Medical scientists searching for new ways to optimize immune responses have found an effective solution in the supermarket. New evidence shows that probiotics can prevent and treat serious chronic illnesses. Below, I’ll give you a preview. But we’re also learning that probiotics ward off many minor problems that occasionally strike all of us, even if we’re in apparently excellent health. Many people are using probiotics as skincare products, and you might be wondering if they’re worth all the hype. These are some of the benefits that people are getting from using them on their skin.
A fascinating Swedish study, published in Environmental Health in 2005, focused on 181 healthy men and women ages 18 to 65, all of them employed by the same company. Half were chosen at random to receive special straws that delivered a daily dose of probiotics as they sipped a beverage of their choice. The others were given look-alike straws containing no probiotics. For eighty days, participants used the straws and kept health diaries, recording any respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms that caused them to call in sick.
During the study period, 26 percent of those with the ordinary straws took time off from work because of gastrointestinal or respiratory illness. In contrast, only 16 percent of the workers who received the probiotic required sick leave, a reduction of more than one-third. Other recent findings confirm that probiotics can pre-vent infectious disease (or at least speed recovery). What’s more, these striking benefits come without any adverse side effects.
The potential benefits of probiotics for those who suffer from chronic diseases are so extraordinary that they can sound like the claims that snake oil salesmen used to make at carnivals. But here at the University of Michigan Medical Center, as well as at other leading medical schools in the United States and abroad, research breakthroughs are bringing together the fields of microbiology, immunology, nutrition, and physiology as never before. This collaboration has produced findings some just emerging from the laboratory and not yet published that are difficult to believe at first. In Part 2 of the book, I’ll describe this work in more detail. Here’s a sample:
1. Probiotics Can Balance the PH
Probiotics are microorganisms that are usually found in the intestines. Probiotic products contain these microorganisms, and people use them for a variety of purposes. When used on the skin, probiotics can balance the pH of the skin. An imbalanced pH level can cause a variety of skin conditions such as rashes, irritation and acne from the growth of unhealthy bacteria. Cleaner and more vibrant skin are some of the main benefits for people who use skin probiotics.
2. Probiotics Can Resolve Dry Skin
Using probiotics on the face can assist you with dry skin. They can resolve dry skin by boosting your skin’s production of ceramides and lipids. These special ceramides and lipids are crucial because they trap moisture in your skin. The overall result is healthier, plumper and brighter skin.
3. Probiotics Can Help With Oily Skin
For oily skin, probiotics balance the production of sebum by balancing the hormones. Therefore, you can benefit from using probiotics as someone who has overly dry skin or overly oily skin. These excellent products can serve a dual purpose in that area.
4. Probiotics Are Great for Sensitive Skin
The likelihood of probiotics irritating your skin is slim to none. Therefore, they can benefit you greatly if you have sensitive skin. They might even help to soothe irritations that you have from acne, eczema and other conditions. It will be worth a try to take some probiotic care products for your skin.
5. Probiotics Can Work as an Anti-Aging Solution
Probiotics can also be used as anti-aging solutions for the face. You can use them if you’re currently suffering from unwanted facial lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging. One way they can help with aging is by boosting the production of ceramides. As we mentioned before, ceramides are elements that keep moisture in your skin. Your skin needs lots of moisture to maintain its healthy glow. As you get older, the ceramide production declines without a boost from an outside source. Using probiotics on your face can give you the boost you need right away.
Collagen production is something else that declines with age. The good news is that you can boost your collagen production by taking in a daily amount of probiotics. You can use probiotic skin care products in conjunction with boosting your daily intake of probiotics. You can find a plentitude of probiotics in foods such as Greek yogurts, organic regular yogurts, bananas, asparagus, honey and legumes. You will start to see results quickly if you embark on a mission to make your body and skin healthier by changing various habits.
Start Using Probiotics on Your Skin Today
You can see that you can reap many benefits by using probiotics on your skin. You can start using them today for a minimal initial investment.
Other Benefits of Probiotics
Digestive Disorders: Diarrhea, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and More Digestive problems are a chronic private agony for millions of Americans and nearly all of us experience occasional unpleasant episodes. Difficulties can occur when the probiotic bacteria in our intestines are unable to compete with an onslaught of harmful bacteria.
Probiotics are now used to prevent or treat diarrhea due to antibiotic treatment, infections, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or the unfamiliar microbes encountered in foreign travel. Many gastrointestinal specialists prescribe probiotic therapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Other common digestive problems that don’t involve the immune system may respond to probiotics, too; one example is lactose intolerance.
Immune system malfunctions are responsible for chronic digestive problems that involve inflammation. One example is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a group of closely related diseases including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in which the immune system overreacts to normal intestinal microbes, causing inflammation and ulcers (open sores). Several clinical trials—carefully controlled medical studies involving hundreds of patients have found that probiotics show great promise for the treatment of IBD.
