While consuming a healthy diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, cutting out processed junk and exercising regularly are an important part of maintaining good health and well-being, there is another very important factor that most people miss: gut bacteria or probiotics.
In fact, the importance of probiotics is so great, that many experts feel that an important balance of this “good bacteria” could be the key to enjoying a longer healthy life. After all, what we put into our gut is essential for wellness, and it can even affect the chances for avoiding some types of cancer.
Probiotics have a number of important roles when it comes to health – and not just in the gut, but throughout the body. Just a few of its tasks include:
- Help with the digestion of food
- Fighting off viruses and colds
- Supporting bone health
- Helping to repair tissue damage and injuries
- Aiding in the regulation of appetite and weight management
- Helping to manage one’s mood
- Playing a part in the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin
There are trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in everyone’s gut, exacting a fundamental role in health and wellness. Collectively referred to as gut microbiome, they include about 500 different species – and each has their own unique benefits.
Recent studies have found they may even influence what we eat. While it sounds a bit like science fiction, according to researchers from the Arizona State University, the University of New Mexico and UC San Francisco, “bad” or unhealthy gut bacteria may be affecting our cravings as well as our moods to help ensure that we eat what they want – in fact, this type of bacteria may be what’s fueling the skyrocketing obesity problem. Some of these bacteria prefer fat, while others like sugar – and sometimes the bacteria are aligned with its host’s dietary goals, and others not, the experts said.
These bad bacteria can wreak all sorts of havoc in the body. When there are more bad bacteria in your gut than good, it can also lead to digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea, as well as many other issues. There are a number of things that can cause the balance of bacteria to get out of whack, such as medications, diet, illness and environmental factors. Probiotics can help get things back in balance so that everything functions optimally.
Having an imbalance of gut bacteria often results from eating too many “junk” or processed foods, particularly sugar, as it disrupts the gut’s normally healthy composition. That good bacteria is pasteurized, irradiated, and often processed beyond recognition, which means many of the modern foods we eat lead to an abundance of unhealthy bacteria. The “good” bacteria starts to become depleted, which can cause “bad” bacteria to take over, resulting in all sorts of health problems – and, it can impact your looks too. When your gut bacteria is out of whack, you might get sick more frequently, your skin may look sallow and/or breakout, you may feel depressed, gain weight, suffer from digestive problems, experience a lack of energy, endure aching joints and sore muscles, develop acne or start to have breathing difficulties or respiratory problems. It can even lead to serious issues like heart disease, type 1 diabetes and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
How To Get More Probiotics
The good news is that you can get your gut bacteria back in balance again by consuming foods with probiotics such as kefir, kombucha and Greek-style yogurt, as well as following healthy lifestyle practices such as avoiding that junk food, limiting your intake of alcohol, reducing exposure to toxins, exercising regularly and only taking antibiotics when you absolutely have to. Food has an almost immediate effect on the intestinal environment. Gina Sam, MD, MPH, Director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital, says that your good bacteria flora can be replenished within just three to four days.
“You can replenish your bacteria flora within three to four days,” says Gina Sam, MD, MPH, Director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital. Depending on your particular situation, a probiotic supplement might be something you want to consider. Look for something that combines a number of different strains for the greatest effectiveness, such as B. animalis, L. rhamnosus and B. heveticus.
Research conducted out of New Zealand’s University of Otago in 2014, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, showed that athletes suffered from about 40% fewer colds and gastrointestinal infections when they took a probiotic as compared to when they took a placebo.
Consumers have a wide variety of capsules, liquids, and foods to choose from, when it comes to adding probiotics to their diet, and there’s another form that’s a bit lesser known to, although it’s become increasingly popular as of late: topical probiotics.
Let’s take a look at those more in-depth, as they offer a number of unique benefits for the skin.
Topical Probiotics For Skin
As probiotics introduce healthy bacteria to the gut and create a barrier to reduce inflammation, which is known to trigger certain types of skin conditions, researchers found that there is compelling evidence that they can treat problems like rosacea and acne. Dr. Whitney Bowe, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who has researched the effect of probiotics on acne, told LiveScience.com that probiotics, whether eaten as foods, taken as a supplement or used topically, could be used by patients in combination with their current treatment. She noted that she typically recommends them to her patients struggling with rosacea or acne who are taking antibiotics, as antibiotics are known to wipe out “both good and bad gut bacteria.” There are, of course, many other reasons to avoid antibiotics and only take them when absolutely necessary.
