Probiotics Send Signals From Your Gut to Your Skin
Much more is known about how probiotics work in your gut than is known about their effects elsewhere in your body. But new research shows that there may be signals coming from these gut microorganisms that are sent to your skin and mucosa.
According to Professor Christine Lang, the potential benefits of skin probiotics would depend on how each microorganism is selected, and the specific effects that they have on the skin.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Probiotics are now widely known for their beneficial role in your gut health, but emerging research further proves their benefits are not limited to your digestive tract.
Signals from these gut microorganisms are sent throughout your body and interact with organisms in your skin and gut mucosa. Researchers are now looking into how these interactions can help with skin conditions like dryness, improve collagen, or stabilize the microflora on your skin to help with irritations.
In the video at the link above, Professor Christine Lang noted it could be one to two years before functional probiotic products for the skin are developed, but there are already a handful of them on the market.
The popular cosmetic company Clinique has just released a "redness solutions makeup" that touts probitoic technology that "helps strengthen skin's barrier." Probiotic soaps, lotions and other personal care products are also available at many health food stores.
Research is still emerging as to precisely how probiotics interact with your skin, as well as which strains are most beneficial and whether topical or oral applications work best, but the promise is definitely there. Probiotic benefits for your skin is an area worth keeping an eye on in the next few months and years.
Your Skin is Teeming with Bacteria
At first it may seem strange that bacteria in your gut would play a role in your skin health, but when you consider that your skin is literally bathed in bacteria it's not such a stretch after all.
There are about 100 trillion microorganisms -- bacteria, fungi and more -- living on and in your body. The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1Even after you wash, there are still 1 million bacteria living on every square centimeter of your skin.
There are also 70 known tribes of commensal -- or beneficial -- bacteria that could be living on your body right now. The word commensal comes from the Latin term "com mensa," which means "sharing a table."
In other words, the bacteria living on your skin are involved in a symbiotic relationship with you.. The bacteria on your inner elbow, for instance, process the raw fats it produces and in turn moisturize your skin.
The bacteria in the human microbiome collectively possess at least 100 times as many genes as the 20,000 or so in the human genome, and t. So it's easy to see how the bacteria on your skin can have such a profound influence on your health.
Your body is its own living ecosystem, teeming with beneficial bacteria that play a large role in keeping you alive. Some microbiologists have even stated that a person should really be considered a "superorganism."
Probiotic Skin Benefits Already Revealed
It's already known that probiotics play a role in your skin health. For instance, that probiotics are beneficial for preventing eczema in infants is a finding I've been reporting on since at least 2001.
In 2003 a study of over 100 children from families with a history of eczema also found a benefit from probiotic supplementation, and just last year a study noted that daily supplements of probiotic foods may reduce the risk of eczema in children by 58 percent.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is more than just a skin problem, however, as it signals a problem with your immune system. In fact, eczema is said to be one of the first signs of allergy during the first days of life, and about three out of four children with eczema later go on to develop asthma or hay fever, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The incidence of eczema has been on the rise for years and one theory for the increase, which is known as the hygiene hypothesis, is that children are being exposed to a lower level of bacteria, which affects the development of their immune systems.
Indeed, a study published in 2008 found that children with only a limited variety of bacteria in their intestines one week after birth are more likely to develop eczema by the age of 18 months.
It's thought that giving an infant probiotics (good bacteria) helps to stave off eczema and other allergic diseases by beneficially altering the early colonization of bacteria in their gut, which may help the child's immune system to develop and mature. It may be through a similar mechanism that probiotics help other skin conditions as well.
How to Take Advantage of Probiotic Benefits Now
Far from simply helping your body to better digest and assimilate your food (which they do very well), probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.
And you needn't wait for a cosmetics company to develop a special probiotic skin care line to take advantage of these benefits, on your skin or elsewhere in your body.
Probiotic supplements are widely available, and if you choose a high-quality version they are very effective in helping to "reseed" your intestinal tract with good bacteria.
Though I rarely recommend taking large numbers of supplements on a regular basis, a high-quality probiotic is one of my exceptions. In fact, it's one of the few supplements recommended to all new patients in my clinic. However, supplements are not the only way one can receive these beneficial bacteria.
Cultured foods like yogurt, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria, provided they are not pasteurized. And fermented foods, such as natto, can give your body the similar benefits of consuming a whole bottle of good bacteria at a fraction of the cost.
One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria through your diet is to obtain raw milk and convert it to kefir, which is really easy to make at home. All you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk, which you leave at room temperature overnight. By the time you wake up in the morning you will likely have kefir. If it hasn't obtained the consistency of yogurt you might want to set it out a bit longer and then store it in the fridge.
A quart of kefir has far more active bacteria than you can possibly purchase in any probiotics supplement, and it is very economical as you can reuse the kefir from the original quart of milk about 10 times before you need to start a new culture pack. Just one starter package of kefir granules can convert about 50 gallons of milk to kefir.
This is a far healthier, and far more economical, way to nourish your body with probiotics than buying any of the commercial probiotic beverages on the market (which typically contain added sugars and are made using pasteurized milk, which I don't recommend drinking anyway).
So my top advice to virtually everyone reading this would be to make cultured foods a regular part of your diet; this can be your primary strategy to optimizing your body's good bacteria.
A probiotic supplement can still be used to help maintain a well-functioning digestive system, as well as when you stray from your healthy diet and consume excess grains or sugar, if you have to take antibiotics, when traveling to foreign countries or when eating at suspicious restaurants.
But remember to use the supplement as it's intended -- as a "supplement" to, not a replacement for, cultured foods. As for probiotics intended specifically for skin uses, keep an eye on the newsletter as we'll be keeping on top of the latest news and revelations in this emerging area of research.