Probiotics - Good For So Many Things!

Allergy, Skin Conditions, Immune | September 15, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Skin conditions, allergy

Probiotics - Good For So Many Things!

Probiotics are types of bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for human health. These types of microorganisms concentrate in the digestive system but they also exist on the skin, in the reproductive system, and even in the joints, lungs, nasal cavity, eyes and ears! The body is an ecosystem and these little guys work in a symbiotic relationship to keep us healthy.

What probiotics do:

  • Digest and break down nutrients so we can absorb them.
  • Ferment carbohydrates in the large intestine. The by-products of this fermentation includes nutrients like vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids.
  • Strengthen the intestinal wall to prevent leaky gut.
  • Secrete anti-inflammatory chemicals.
  • Educate the immune system on which pathogens to attack.
  • Stimulate immune cells to grow and mature.
  • Protect our body from pathogens by secreting chemicals that kill other types of bacteria. [1]

But it's not all good news...

What probiotics do:“Dysbiosis” is a term for the imbalance of beneficial (“good”) versus pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria in the large intestine.

When the bad guys overgrow the beneficial probiotics, our whole ecosystem can be thrown out of balance.

Digestive symptoms like gas and bloating are just the tip of the iceberg – dysbiosis has been linked to immune problems, skin conditions, and cardiovascular disease!

Don't worry – it's easier than ever to correct that kind of imbalance by taking a probiotic supplement or eating rich probiotic foods.

Where Do We Get Probiotics?

When people talk about “taking probiotics”, they probably mean they're taking a probiotic capsule full of beneficial bacteria strains. But high levels of probiotics also exist in all kinds of fermented foods and drinks:

  • Where do we get probiotics?Pickles
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Dark chocolate (believe it or not!)

The benefit of taking an encapsulated probiotic supplement is that the levels and types of concentrated bacteria are guaranteed. With food, you never quite know what you're going to get.

What are Probiotics Good For?

Everything! From to improving cognition to boosting libido, researchers are finding that probiotics are effective treatments for a wide variety of conditions [13] [14].

The benefits of probiotics on the digestive system are well-documented. Probiotics have been shown to:

  • Reduce colic in breastfed babies.
  • Relieve symptoms of diarrhoea caused by infection or antibiotics.
  • Manage the symptoms of Crohn's disease, IBS, ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Improve the absorption of phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and minerals.
  • Decrease the symptoms of lactose intolerance. [1] [2] [3]

But did you know that probiotics work in other parts of the body too?

Probiotics for Immune Support

Massive amounts of research has been published in the last five years exploring the connection between the gastrointestinal and immune systems. The consensus is that the types of bacteria found in the gut microbiome directly and indirectly impact the functioning of the immune system [4]. 

Probiotics for Immune SupportWhen good bacteria is in abundance in the gut, the immune system quickly responds to signals from the rest of the body.

With an increase in bad bacteria, that response becomes slower and the immune system can get the signals confused – there is even strong evidence that dysbiosis is a risk factor for autoimmune diseases [5].

 

Taking a good quality probiotic can help to reinforce the good strains and crowd out the bad guys to restore balance to the immune system. Recent research has found that taking the right probiotic supplement may be able to:

  • Decrease how often you get colds & flus by blocking bugs from entering the body via the gastrointestinal system [6].
  • Reduce the severity and duration of the common cold in active people who already have good diets and balanced lifestyles [7].
  • Prevent and treat UTIs. Urinary tract infections have been effectively treated with  Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri [8]. These beneficial strains can crowd out the pathogenic bacteria and reduce cross-contamination from the gut to the urinary system.

Probiotics for Skin Health

The skin is the body's second-largest elimination pathway (after the gut), so whatever gets absorbed through a leaky gut can end up being excreted through the skin. Um, gross?

