Probiotics are living microorganisms that are beneficial to human health when consumed in adequate amounts. They are often associated with gut health but have proven to impact various aspects of human health. Oral supplementation has gained popularity in recent years, as people continue to seek natural ways and adjunctive treatments to improve their skin health. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two strains which have been found to be particularly effective in promoting skin health.
The mechanisms by which oral probiotics exert their effects on the skin are not fully understood, but emerging research suggests the following potential mechanisms:
Modulating the Gut Microbiome
One of the main mechanisms by which probiotics may benefit skin health is through modulating the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis of our immune system and other physiological processes, including digestion and nutrient absorption (1). Several studies have shown that eating probiotic-rich foods or taking oral probiotics can help restore balance in the gut microbiome (2). For example, a study published in Nature showed that eating probiotic yogurt helped reduce inflammation markers (IL-6) while improving metabolic markers (insulin sensitivity) in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome.
Improving Skin Barrier Function
The skin is a complex organ that acts as a barrier between our bodies and the outside world. It also serves as a sensory organ, providing us with information about our environment (i.e. temperature, touch, pain). The skin microbiome plays a role in immune function and inflammation in the body, which may affect skin conditions such as acne or eczema.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be taken orally for health benefits. They have been shown to modulate the composition of gut bacteria and enhance immune function, which may have implications for skin health.
The composition of your gut microbiome has been linked to your risk of developing certain diseases such as allergies and autoimmune disorders like psoriasis . A recent study found that there was an imbalance in the gut microbiome among people with psoriasis compared to those without the condition . This suggests that an imbalance in the gut microbiome could be responsible for triggering various types of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and acne .
Oral probiotics are able to increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut by reducing levels of harmful organisms such as Clostridium difficile.
Improving Skin Barrier Function
The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin and acts as a protective barrier against environmental stressors. Oral probiotics have been shown to improve skin barrier function, by increasing the production of ceramides, which are lipids that help to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier and increase the production of antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are molecules that help to protect the skin from harmful pathogens. Furthermore, recent studies have also found beneficial effects of probiotics on skin photoaging.
Despite the above-mentioned promising effects, it is important to understand that oral probiotics should not be used as a substitute for prescribed medications. More research is needed to determine the most effective strains and dosages of probiotic supplements for specific skin conditions.
Apart from oral supplementation, include the following nutrients in your daily diet to increase your intake of probiotics:
- Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and is a great source of probiotics. Look for unpasteurized sauerkraut to ensure that it contains living probiotics.
- Kimchi is a Korean dish made from fermented vegetables such as cabbage, radish, and cucumber with a spicy, tangy taste.
- Kombucha is a fermented tea with a slightly sweet and sour taste which is a great alternative to sugary drinks.
- Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is high in probiotics and has a salty, savory taste.
- Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that is high in probiotics and protein. It has a nutty, earthy taste and is often used as a meat substitute.
- Sourdough bread is made from a fermented dough that is high in probiotics.
- Yogurt/Buttermilk/Kefir are dairy sources of probiotics. Look for yogurt that contains active cultures or probiotics on the label.