Are Probiotics The Missing Link In Healing The Skin?
Right now probiotics are the hottest supplement out there. Are they really necessary? Can they help with acne? Is there actual science behind all the hype?
Probiotics, Acne, Digestion and Blood Sugar… Let’s talk.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help with digestion, brain function, hormone and vitamin synthesis, and just about every biological process imaginable. These friendly bacteria in your gut that affect your mood, your weight, your skin, your thoughts, your sleep, your digestion and pretty much everything else. It’s estimated that there’s up to 10 times more bacteria living in and on you than there are human cells in your body. Obviously probiotics are important, so let’s dive into why, focusing on their beneficial effects on the skin. here are approximately 100 trillion bacteria inside and on you right now, while there’s only about 10 to 50 trillion cells of your own in your body. If the balance of good bacteria (probiotics) to bad bacteria gets off kilter, we experience dysbiosis where too much bad bacteria takes over and causes trouble in our body and our skin.
Probiotics And Acne
The most important supplement people should be taking if they have digestive issues and skin problems are probiotics.
If you have ever taken antibiotics, you should be taking a probiotic.
If you’ve eaten a lot of conventional meat filled with antibiotics, you should be taking a probiotic.
As you can tell, I’m a fan of probiotics.
The Gut, Skin, Brain Connection
The connection between the gut, the skin, and the brain was first introduced in the 1930s by John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury when they connected emotional states with gut health. They observed that depression, worry and anxiety can affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause shifts in the microbial flora. These changes can result in dysbiosis, leading to poor gut function, increased intestinal permeability and increased inflammation both local and systemic. “Excess bacteria can successfully compete for nutrients, produce toxic metabolites, and cause direct injury to enterocytes in the small intestine.”
Probiotics decrease acne lesions and give great physical benefits to those who take them. They also improve the emotional symptoms that are prevalent in acne patients. In one study with 132 otherwise healthy adults, those that consumed a probiotic Lactobacillus casei fermented beverage had significant improvement in mood scores compared to the placebo group. Another study showed less anxiety in those who took probiotics.
There is a condition of the gut called SIBO, which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Normally, the large intestine houses most of the bacteria. Sometimes the bacteria may travel up into the small intestines and cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation all the way to fibromyalgia, malabsorption of nutrients and chronic fatigue syndrome. SIBO has been indicated to be 10 times more prevalent in those with acne rosacea vs. healthy controls. Correcting SIBO leads to marked clinical improvement in patients with rosacea. You know what improves SIBO? Probiotics. Now, this doesn’t mean probiotics will cure SIBO. And I would highly advise taking a probiotic without a prebiotic if you have SIBO so that you don’t feed the bacteria that’s already there. Plus there’s a lot of other things that you should do if you have SIBO. It’s usually not just a quick fix. That’s why I suggest consulting with a functional medicine practitioner to get personalized recommendations.
Acne Patients Have More Leaky Gut
One way that doctors use to measure leaky gut was to isolate bacterial strains from stool and test it on patient’s blood samples. In one study, approximately 66 percent of the 57 patients with acne showed positive reactivity to stool-isolated bacteria, while none of the control patients without active skin disease showed a reactivity. This is a huge indicator that people with acne are more prone to leaky gut and digestive disorders. From a particularly popular article on acne, “circulating endotoxins derived from gut microbes is not an uncommon feature of acne vulgaris, and one indicating that intestinal permeability is a potential issue for a sizable group of acne patients.” This means that those with acne have a much greater chance of having intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut. Probiotics help heal the intestinal lining, which is why it is so important for those with acne to take them.
Probiotics Help Acne
An Italian study gave 20 acne patients the probiotics L. acidophilus and B. bifidum in addition to standard care, and had 20 patients as a control group. “In addition to better clinical outcomes among the patients supplemented with probiotics, the researchers reported better tolerance and compliance with antibiotics.” In other words, the people who took the probiotics saw better results than those who didn’t. And those who took the probiotic better tolerated antibiotic treatment. If you are taking or are going to take antibiotics, I highly suggest taking a high dose of probiotics in compilation with your course of antibiotics (taken at least 2 hours apart) to help reestablish beneficial bacteria.
