Probiotics are live bacteria and microorganisms that are known for promoting good digestive health. Our digestive system contains "good" bacteria that helps us digest the foods we eat. Probiotics can help boost your immune system, fight infection, act as a barrier against infection, and destroy toxins that can make you sick. Your doctor might recommend taking probiotics if you suffer from digestive diseases, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diarrhea. Probiotics are found in "live culture" yogurts and can be taken as supplements.
Fighting Acne and Rosacea
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), "skin prone to acne or rosacea has shown improvement with daily probiotic use." Probiotics can work in a number of ways to help decrease symptoms of these skin conditions:
- Your immune system can see dirt and bacteria on your skin as a foreign substance and jump into action to reduce the bacteria, causing inflammation, redness and bumps. When probiotics are used topically, such as a facial mask or cleansers, the probiotics may act as a shield, stopping your immune system from attacking.
- Some probiotics produce substances with antimicrobial properties. These might kill the bacteria on your skin when used topically.
- When your digestive tract is unbalanced, through stress or diets low in fiber, your body can react with inflammation, which in turn can increase outbreaks of acne or rosacea. Probiotics help to keep your digestive tract balanced, lowering the amount of inflammation in your body.
A few recent studies have looked at using probiotics to reduce flares of acne and rosacea. While the AAD doesn’t suggest ending your current treatment for these skin conditions, they do suggest talking to your dermatologist about adding foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt, or taking a supplement to increase your intake of probiotics.
Decrease in Psoriasis Symptoms
Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects your skin. Skin cells normally grow slowly and then flake off every four weeks, replaced by new skin cells. When you have psoriasis, the new skin cells grow quickly and move to the surface of the skin in days, rather than weeks. This causes your skin to form thick, scaly patches. Psoriasis patches, called plaques, can be inflamed, itchy and painful.
Researchers at Alimentary Health and Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork in Ireland, looked at whether probiotics can help to reduce inflammation caused by gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal diseases. Participants had either ulcerative colitis, psoriasis or chronic fatigue syndrome. The study also included healthy participants as a baseline for inflammation markers.
The participants received either probiotics or a placebo on a daily basis. At the end of the study (between six and eight weeks), those that received the probiotics had lower inflammation levels. The researchers stated that the inflammation markers were low enough to indicate remission and a lower risk of relapse.
Improving Skin Health
Besides helping to improve skin conditions, Researchers in Japan understood that previous research showed that probiotic use can help improve skin conditions but they wanted to see what effect, if any, it would have on the skin of healthy individuals. The scientists looked at 23 women between the ages of 19 and 21. The women were given either milk fermented with a probiotic dairy starter or conventional yogurt each day for four weeks.
Skin hydration, melanin levels, elasticity and sebum content (oil secreted by the skin) was measured at the beginning and end of the study. Both groups had an increase in skin hydration, however, only those who received the fermented milk each day had significantly higher sebum levels. This, according to the scientists, means better skin protection, resulting in healthier skin.
"Could Probiotics Be the Next Big Thing in Acne and Rosacea Treatments?" 2014, Feb. 3, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatology
"Fermented Milk Made by Lactococcus Lactis H61 Improves Skin of Healthy Young Women," 2014, Oct 14, H. Kimoto-Nira et al, Journal of Dairy Science
"Probiotics: What They Are and What They Can Do for You," revised 2013, May, Staff Writer, American Gastroenterological Association
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.