The Probiotic Glow – Part 1 | How eating bugs can make your skin healthy and hair shiny.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics – like cells – are literally part of us. Probiotics are microorganisms (living bacteria and yeasts), and our body contains trillions! In-fact microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, but due to their tiny size, construct only about 1 to 3 percent of our body mass (e.g. a 90 kg adult = 0.9-2.7 kg of bacteria).
In a study by the National Human Genome Research Institute focusing on human microbiomes, it has been discovered that of the trillions of bacteria, atleast 10, 000 species have been identified (Grice, 2011).
Your body is like its own planet, containing 10,000 species of living organisms. And like the planet, our body thrives from biodiversity – that is, we need a huge range of bacteria to work together and support each other. Also like our planet: chemicals, stress and illness can disrupt the harmony, and restoration is needed to reinstate balance.
What Is The Relationship With Our Skin?
The skins surface has its own little ecosystem with varying pH levels, temperature, moisture and sebum content. This environment can be influenced by both internal, and external influences and our individual skin physiology can impact what types of microorganisms can thrive on our skin.
Oily parts of the skin, such as the t-zone support lipid-loving micro-organisms, compared to dry areas of skin such as arms and legs – which support different bacteria types. Think of the plant kingdom, where we have plants such as ferns that thrive in dark, damp forests, compared to cactuses who can thrive in the dry, hot, deserts.
Certain microbes often called “bad bacteria” and even fungal and viral inhabitants, can under certain conditions dominate the good guys, causing various reactions and skin disease pathologies. Compared to the gut, our skin has a higher rate of fungal species and viral blooms inhabiting, which is not surprising as our skin functions as our body’s first line of immune defence.
With these factors in mind, considering our skin has its own ecosystem; it is a barrier for our internal organs; and is also an organ its self - therefore will reflect what’s going on internally with our gut health, hormones and immune system.
In addition, the fact that microbes outnumber human cells 10-1, the balance and biodiversity of our body’s micro-organisms is imperative for good overall health and skin health.
The Benefits Of Probiotics For Skin
Research is revealing that probiotics are essential for normal skin health. Numerous studies are finding that consuming a probiotic rich diet can in-fact help project a “glow” of health. This improved skin radiance can be attributed to several actions of probiotics resulting in increased dermal thickness of skin, improved skin hydration, reduced inflammation & sensitivity, reduction of skin lesions, and even accelerated hair growth that is thicker and shinier (Erdman, 2014)!
Many of the glowing benefits can be linked to the way that probiotics support our skin barrier (Kobera, 2015). Various skin conditions can be attributed to impaired skin barrier function including: eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, rosacea and photoaging. Probiotics support our skin barrier function by:
~ Promoting healthy, slightly acidic pH
~ Reducing inflammation
~ Reducing allergic reactions and skin sensitivity
~ Supporting natural antibacterial mechanisms
~ Strengthen and support skin integrity
~ Support hormone and blood sugar balance
That Gut Feeling
Whilst some benefits of probiotics can be achieved by applying them topically, most need to be consumed, which means gut health is a major player in skin health. Have you ever heard people say that “70-80% of your immune system is in your gut”? This is because of your gut flora, which should consist of mostly good bacteria, but also some “other” or even “bad” bacteria. When the balance between good and bad is disrupted, this can result in a range of health issues or an aggravation of existing disorders.
Furthermore, the human body does not contain all of the enzymes needed to break down all of our nutrients, microbes in the gut help our body break down and utilise everything from proteins, lipids and carbohydrates to therapeutic compounds such as vitamins, and anti-inflammatories – all ingredients needed for skin health.
But Wait….There’s More!
So you know probiotics are vital for healthy skin, but where do you source them? Discover what foods and drinks contain probiotics and how the environment in which we live can influence our good bacteria inhabitants. Let's delve in and find out how to start your own bug army! Read The Probiotic Glow - Part 2 | "Beauty & the Bugs" : How to build a bug army for your skin.
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(Naturopath & Skincare Geek)
Grice EA, Segre JA, The skin microbiome, Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Apr; 9(4):244-53.
Kobera, MM &.Boweb, WP `The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging’, International Journal of Women's Dermatology, Volume 1, Issue 2, June 2015, Pages 85-89.
Lloyd-Price, J Mahurkar, A Rahnavard, G Crabtree, J Orvis, J Hall, B Brady, A Creasy, HH McCracken,C Giglio, MG McDonald, D Franzosa, EA Knight,R OWhite,O and Huttenhower, C `Strains, functions, and dynamics in the expanded Human Microbiome Project, Nature. 2017 Oct 5; 550(7674): 61–66.
Oh, J Byrd ,AL Deming, C Conlan, S, Kong,, HH and Segre, J ` Biogeography and individuality shape function in the human skin metagenome, Nature. 2014 Oct 2; 514(7520): 59–64.
SE Erdman & T Poutahidis, `Probiotic ‘glow of health’: it’s more than skin deep,’ Benef Microbes. 2014 Jun 1; 5(2): 109–119.