How Probiotics Boost Digestion and Skin Health : Probiotics come with many health benefits. Research is still being done in this field, but the evidence suggests that they can potentially lower your cholesterol, reduce the severity of allergies, treat gum disease, decrease your likelihood of getting cancer, treat vaginal infections, and even help with depression and anxiety.
And, as this article will discuss, they’re also great for your digestive system and your skin.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve your health by manipulating gut microbiota, or microorganisms that dwell in your digestive tract. They can be thought of as “good” bacteria.
The first person to posit that probiotics could aid health was Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff. He proposed that lactic acid bacteria had life-extending properties and attributed the longevity of Bulgarian peasants to their consumption of probiotic-laden yogurt.
Probiotics and Digestion
Among the best-documented benefits of probiotics are the ways in which they aid the digestive system.
Probiotics can be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterized by digestive dysfunction. People with irritable bowel syndrome have lower levels of probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, so administering probiotics can alleviate the symptoms of the condition.
The common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Probiotics combat these by reducing inflammation, reducing gas production, and restoring the balance of gut flora in your system.
Probiotics are also effective in treating diarrhea, as many studies have found. They are particularly good at treating antibiotic-induced diarrhea, as they replenish the gut microbiome with “good” bacteria that the antibiotics would have killed off.
In one study in which 214 patients with irritable bowel syndrome were treated with the probiotic L. plantarum 299v, 78% found that their symptoms improved, especially with regard to pain and bloating.
Probiotics can help with constipation as well. One study analyzing five other studies on the subject found that probiotics were effective in treating constipation in both adults and children.
Probiotics can also treat inflammatory bowel diseases. This includes Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract, and ulcerative colitis, which is characterized by inflammation and ulcers in the colon. One study found that L. plantarum 299v improved the symptoms of colitis in mice.
However, others claim that probiotics are best at preventing colitis and aren’t as reliable for treating it. For example, probiotics can be administered to preterm babies in order to minimize their elevated risk of contracting enterocolitis, or inflammation of the digestive tract.
In addition to all of these benefits for your digestion, you can also take probiotics for weight loss. While you shouldn’t depend on probiotics alone without also eating a healthy diet and maintaining physical activity, studies have shown that probiotics can help you lose weight by reducing body fat.
Probiotics and Skin Health
Antibacterial soaps are advertised as being better for protecting your health, but in reality, their antibacterial and antimicrobial properties cause them to destroy good bacteria, or probiotics. This reduces the diversity of gut flora in the microbiome and causes inflammation.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it thrives on its diverse range of microorganisms. If this diversity is reduced, it can create problems. Using antibacterial soaps can also cause your skin to become dry and irritated, causing skin problems like eczema or psoriasis.
Probiotics can be used to treat these skin problems because they restore the balance of gut flora in your microbiome and counter the negative effects of “bad” bacteria.
A new industry of probiotic and prebiotic skin care has emerged for this reason. Prebiotic skin care is also beneficial because probiotics need prebiotics, or types of dietary fiber that probiotics feed on, to thrive.
Probiotics can confer anti-aging benefits. One study involving 110 middle-aged women with dry skin and wrinkles found that consumption of a certain Lactobacillus strain resulted in increased skin hydration, reduced facial wrinkling, and improved skin elasticity.
Probiotics can also be used to treat acne. One article reviewed several studies and concluded that “the substantial decrease noted by the administration of an oral probiotic alone further supports the role of probiotics as an adjuvant in acne treatment.”
Different strains of probiotics have different effects on the skin. In the words of Dr. Noelani González, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mt. Sinai West, “Streptococcus thermophilus is better for someone with a dry complexion while Nitrosomonas eutropha will benefit more oily and congested complexions. However, both can still be used very successfully for any type of complexion.”
Many companies are now harnessing the skin benefits of probiotics. These companies tend to focus on creating all-natural, probiotic skin care products that have no preservatives, parabens, sulfates, or other harmful ingredients.
The Power of Probiotics in Your Life
So, with these amazing benefits, I’m sure you’re ready to get intentional about adding probiotics to your diet and your daily routine.
As noted above, you can now find probiotics in many skin care products. If you’re hoping to harness the power of probiotics for your digestive system, you can purchase probiotic supplements at most pharmacies, grocery stores, and even wholesale clubs.
However, you don’t need a fancy skin cream or a pill in order to enjoy the benefits of probiotics. While these are great sources and can target a specific problem you’re experiencing, probiotics can also be found naturally in many foods.
You can find probiotics in fermented products that contain lactic acid bacteria. These include yogurt, pickled vegetables, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kvass, kombucha, and traditional buttermilk.
Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. It should be noted that you should be sure to get yogurt labeled “live and active cultures” (which means the bacteria are living) and that doesn’t have a lot of added sugar.
The same applies to cheeses. Soft, aged, and raw cheeses contain probiotics (“live and active cultures”), but pasteurized and processed cheeses do not.
Kefir, a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, is another excellent source of probiotics. It is rich with vitamins and minerals.
Fermented pickles are also a good source of probiotics and are a very accessible option. Be sure to eat fermented pickles, as those pickled in vinegar lack probiotics.
Whatever form you choose for getting your probiotics, you’re almost guaranteed to see improvements in your health, including your digestion and skin. Here’s three cheers for probiotics!
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