Bowe called the development of topical probiotics another “exciting area of research.” Several manufacturers are in the process of experimenting with adding strains or extracts of probiotics to their skincare products, and a number have already done so and they’re on the market, including cleansers, moisturizers, peels and lotions.
As more research emerges, there are four types of skin problems that appear to be the most promising for probiotics to address, Bowe said.
When certain types of probiotics come in contact with skin cells, they have the ability to calm parts of the cells that may want to react to the presence of bad or unhealthy bacteria that they see as a threat. The signals produced by the probiotics stop the skin cells from sending “attack messages” to the immune system that result in flares of acne. The shield provided by topical probiotics helps to protect the skin while interfering with the bacteria and microorganisms’ ability to trigger an immune reaction.
Several small studies have shown that probiotics from food or supplements, when used in conjunction with traditional acne treatments may increase the rate of acne clearance, and also helps patients better tolerate acne treatment with antibiotics, Bowe further explained. The most effective strains for acne, according to their research, include Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, and B. bifudum. Bowe also added that preliminary studies of topical probiotics for acne have shown they may help lessen active skin lesions. When applied to the skin, the protective shield that’s formed prevents harmful pimple-causing bacteria from reaching the skin, aggravating the immune system and triggering inflammation, she said.
This inflammatory skin disorder that causes facial redness on the chin, nose, cheeks or forehead, along with small red bumps or pimples, may also be controlled with probiotics. Like acne, in those who have rosacea, living microorganisms on the skin are recognized as foreign by the body’s immune system. The immune system springs into action to counter this potential threat resulting in the inflammation, redness, or bumps common in these skin conditions. When applied topically, the same shield that helps prevent acne, can help battle the symptoms of rosacea. Bowe says that probiotics, when used in conjunction with medication, can reduce the redness, as well as help improve and strengthen the skin barrier to reduce burning, stinging and dryness.
Eczema is also an inflammatory skin condition, and it tends to respond well to probiotics. Finnish researchers focused on pregnant women who took probiotic supplements that contained the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for two to four weeks before giving birth, and also after delivery if they were breastfeeding, or added the bacteria to infant formula for at least six months. The researchers noted that the probiotics managed to decrease the odds of eczema in babies who had strong family histories of the itchy skin condition until at least age 2, and possibly longer. Other research found that infants who developed eczema before the age of one had a less diverse collection of gut bacteria when they were 7 days old, as compared to infants without eczema, which Bowe says suggests a link between gut bacteria early in life and the development of the skin condition.
4. Anti-aging effects
Topical probiotics may also help battle the effects of aging like those fine lines and wrinkles, as well as being hydrating and reducing damage from the sun. There has been some evidence, according to Bowe that the reason behind this is that they may help build collagen. That’s the primary protein in the skin that affects its tone and texture.
Best Topical Skin Care Probiotics To Try
While more research is needed to determine their effectiveness, those who’ve used topical probiotics have been singing its praises. If you’d like to try some of the highest rated, here are the top options available on Amazon currently.
Andalou Naturals Face Cream Probiotic C Renewal
A 1.7 fl oz jar of this face cream by Andalou Naturals sells at this page on Amazon. Gluten free, vegetarian, non-GMO, and cruelty-free, users note that it’s lightweight, only a small amount is needed, and it leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized. Effects like healing acne, brightening the skin and even fading age spots have been reported.
Acure Organics Sensitive Facial Cleanser Argan Oil + Probiotic
This gentle cleanser can remove tough makeup and promote healthier skin. Made up of probiotics, argan and pumpkin seed soil you can buy an 8-ounce bottle along with Acure Organics Sensitive Body Wash from this page on Amazon. In addition to probiotics, the creamy cleanser is also rich in omega fatty acids, while argan stem cells and CoQ10 help to absorb deeply in order to replenish lost moisture and elasticity. One user remarked, “Love this face wash and body wash, it keeps my skin clear and fresh!”
G.M. Collins Phyto Stem Cell + Mask
A powerful anti-aging tool, this probiotic mask contains a potent blend of peptides, resveratrol, and probiotics. A 1.7 ounce tube sells from this page on Amazon currently.
Eminence Organic Skincare Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer
A 2 ounce jar of this probiotic moisturizer isn’t cheap , however, consumers rave about it, and most feel it’s more than worth the high price tag. A number of users have reported that it does the job and then some when it comes to fighting acne.