Probiotics and prebiotics have the potential to improve dysbiosis and skin disease. These good bacteria can be used to improve our health and the condition of our skin. Here is what you should know about them.
The Good Bacteria
Probiotics are microorganisms and prebiotics are food ingredients that have the potential to improve or worsen skin diseases and other illnesses by correcting or worsening dysbiosis. If the diverse community of microorganisms (the microbiome) in a particular area of the body is normal for that location, then those organisms help contribute to the immunity and general health of that region of the body. When the composition of that population is altered and associated with disease, this condition is referred to as dysbiosis. Disease states can cause or be caused by alterations in the microbiome. Other factors can adversely affect the microbiome, such as oral and topical antibiotics, harsh chemicals applied to the skin in prescription and non-prescription cosmetics and self-care products, wearing synthetic instead of natural clothing fibers, and diet. The gut microbiome is sensitive to many common food additives, including emulsifiers that are often present in processed foods and artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda).
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve health when ingested or applied to the skin. The organisms most frequently used to treat the skin and gastrointestinal tract are lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and nitrobacter species. Prebiotics are considered “food” for beneficial bacteria and are chosen to selectively stimulate the growth of one or a small number of bacteria with the goal of achieving a health benefit. Common foods containing prebiotics include gum arabic and raw chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, wheat bran, wheat flour, and banana. Probiotics and prebiotics can be applied to the skin or taken orally.
Can They Help With Skin Diseases?
If chosen carefully, probiotics and prebiotics have the potential to influence the microbiome and therefore improve diseases related to dysbiosis. An altered microbiome has been found in skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. Lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and nitrobacter bacteria have been shown to help establish a healthy skin microbiome. Nitrobacter strains produce nitrates that can have positive health effects, including antifungal and antibacterial activity, and providing protection to the skin against damage from ultraviolet radiation. Lactobacillus strains help decrease inflammation in the skin and improve the skin barrier, as well as reduce damage from ultraviolet radiation. A lactobacillus rhamnosus containing supplement has been shown to improve adult acne. Giving a combination of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus as a freeze-dried powder capsule decreased the incidence of atopic eczema in early childhood, while a bifidobacterium containing oral supplement decreased itching in adults with eczema. An even more recent study showed that a mixture of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus improved atopic dermatitis in children and decreased their need for topical steroids.
It is clear that probiotics and prebiotics have the potential to improve dysbiosis and skin disease. However, the science of which probiotics and prebiotics to use when treating skin and gastrointestinal disease is complicated and still evolving. Theoretically, certain probiotics and prebiotics could worsen a particular condition by promoting the growth of the wrong microorganisms. Many of the probiotics and prebiotics available do not contain the exact same microorganisms in the identical amounts that have been shown to have beneficial effects in the studies noted above. Therefore, the use of commercially available probiotics and prebiotics to treat many diseases is currently educated trial and error. Before using these supplements, it is wise to consult your doctor for guidance as to the best probiotics and prebiotics to use and start with a low dose to make sure they do not worsen the condition they are being used to treat.