Allergies, Eczema, Asthma, and Related Conditions
Allergic reactions, we now know, are caused when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances. Just within the past few years, we’ve discovered that probiotic bacteria can control these overreactions. Exciting studies from Finland have found that when pregnant or breastfeeding women take probiotics, their babies are significantly less likely to suffer from eczema. This inflammatory skin reaction affects more than thirty million Americans, causing severe itching.
Now probiotics are under intense investigation as an allergy treatment. Currently, millions of allergy sufferers must choose be-tween uncomfortable symptoms and significant side effects from medication. I’m confident that probiotic therapies, which rarely involve such problems, will resolve that dilemma.
Still another promising line of research involves asthma, a chronic condition in which the airways are inflamed and narrowed. People who suffer from asthma face terrifying attacks that can be triggered by allergies, exercise, or adverse weather conditions. During an asthma attack, the airways narrow to the point where a person has difficulty breathing and could even die. Since asthma involves an inappropriate immune response, including inflammation, there’s excellent reason to hope that probiotics could help.
Most yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans, a yeast that’s normally kept in check by the probiotic Lactobacillus and other microbes that live in our intestines. But this natural defense may not always work. For example, hormonal changes, stress, and a poor diet can predispose a woman to vaginal yeast infections. Or the problem may be antibiotic treatment, which doesn’t harm yeasts but does kill their microbial competitors, allowing yeasts to proliferate.
Alternative medicine has long treated yeast infections by adding yogurt or probiotic supplements to the diet; yogurt is also a common folk remedy. Preliminary research suggests that certain probiotics are indeed effective.
Autoimmune diseases are among the most baffling and disabling of conditions. We’ve identified more than eighty such diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, and psoriasis. These conditions are caused not by some external enemy, but by our own immune system. Instead of protecting us, an over reactive immune system mistakes our own cells for harmful microbes and attacks them. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis, the erroneous target is the cells that make up our joints; in type 1 diabetes, it’s the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
Probiotic bacteria have enormous potential to help, because they signal the immune system to show restraint. Scientists are just beginning to investigate how they might prevent or treat autoimmune diseases. One example: recent studies in laboratory animals highly susceptible to type 1 diabetes suggest that probiotics can actually prevent the condition.
Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, Cancer, and More
As our understanding of inflammation and the immune system expands, new possibilities emerge for probiotics. Because scientific attention to probiotics has just begun, many pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Nevertheless, a picture is developing as evidence accumulates. And support for this research is expanding rapidly. The National Institutes of Health has begun to fund research on probiotics, investigating their value in preventing or treating allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions.
Keep your eyes open! I expect you’ll see many news stories about probiotics as we learn more about the health benefits of these remarkable bacteria. Meanwhile, here are a few intriguing examples of what’s on the horizon:
- Cardiovascular Disease: In the past decade, our whole approach to cardiovascular disease has changed drastically. The focus has moved from cholesterol to inflammation, which we now realize plays a major role in the arterial narrowing that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
- Obesity: Could probiotics possibly combat obesity? We already know from the livestock industry that animals gain weight faster when their feed contains antibiotics, drugs that destroy probiotics. Very recent preliminary research suggests that changing the bacterial populations in the human gut could have the same effect, thereby contributing to obesity.
- Colorectal Cancer: All of us are exposed to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances); our body may develop abnormal cells as a result. But we have defenses to protect ourselves. For example, microbes in the intestines help ward off colorectal cancer by breaking down carcinogens in food to make them harmless. Also, the immune system, if it’s functioning properly recognizes abnormal cells and destroys them. Scientists now speculate that boosting probiotic bacteria could help the body ward off colorectal cancer naturally, and perhaps prevent other cancers, too.
- Tooth Decay and Gum Disease: Harmful bacteria can grow in the mouth, producing tooth decay and gum disease. A preliminary study from Japan has already found that people who eat plain yogurt have lower rates of tooth decay than those who don’t. And clinical trials are under way to see if probiotics can help prevent gum disease.
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Medical researchers don’t agree on the cause of these disabling diseases, whose symptoms can be described as a chronic flu. An emerging theory is that they are linked to the immune system and changes in the gut’s bacterial population. Though we’re a long way from having research findings to confirm this, some people report that their symptoms have been relieved by probiotics.
- Autism: Autism, a condition involving unsociable and other abnormal behavior, is on the rise. Among the many possible reasons, some experts believe, is the widespread use of antibiotics and the resulting changes in intestinal microbes. Clinical trials in England have suggested that probiotic supplements can help those autistic children whose symptoms developed after taking antibiotics and experiencing persistent diarrhea.