The other day one of my coworkers asked me if I knew anything about probiotics. I told her that I knew just about everything I wanted to know about them, fearing that I was going to be led into another conversation about fecal transplants and/or my most hated and feared food, sauerkraut. Instead, she told me about a study she’d heard about where lab rats were fed huge amounts of probiotics and then put into rat-stressful situations to see how they’d react. The control group freaked out, as expected, but the probiotic group just sat there as though they’d been fed rat Valium. Rat Valium! That was all I needed to hear. I immediately went out and bought a bottle of probiotics, tripled the recommended dose (because what am I if not just a very large rat?), and took them before I went to bed. How did I sleep? Like a relaxed rat, I guess. I slept very, extremely well.
A week after I started pounding good bacteria I was feeling cocky about my health and general energy levels, so Jack and I got started early on Saturday morning — Christmas shopping, Christmas tree, farmers’ market, Marshall’s for stocking stuffers, and a trip to the Gem Faire for African beads* — when all of a sudden, next to a table groaning with basketball-sized amethyst crystals, I started not to feel very well down in my probiotic zone. Soon I was at home under the covers, still wearing all my clothes, unable to get warm no matter what, just chills and more chills all the way down. After a long nap, I woke up sweating and threw off the covers, feeling like something seeking revenge was working its way through my . . . bladder? uterus? I couldn’t tell who was taking the brunt of this, so many parts of me were making me gasp in pain whenever I moved, and all I could do was hope that the probiotics were duking it out with death on my behalf. I never threw up or shat myself or anything; in fact, I managed to eat some chicken soup before passing out for the night. And the next day I was fine. I stayed in bed, just to make sure, contemplating the possibility that my body was able to compress ten days’ worth of flu into six horrible hours.
After doing a bit of googling I discovered this piece from 2011 about testing done with mice, stating that the tests were done with a specific strain of bacteria that wasn’t commercially available at the time, so who knows—either I’m spreading dangerous placebo-knowledge, or probiotics are a flipping miracle drug, or I just got some new mutated quickie-flu virus, or the curse of the pendulum woman wasn’t strong enough to take me down. But if you’re thinking of following the hearsay I’m doling out in the name of science, this is the one I’ve been taking, and for a good night’s sleep I recommend adding a little calcium-magnesium to your cocktail and washing it all down with a cup of ashwagandha tea. Rat Valium!
*At one point in the faire we walked past a table where a woman was testing out pendulums by holding them in front of her face and saying, “Give me a Yes. Now give me a No,” and waiting for the pendulum to swing in a yes way and then in a no way. Jack loved this. He held out his hands and wiggled his fingers and made a quiet woo-OOO-ooo sound, like he, too, was communing with a spirit, perhaps the spirit of John Barrymore. The pendulum woman did not appreciate that. Honestly, she seemed pretty grim both before and after Jack’s little séance, so I hope she finds the otherworldly help she’s looking for.
New delightful Twitter person I followed this week: The Museum of English Rural Life
I love Hannah Gadsby.