Over the years, I have reviewed many of the diverse health benefits of probiotics, and the list keeps getting longer.
Probiotics have been shown to lessen the risk of:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms
- Infectious diarrhea
- Antibiotic related diarrhea
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Recurrent female urinary tract infections
- Cold and flu illness symptoms in children
- Allergy related disorders like eczema
- Colon cancer
Most of the benefits of probiotics are related to their direct effects in the intestines, but there are extra-intestinal benefits.
For example, the probiotic bacteria can stimulate the intestinal immune cells to release substances into the blood stream that will then strengthen the immune cell functions in the upper respiratory tract. The result is to lessen the flu and cold symptoms of cough, runny nose and fever.
So how does taking a probiotic orally have a benefit for our skin? It has to do with modifying the reactions of the immune cells in the skin.
Numerous recent human clinical trials involving the immune system have found that probiotic supplementation might be useful in the management of skin allergies like eczema and dry skin (1,2,3).
Protective Function of Probiotics
There are several recent studies that have demonstrated that UV exposure induces dramatic changes in the skin’s immune functions(4,5), and how probiotics may be protective.
Part of the aging process of the skin is related to our frequent exposure to UV radiation, which causes inflammation. The result is damage to skin collagen and cell DNA. We all know that repeated sun exposure increases the risk for wrinkles and skin cancer.
To determine if probiotics could modify the skin’s immune reaction to UV exposure, 54 volunteers were randomized in two groups (27 each group) taking a placebo or a probiotic for 8 weeks before UV exposure(6). Biopsies of the skin were taken to determine the effects of the probiotic versus the placebo on the immune reaction of the skin.
The results found that the probiotic could modulate the immune reaction and lessen the inflammatory damage. The authors of the study concluded that probiotics may “represent a new strategy for photoprotection.”
There are even studies looking at a topical cream containing probiotics. A recent clinical trial demonstrated that the bacterial extracts of cultured probiotics regulated skin reactivity and dryness in healthy female volunteers(7). So far these are clinical studies; there are no commercial preparations available.
The point is, though, that there is very exciting new research into how the intestinal bacteria can affect our overall health…even the skin!
I am often asked if it is worthwhile taking a probiotic daily. Several years ago I said to take them only if you have some intestinal problems, or if you are taking an antibiotic. Today, I truly believe probiotics should be considered a daily healthy supplement.
Take Home Message
If you are going on an outdoor outing, make sure you use sunscreen and take a good probiotic like EndoMune.
Eat healthy, exercise and live well!
(1) Probiotics and down-regulation of the allergic response. Kalliomäki MA, Isolauri E.Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2004 Nov;24(4):739-52
(2) The development of gut immune responses and gut microbiota: effects of probiotics in prevention and treatment of allergic disease.Rautava S, Isolauri E Curr Issues Intest Microbiol. 2002 Mar;3(1):15-22.
(3) Probiotics during the first 7 years of life: a cumulative risk reduction of eczema in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Poussa T, Isolauri E.J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Apr;119(4):1019-21. Epub 2007 Feb 7.
(4) Sunlight and skin cancer: lessons from the immune system.Ullrich SE. Mol Carcinog. 2007 Aug;46(8):629-33. Review
(5) Alterations in human epidermal Langerhans cells by ultraviolet radiation: quantitativeand morphological study.Seité S, Zucchi H, Moyal D, Tison S, Compan D, Christiaens F, Gueniche A, Fourtanier A.Br J Dermatol. 2003 Feb;148(2):291-9
(6) Probiotics for photoprotection.Guéniche A, Philippe D, Bastien P, Blum S, Buyukpamukcu E, Castiel-Higounenc I.Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Sep;1(5):275-9
(7) Bifidobacterium longum lysate, a new ingredient for reactive skin.
Guéniche A, Bastien P, Ovigne JM, Kermici M, Courchay G, Chevalier V, Breton L, Castiel-Higounenc I.Exp Dermatol. 2010 Aug;19(8):e1-8