Probiotics May Help With Blood Sugar
Another reason why probiotics are an absolute must is because of the blood sugar-acne connection. The good bacteria in the gut can help with blood sugar control. Dysbiosis can attribute to glucose intolerance, which can be seen in even so-called “healthy” adults. So no matter what diet you end up on, everyone can benefit from taking a probiotic. One reason why antibiotics may work for acne may be because they destroy bad bacteria, which in turn improves glycemic control.
Glucose intolerance doesn’t just occur in those that are obviously unhealthy. Even I had glucose intolerance, and I’m 6-foot-3, 165 pounds and eat super healthy. I didn’t know this until I got tested, which, again, is why I urge you to get tested if you still aren’t where you want to be with your health.
How To Test Blood Sugar Levels
You can test your blood sugar levels by buying a blood glucose monitor and testing when you wake up, before you eat your meals, 1 hour and 2 hours after each meal. Fasting should be below 90. Before each meal (given you have not eaten for at least 2 hours) should be below 100. 1 hour post meal should be under 140 and 2 hours post meal should be below 120. If you read higher than that, you may have some form of glucose intolerance. By eating a healthy diet of whole foods, vegetables, roots, tubers, fish, meats, organ meats, nuts and seeds, seaweeds, and fruits, you can manage your blood sugar. Having your meals be high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats will help reverse blood sugar issues. You also want to eliminate all grains and milk products. If it’s really bad you may need a glucose support supplement for a few months to help you out while your body is correcting itself and getting back to normal functioning. I use support glucose from biomatrix to help combat high blood sugar levels.
Chromium Picolinate is another amazing option and what I used years ago when I eliminated bread and grains from my diet. I took about 1000 mcg a day to really help with my sugar cravings during that time.
How To Get In Probiotics
You can get in probiotics either through food or through supplements. Getting them in both forms is probably best because it will increase the microbial diversity.
Foods that include probiotics include:
- Raw sauerkraut
- Raw cultured vegetables
- Fermented green papaya
- Water (or coconut) Kefir
- Milk kefir (making this yourself with grass fed raw milk may be more beneficial than buying it at the store)
- Beet Kvass
There are more foods that contain probiotics but I think you get the point. If you are going to eat foods for their probiotic content, they should be raw because high heat (pasteurization) kills off most of the bacteria.
Most of these things sell for a lot of money in stores when you can make them yourself for much less, so if you are tight on cash, look up ways to make your own sauerkraut or coconut kefir and make it yourself. It’s actually really fun and can be a great way to spend time with family, friends, or partners.
Along with food, there are also supplements that contain probiotics.
Recommended Probiotic Supplements
There are many probiotics on the market today, and the best way I believe to take them is to try out 3 or 4 of the most reputable brands and see how they affect you. Sensitive individuals may only be able to tolerate one pill every few days before they can take more. The best brands I know of, in order, are the following:
- MegaSpore Biotics
- Prescript-Assist Broad Spectrum Probiotic Prebiotic Complex
- Ortho Molecular Products Orthobiotic
- Garden of Life Primal Defense ULTRA
- Custom Probiotics
There are many, many more brands of probiotics out there and I encourage you to try them and see if one makes a substantial difference over the other. Personally I’ve tried over a hundred. Like I mentioned before, try many different brands, and switch them up every so often to increase your microbial diversity. Many probiotics needs refrigeration so make sure you refrigerate them. Personally I know that Megaspore has reversed 2 people’s acne in case studies.
For a comprehensive review of different probiotics, check out this article by reviews.com.
If you are taking antimicrobials (antibiotics, biocidin, oil of oregano, olive leaf extract, etc…) take probiotics at least 1 hour (preferably more) after taking these.
- If you’re taking antibiotics or have taken antibiotics long-term, probiotic supplements can help repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria.
- Probiotics improve emotional health. They decrease anxiety and may help with depression.
- Toxic metabolites from bad bacteria, called endotoxins, can damage your intestinal wall and leech into your blood and cause inflammation. Probiotics help to combat this.
- SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is found in a lot of acne rosacea patients, and probiotics help to combat SIBO, which in turn helps the skin by lowering inflammation.
- Leaky gut is prevalent in acne patients, and probiotics help to heal the intestinal tract.
- Probiotics can help with impaired glucose tolerance.
- Get in probiotics through your food and take probiotic supplements for extra support, following the instructions on the bottle.
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