Since probiotics have enjoyed a recent boom in popularity, we’ve seen a major uptick in publications about the importance of probiotics in regard to gastrointestinal health. However, the scientific community has upped the ante by thinking outside of the petri dish and discovering some innovative and novel applications for these amazing microbes.
From fighting for optimal gum and skin health to helping to clear congested nasal passages and arteries, strains from the Lactobacillus genera are shaping up to be some truly impressive multitasking microflora!
Probiotics and heart health
Due to the alarming number of heart issues affecting so many around the country, most of us are concerned about cardiovascular well-being these days. It is becoming obvious that we need to take better care of our hearts, and one way to do this is by supplementing with probiotics.
New research has indicated that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri is helpful in normalizing cholesterol levels in the blood. In a fascinating study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2012, two daily doses of L. reuteri appeared to have helped lower key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood.
Excess cholesterol creates buildup inside artery walls, which can lead to all kinds of problems. As this gunk builds up, it narrows blood vessel pathways, which increases blood pressure along with the chances of poor heart health down the road.
Medications like statins can maintain cholesterol levels in a healthy range by interrupting enterohepatic circulation, a process that synthesizes and circulates cholesterol in the body. While statins are the “go-to” choice for many doctors and patients, these and other lifestyle factors have a way of wiping out the good flora in your system. L. reuteri can help to reduce the numbers of cholesterol esters, the compounds that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream, and support optimal cholesterol levels in the blood without indiscriminately targeting the other good guys working to keep your heart healthy.
Dental health and oral hygiene
Probiotics for oral health make sense if you consider where probiotics prefer to live - in the intestinal tract as well as in the nose, mouth, and throat (all part of the human microbiome.)
Your mouth is full of microbes, both good and bad. The issue is that until now, we’ve mostly been concerned with the bad. And with a host of hygiene products aimed at eradicating all oral bacteria, many of us have wiped out the majority of the good guys along the way.
The truth is that the beneficial flora living within the oral cavity often have just as much adversity as their neighbors living in the gut.
You see, these probiotics are meant to act as warriors, guarding our teeth and gums and serving in our immune system’s first line of defense -- and if they aren’t plentiful, you could struggle with bad breath, tooth sensitivity, gum issues, or even ear, nose, and throat health challenges. Probiotic supplementation can help ensure we have the right balance of beneficial microbes in our mouths, but it will only help if we use the right types of probiotic strains.
1. reuteri comes to the rescue again in this case. Not only is L. reuteri known for helping to regulate cholesterol, but it seems that this species is equally effective in easing the effects of temporary inflammation that can build up on your teeth and around your gums. A powerful oral probiotic with L. reuteri and S. salivarius strains like Hyperbiotics PRO-Dental was designed to benefit you by keeping your oral microbiome in optimal shape.This also means you no longer have to dread going to the dentist.
Skin and a healthier complexion
While many philosophers claim that the eyes are “windows to the soul,” medical professionals and beauty experts will avow that the skin is a mirror to one’s overall health. Many skin issues arise due to lack of nutrition or poor nutrient absorption and immune system reaction, two areas that scientists have studied in-depth regarding probiotic application. Probiotics are key to regulating one’s immune system and keeping it balanced – which can then influence the complexion of your skin.
While probiotic supplements support immunity (and thereby assist in easing temporary inflammation) from within the gut environment, topical probiotic treatments may soothe irritated skin and help provide the building blocks of healing from the outside in.
Researchers from Sca Hygiene Products, a leading cosmetic company, have tested various Lactobacillus extracts on mild skin afflictions, and the results were highly encouraging. Not only did the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum appear to help abate inflammation quickly, but it also supported the immune system response in general.
Sinus and upper respiratory health
For many of us, common environmental allergens are the bane of our comfort and overall health. Whether you are a seasonal sufferer or have sensitivities to animals, you may be able to reduce these issues by eating more probiotic foods and by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
During the past decade, Swiss and Finnish scientists conducted various studies testing how probiotics affect the immune mechanisms behind seasonal sinus congestion, itchy eyes, and sensitive skin. While their goals, methods, and parameters varied, all three groups came to the same conclusion: people with seasonal upper respiratory issues need more probiotics.
The immune response to certain microbes in the air creates irritations such as inflammation and increased white blood cells in the nasal mucosa. (This is how scientists explain your stuffy or runny nose, excess mucus, and sinus pressure.) When the immune system reacts like this, it releases eosinophils (white cells) and cytokines, which are proteins that trigger cell responses. A Finnish group studied children with birch pollen sensitivities in 2009, and the results indicated that the children who consumed the probiotics (compared to the placebo group) showed decreases in white blood cell counts and cytokines in their blood and nasal mucosa along with higher levels of microflora in their feces.
In 2011, one of the Swiss teams investigated the effects of probiotics on immune markers in the blood, which are indicative of certain vulnerabilities that can incite an unnecessary immune-system reaction. The test subjects were adults sensitive to grass pollen. One group of subjects received the placebo, while the others received daily doses of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus paracasei. Blood tests revealed no significant change in the immune markers for the placebo group, but blood work for the fermented milk group showed decreases in the immune markers that signal an unfavorable response to microbes in the air.
The major theme here is that science is making leaps and bounds in learning how you can improve various aspects of your health by increasing your intake of probiotics to repopulate your personal microbiome - countering the effects of modern lifestyles and getting back to health in the way that nature intended.
While fermented milk products contain some of the probiotic species mentioned in this article, it is best to replenish your system with a variety of microflora. Using a potent probiotic supplement like Hyperbiotics PRO-15, which contains fifteen different bacteria species (including all of the Lactobacillus species mentioned above), can help provide ultimate support for your heart, teeth, skin, upper respiratory health, and beyond.
Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of two little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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