Aging

someone sitting down showing a jagged spine

Taking a Probiotic May Protect Your Bones From Osteoporosis

Many people assume bone health is a condition only older adults need to worry about. That’s not a surprise, considering how harmful falls can be to seniors.

However, you may be shocked to learn that people reach their peak bone mass by age 30, and your body begins to lose more bone than it rebuilds after that.

Many variables affect bone health, from hormone levels and gender to specific medications and how much you smoke or consume alcohol.

Fortunately, there’s some really simple things you can do to protect the health of your bones, like staying physically active and making sure your body gets the right amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

Considering adding a daily probiotic to the list of preventative measures to protect your bone health, based on a recent study featured in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Researchers at Sahlgrenska University Hospital (Sweden) came to that conclusion after monitoring the bone health of 90 older women (average age 76) who took a probiotic containing a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus or a placebo for 12 months.

Women who received the active probiotic lost only half as much bone compared to patients taking the placebo, based on comparisons of CT scans taken before supplementation began and after it ended.

There’s one important advantage probiotics offer that bisphosphonates (a class of drugs typically prescribed by doctors for bone density loss) don’t: Probiotics would reduce the rare but very serious risks of side effects linked to the long-term use of these drugs, like fractures to the jaw bone and possibly more common ones like heartburn.

“Today, there are effective medications administered to treat osteoporosis, but because bone fragility is rarely detected before the first fracture, there is a pressing need for preventive treatments,” says Dr. Mattias Lorentzon, a chief physician and professor of geriatrics at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

“The fact that we have been able to show that treatment with probiotics can affect bone loss represents a paradigm shift. Treatment with probiotics can be an effective and safe way to prevent the onset of osteoporosis in many older people in the future.”

The results of this study are less surprising than you might assume, given research we’ve discussed previously about poor dietary habits harming one’s gut health and triggering auto-inflammatory bone disease.

Imagine what taking a more robust probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic could do to make a healthy difference in your gut and your bones.

Probiotics Recommended for Nursing Home Residents

Over the years, I have written a number of newsletters that discuss the benefits of probiotics for children and adults. This month will focus on the older generation, an important topic since there are currently 11.4 million people living in nursing homes in the United States (1). This figure includes 14% of the population older than 84.

For anyone who has loved ones in nursing homes and is concerned for their well-being, there are numerous reasons I recommend all nursing home patients take probiotics.

Scenario One: Hospitalization

A recurring story is that of a functioning senior citizen living at home who fractures a hip due to a fall or experiences a stroke. The following series of events is likely to happen:

  1. Upon injury, 9-1-1 is called.
  2. The individual becomes a hospitalized patient.
  3. The patient is required to take medications, including antibiotics.
  4. The antibiotics adversely affect the gastrointestinal tract.
  5. The individual is now at risk of developing hospital-acquired infections like Clostridia difficile and methicillin-resistant staph infections.
  6. Eventually, the patient improves and is transferred to a rehab unit or nursing home.

The seniors may have had normal intestinal function prior to hospitalization, but with all the medications and change in activity level, constipation and diarrhea become real problems. These disorders can severely affect quality life and health of the people within the nursing homes.

For instance, other healthy nursing home residents are now at risk of being exposed to surface areas that have become contaminated by the arrival of the recently hospitalized patients.

This scenario is one reason to consider giving probiotics to healthy nursing home residents. Should a resident be exposed, the probiotics can prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing the intestines and causing damage.

Scenario Two: General Aging Process

Another main reason to give probiotics has to do with the changes that occur in the normal intestines as they age. Due to reduction in acid production, enzyme secretions, reduced intestinal immunity and slowed motility, the healthy intestinal bacteria population is reduced. This change in the intestinal microflora contributes to the risk of diarrhea and constipation.

According to the Administration of Aging (2), among healthy adults 65 years of age and older, 26% of men and 34% of women experience constipation. These numbers increase drastically for elderly people living in nursing homes – more than 80% suffer from constipation.  Medications, immobility, and dementia are all contributing factors for this increase.

Residents of nursing homes have a much higher risk of developing infectious diarrhea. In the United States, nursing home residents are four times more likely to die from gastroenteritis than those living outside nursing homes. Additionally, of all deaths occuring from diarrheal disease, nursing home residents account for 17.5% (3,4).

The physicians and nursing staff are very aware of the health risks associated with severe constipation and diarrhea. Unfortunately, nursing home patients often require medications that can slow intestinal motility, damage the lining cells, and disrupt the healthy balance of the intestinal bacteria. As a result, severe intestinal disorders can occur despite good medical care.

Probiotics Improve Constipation and Diarrhea

During the last three years, there have been several reports published that found that probiotics improved constipation and diarrhea in nursing home residents (5,6,7).  The research protocols were similar; One group of residents received probiotics containing Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacteria, and the other group received a placebo. The research findings revealed that the frequency and consistency of the stools improved in the groups treated with probiotics, as compared to the control groups (5,6,7).

After considerable review of the literature, I have come to the conclusion that giving nursing home residents daily probiotics can help to improve intestinal function, quality of life, and lessen the risk of serious health issues.

The real concern in medicine is that we “do no harm.” Probiotics, fortunately, have an excellent safety profile. It is worth noting, though, that there have been rare reports of infections due to probiotics in seriously immune-compromised patients (9).

Take Home Message

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, ask the health care provider to consider giving them a probiotic. The daily dosage should be at least 10 billion and contain multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, like EndoMune Advanced.

Eat healthy, exercise and live well!
Dr. Hoberman

References:

(1) National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2009: with special feature on
medical technology. Hyattsville, MD, 2010.

(2) Sources: Data releases from the web sites of the National Center for Health Statistics; and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site

(3) Mortality due to gastroenteritis of unknown etiology in the United States. Frenzen PD.J Infect Dis. 2003 Feb 1;187(3):441-52. Epub 2003 Jan 24

(4) Clin Infect Dis. 2010 Oct 15;51(8):907-14.Surveillance for outbreaks of gastroenteritis in long-term care facilities, Australia, 2002-2008. Kirk MDFullerton KEHall GVGregory JStafford RVeitch MGBecker N

(5) Efficacy of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) supplement in management of constipation among nursing home residents. 1)Sources: Data releases from the web sites of the National Center for Health Statistics; and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site

(6) Fermented cereal with specific bifidobacteria normalizes bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomized, controlled trial.Pitkala KH, Strandberg TE, Finne Soveri UH, Ouwehand AC, Poussa T, Salminen S.J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Jul-Aug;11(4):305-11

(7) Clostridium difficile in the long-term care setting. Makris AT, Gelone S.J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2007 Jun;8(5):290-9. Review

(8) Probiotics and the nursing home: should we give bacteria for breakfast?Morley JE.J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009 Jul;10(6):365-7.

(9) Safety assessment of probiotics for human use.Sanders ME, Akkermans LM, Haller D, Hammerman C, Heimbach J, Hörmannsperger G, Huys G, Levy DD, Lutgendorff F, Mack D, Phothirath P, Solano-Aguilar G, Vaughan E.Gut Microbes. 2010 May;1(3):164-185. Epub 2010 Mar 4.

Are Bugs in the Gut Good for Your Skin

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!
Dr. Hoberman

(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

 

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