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Taking Probiotics – Does it really work? (Part II)

Previously, we have looked into how probiotics contribute to regulating immunity and inflammation. Personally, I still encourage eczema patients to try probiotics as supplementation to their eczema diet. So what are the benefits?

What are the benefits?

Intestinal microflora in the early years of life can influence our whole life. It helps our immune system mature. Greater diversity in the microflora is believed to reduce the risks of allergic diseases and eczema. They are also capable of producing essential vitamins – K, B2, B7 & B12 with the help of fermenting prebiotics, which acts as the “fuels” for our microflora. Microflora could also produce short-chain fatty acids, important substances to help maintain blood glucose and appetite, which are important to prevent diabetes. It was also proven in some studies that probiotics could reduce depression and anxiety, which may trigger eczema. Lastly, probiotics were also proven to be effective in preventing bacteria-induced diarrhoea in adults and children.

What kind of probiotics should we take?

There are two ways to obtain probiotics for our body.

The first way is to ingest them from natural foods.

Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods, and one of the most common fermented foods is yoghurt. Yoghurt usually provides at least one type of the following probiotic – Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus. Interestingly, ingesting more than one strain (multi-strain) of bacteria from foods is not guaranteed to exert a greater effect than ingesting only one strain. Since there is no single best probiotic for eczema, it is more of a trial and error for each eczema patient to find the one that helps.

Apart from being probiotics, yoghurt is also regarded as one serving of milk and alternative in the food pyramid. These dairy products are useful to provide important nutrients like calcium and vitamin B12. Other popular natural probiotics including kimchi, cheese also contain different probiotics and nutrients.

Please bear in mind these beneficial bacteria may die during the cooking process. It is better to consume directly. However, if you are undergoing a food elimination diet, i.e. reducing chemical loads by excluding some of the food groups – dairy foods in the diet, you may have to search for alternative products.

Another way of obtaining probiotics is through supplements.

There are different commercial probiotics available on the market. They are advertised to relieve common health problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea and hypercholesterolemia (too much blood cholesterol). Some are advertised to improve infants’ immunity and prevent infants from developing eczema and asthma. Usually, there is research to support the bacterial strain the commercial products use (you may want to check it in the product information). However, it is NOT guaranteed that everyone has the same beneficial effect.

Dosage and frequency

Research has not indicated the best dosage and frequency of consuming probiotics. If you choose to try probiotic supplements, take them according to the products’ instructions. If you choose the natural way, there is no definite method, but you can try eating every day for at least 2 weeks. Probiotics are not drugs or antibiotics that may exert an immediate effect on the intestinal microflora. It takes time to shape the microflora.

Adverse Effects

Most probiotic supplements are designed for the general healthy population. Lactobacillus found in fermented food is considered safe for the body. For patients with immunosuppressive conditions, however, they should seek medical advice first before consuming any probiotic foods as their microflora is more vulnerable than others.

To understand the connection between eczema, leaky gut and probiotics, click the button!


References

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  • Ciobârcă, D., Cătoi, A. F., Copăescu, C., Miere, D., & Crișan, G. (2020). Bariatric surgery in obesity: effects on gut microbiota and micronutrient status. Nutrients, 12(1), 235.
  • Goldenberg, J. Z., Yap, C., Lytvyn, L., Lo, C. K. F., Beardsley, J., Mertz, D., & Johnston, B. C. (2017). Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile‐associated diarrhea in adults and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12).
  • Guarner, F., Sanders M. E., Eliakim R., Fedorak R., Gangl A., Garisch J., Kaufmann P., Karakan T., Khan A. G., Kim N., Paula J. A. D., Ramakrishna B., Shanahan F., Szajewska H., Thomson A., & Mair A. L. (2017). Probiotics and prebiotics. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines. 1-35.
  • Morrison, D. J., & Preston, T. (2016). Formation of short chain fatty acids by the gut microbiota and their impact on human metabolism. Gut microbes, 7(3), 189-200.
  • Ouwehand, A. C., Invernici, M. M., Furlaneto, F. A., & Messora, M. R. (2018). Effectiveness of multi-strain versus single-strain probiotics: current status and recommendations for the future. Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 52, S35-S40.
  • Szajewska, H., & Horvath, A. (2018). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the primary prevention of eczema in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 10(9), 1319.
  • Zimmermann, P., Messina, N., Mohn, W. W., Finlay, B. B., & Curtis, N. (2019). Association between the intestinal microbiota and allergic sensitization, eczema, and asthma: a systematic review. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 143(2), 467-485.

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