Probiotics for Skin HealthOnce excreted onto the skin, the bad guys (toxins, pathogenic bacteria etc) throw off the balance of the skin's own microbiome by overcrowding or killing off the probiotics. The immune system can mount a normal response against these bad guys, resulting in conditions like acne, resulting in zits and inflammation. Sometimes the immune system may become confused and mounts an autoimmune response against healthy cells, as seen in conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

The upshot: Probiotics in the gut can improve the health of the skin. By killing off pathogenic bacteria and strengthening the intestinal wall, probiotics prevent bad stuff in the intestines from getting into the blood stream and being excreted onto the skin. Probiotics can also reduce inflammation and redness of the skin. Particular strains of oral probiotic supplements have been researched to treat skin conditions:

  • Eczema: High doses of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotic supplements have shown promise in treating eczema. We're talking doses of 10 – 50 billion CFu per day – kombucha won't cut it, so look for a high quality concentrated probiotic supplement containing these strains.
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  • Psoriasis: Studies on Bifidobacterium infantis have shown that high doses may reduce inflammation in psoriasis [9].
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  • Acne: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum strains have been gaining momentum as well-researched treatments to reduce number of pimples in acne vulgaris and reduce redness in acne rosacea [10].
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DID YOU KNOW? The health of the skin's microbiota can effect the our immune system, too. Most of the probiotics that colonise our skin are essential for our survival – they educate immune cells on what types of pathogens are around and how to defend the body against them [1].

Probiotics for Cardiovascular Health

Probiotics for Cardiovascular HealthProbiotics can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by helping to break down cholesterol and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
They've been shown to:

  • Decrease total cholesterol levels
  • Raise HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve weight loss outcomes in obese people
  • Reduce inflammation in the arterial wall [11]

With such a huge range of health benefits, taking a good quality probiotic supplement will give you something to smile about. And guess what? Probiotics can even make your smile brighter –  supplementing with Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to decrease gingivitis and plaque by crowding out bacteria in the mouth [12].  We weren't kidding – probiotics are good for everything!

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References

[1] National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (2016) Probiotics : In Depth. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm

[2] de Vrese, M., et al. (2001) Probiotics – compensate for lactase insufficiency. Am J Clin Nutr., 73:2, 421 – 429. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/2/421s.full

[3] Sung, V. (2015) Probiotic interventions in infantile colic., Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care., 18:3, 307 – 311. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25769063

[4] Ashfran, R. & Shah, N. P. (2014) Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr., 54:7, 938 – 956. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24499072

[5] Lerner, A., et al. (2016) Dysbiosis May Trigger Autoimmune Diseases via Inappropriate Post-Translational Modification of Host Proteins. Front Microbiol., 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4742538/

[6] Yan, F. & Polk, D. B. (2014) Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol., 27:6, 496 – 501. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/

[7] West, N. P., et al. (2009) Probiotics, immunity and exercise: a review. Exerc Immunol Rev., 15, 107 – 126. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19957873

[8] Falagas, M. E., et al. (2006) Probiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a review of the evidence from microbiological and clinical studies. Drugs, 66:9, 1253 – 1261. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16827601  

[9] Groeger, D., et al. (2013) Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes, 4:4, 325 – 339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3744517/

[10] Kober, M. M. & Bowe, W. P. (2015) The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. Int J Womens Dermatol., 1:2, 85 – 89. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5418745/

[11] Thushara, R. M., et al. (2016) Cardiovascular Benefits of Probiotics: A Review of Experimental and Clinical Studies. Food & Function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26786971

 [12] Krassa, P., et al. (2006) Decreased gum bleeding and reduced gingivitis by the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. Swed Dent J., 30:2, 55 – 60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16878680

[13] Akbari, E., et al. (2016) Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer's Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial. Front Aging Neurosci., 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105117/

[14] Poutahidis, T., et al. (2014) Probiotic Microbes Sustain Youthful Serum Testosterone Levels and Testicular Size in Aging Mice. PLoS One, 9:1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879365/

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