My gut tells me it’s important to think about gut health, but my brain says, “eh, that sounds complicated.” Admittedly, I’ve never been a master of the sciences – and sometimes not knowing enough about something leads me to indecision. Aside from the occasional splurge on a kombucha at the checkout line of Whole Foods, I have not historically been very proactive about my gut health. To me, “culture” was simply defined as customs between social groups and certainly had nothing to do with bacteria.
Stefan Weitz, the founder of Jetson Fresh Probiotics, thinks about gut health a lot. His mission is to help people like you and me understand the benefits of probiotics in a very approachable way – and, bonus: he isn’t (and you don’t have to be) a science nerd to get it!
You’re probably wondering (like I did), if he isn’t a science nerd, why is he the founder of a probiotics company?
Weitz was a self-defined “computer nerd” at Microsoft for almost 20+ years of his career before Jetson. About 14 years ago, Weitz was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (“MS”). He was lucky enough to receive treatment from some of the best doctors in the world, but the side effects were, in his words, “fairly crushing.” He often got the flu, experienced pain throughout the day, and eventually, started relying on pain killers more than was probably healthy, an unsustainable long-term strategy.
In facing his own personal health journey, he realized that his biggest challenge was understanding his gut. The gut is a huge factor in the immune system; he thought that figuring out how to get it back in sync would make a huge difference.
In talking to Weitz, it didn’t take long to realize that he’s not the type to dip his toe in to test the temperature, he jumps in temperature-be-damned. Knowing that, it’s probably not surprising to hear that when he decided to make a change, he went full throttle: no sugar, no caffeine, and probiotic supplements.
Three weeks in, his pain started going away. Something was working. He stopped depending on pain killers.
Weitz didn’t go on this journey alone. He was fortunate to have access to a network of health experts, nutritionists and specialist doctors (including Mark Hyman). When he started to feel better, he realized there are communities missing out on the access he had to the answers he wanted and needed. He wanted to build Jetson for everybody.
“I wanted to build a company that can build health for everyday Americans. There’s so many crappy supplements on the market. One of two things happen: people will buy into this stuff and do these crazy things and it will have some little effect. Or, when human beings are presented with too many options, we often don’t make a choice.”
The paradox of choice resonates with me. Weitz explains, “human beings don’t make choices because we’re afraid we will make the wrong choice; there’s a lot of health information out there and most people end up staying with the status quo.”
So, what the heck should we be looking for in a probiotic?
Weitz has three key directives: look for a probiotic that is (1) fresh, (2) multi-strained, and (3) seasonal.
When going into a store or ordering off Amazon, it is hard to tell what the shelf life of a product has been. You’ll ideally want to find a probiotic that was made more recently (or needs to be refrigerated). It makes sense – these are live organisms; they do die over time.
Second, look for a probiotic that boasts multiple strains.
Many probiotics offer only a single strain, often one that helps with digestion only. While better digestion is great, your probiotic could be doing more for you.
Other probiotics may boast how much bacteria they have – you’ll notice labels boasting claims like, “up to 50 billion CFUs” (colony forming units), but bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s like taking too much Vitamin C: your body doesn’t give you credit for having too much extra of the same thing, it’s better to mix it up and get a variety of vitamins (er, in this instance – strains).
Look for strains that are numbered and named, as these often have clinical research behind them and are better understood.
Lastly, look for something seasonal. Weitz explains, “Your gut is a living organism, your biome changes throughout the year. Our ancestors couldn’t eat strawberries in December – our gut changed as we changed. Consensus is to rotate products throughout the year – we shouldn’t take the same pill all year round.”
It makes sense – the foods you eat and the activities you do in the fall and winter vary greatly from spring and summer. Your body needs different things at different times of the year.
As you can imagine, having all three of these criteria sounds great, but it also sounds expensive. From a business perspective, Jetson is trying to make it happen as affordably as possible.
What about “prebiotics”? Do I need to buy them?
Weitz told me to think about prebiotics as a weed killer: it is designed to get rid of the “bad bacteria” first so that “grass can grow.” Prebiotics basically help probiotics grow and work more effectively. Once you get your gut ready (e.g., by taking prebiotics for a month or so), you should be primed for probiotics. Although it would not hurt anyone to take prebiotics all year round, it is likely unnecessary.
Are probiotics the miracle pill to fix me?
Weitz started Jetson with the idea to build a great probiotic first, because he believed that product would have a big impact quickly. He recognizes that probiotics are not a cure-all and that health is a holistic journey. His advice? Drink plenty of water and get your zzz’s – both are free, and both have a huge impact on how we feel. Try to eat greens every day (the darker and leafier the better) and move around (we have no problem finding new ways to do that here at aSweatLife).
Weitz’s message goes beyond probiotics and certainly beyond the Jetson brand – he’s focused on getting the word out that healthy doesn’t have to be hard and can be accessible to all.
And, of course, gut health is a great place to start.