for infections. More than 70 million Americans suffer from digestive issues, which is an astounding number.

Think of your microbiome like an ecosystem: the more diversity the better, and when one strain goes missing, the entire ecosystem is compromised. Repopulating our microbiomes with healthy bacteria on a daily basis is a simple way to ensure our gut health is at its strongest.

Are there other ways to nourish your gut beyond taking a probiotic?

Absolutely! Many factors contribute to our overall health and wellness in additions to taking a great probiotic. Maintaining a diet low in sugar and processed foods but rich in fiber and fermented foods, such as kefir is a good start.  

We've posted a great article that discusses this in more detail here.

Where do you see the future of gut health?
Consumer demand for probiotics continues to grow at unprecedented levels. Probiotics is actually the fastest growing supplement category worldwide!   

The economic cost associated with digestive diseases is more than $142 billion annually. For digestive issues, probiotics could offer a safer, cheaper, and effective solution to rising healthcare costs. Consumers are increasingly turning toward probiotics as a preventative measure and for relieving ailments. We believe the key to our probiotics is in the efficacy due to the patented delivery technology we use. Based on repeated in vitro lab testing, our tablets are 15x more effective than the standard capsules currently on the market. We're really passionate about education and it's the driving force behind everything we do!

What is one wellness trend you are loving right now and one trend you dislike?
I love the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep. They’ve created a database that rates all of the ingredients in almost 80,000 personal care products. You can search the products that you use on a daily basis and see how safe the ingredients are. I hope it is more than just a trend and would love to see more people research and become more aware of what ingredients they are putting in or on their bodies every day. It’s important to take a stand and demand that the beauty industry clean up their act. There are so many potentially harmful ingredients that we put on our skin daily without even thinking about it. It’s our responsibility as consumers to demand better, safer, cleaner products.  The same of course goes for food.  Consumers are becoming more aware, but there is still so far to go.  

In terms of a trend I dislike, I think it's fantastic that water sales have now overtaken soda sales in the US, but I don't like the trend now of flavored waters that secretly sneak back in lots of sugar. People end up thinking they're making healthy choices when they aren't.

What is the current state of people’s gut health and why are we in this situation?
Over 70 million Americans suffer from some sort of digestive disease. Millions of people are walking around with a severe imbalance in their gut bacteria and have no idea that the health issues they are experiencing are directly related to their gut health.  

There are lots of different factors at play here: The way we give birth - in the US we have a high c-section rate (33%) and 25% of moms receive antibiotics during labor for group B strep. Many babies are not exposed to mom's microbiome as they pass through the birth canal giving them a head start in building good gut health.   

Not only that, but children under the age of 2 are prescribed more antibiotics per capita than any other age group. This is at a highly critical stage when their microbiomes are developing and will have an impact on their health for the rest of their life.

These factors impact our health from the beginning, but by far one of the most important factors is the food that we eat on a daily basis. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in fiber and high in sugar which has a very detrimental effect on our gut health. Fiber feeds the good bugs and sugar feeds the bad bugs so most of us are eating exactly the opposite of what we should for a healthy gut.  

Lastly, overconsumption of antibiotics is another factor. We consume antibiotics not just from the doctor when they write a prescription, but also in many of the foods we eat which further impacts our gut health. Changing the foods you eat and taking a high quality probiotic supplement to replace the good bugs we lose along the way can have a massive impact on your overall health and wellness.

What happens when you take LoveBugs for 28 days
The benefits of a healthy gut are as varied as they are significant. From supporting a better-functioning immune system to aiding in losing excess pounds; a thriving digestive system and balanced microbiome can boost your overall health and sense of well-being in innumerable ways.

28 days later should see a noticeable improvement in the following areas: digestion, bloating, metabolism, candida, diarrhea, constipation, and a boosted immune system. Many people have also noted positive side effects in mood, energy levels and skin appearance. 95% of your serotonin, which is the brain's feel good chemical, is produced in our guts, so a balanced microbiome with lots of good bacteria able to produce the right amount of serotonin can have a huge impact on mood. 

How does a probiotic work in conjunction with a diverse, whole food diet?

The foods you eat have a huge impact on your gut health. Certain foods have properties that have been shown to support a healthy gut and promote good microbial balance. In particular, incorporating foods that contain prebiotics--a type of dietary fiber that acts as food for the good bacteria of the gut--into your diet can help you enjoy better digestive health. An example of some great prebiotics are: onions, leeks, radishes, carrots, coconut, flax and chia seeds, tomatoes, bananas, garlic, chicory root, dandelion greens, jerusalem artichoke, jicama, and asparagus.