Probiotics Linked to Reduced Risk of Allergies, Psoriasis, Colitis, Periodontal Disease and More
By Dr. Mercola
Most people, including many physicians, do not realise that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to achieve optimal health. The root of many health problems is related to an imbalance of intestinal bacteria, and this foundation of good health is laid even while in utero.
Without a well-functioning gastrointestinal (GI) tract, a new-born baby will be more vulnerable to pathogens, allergens, and a number of immune-related diseases, so getting an infant’s gut up and running efficiently is crucial. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant would be wise to address their own gut health as early as possible to give their child the best start possible in this regard. That said, it’s never too late to address your or your child’s gut, and most people would likely benefit from doing so.
The bacteria located in your GI tract play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. Friendly bacteria even train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.
But probiotics perform such a wide variety of functions, they’re really critical regardless of what ails you. And because adding probiotics to your diet is so easy, by way of cultured foods and/or supplements, it’s a step I highly encourage you to take.
How To Reduce Your Child’s Risk of Allergies
Babies gets their first “inoculation” of gut flora from their mother’s birth canal during childbirth. If the flora is abnormal, the baby’s flora will also be abnormal; whatever organisms live in the mother’s vagina end up coating the baby’s body and lining his or her intestinal tract. According to a recent analysis of previous clinical trials, women who take probiotics—i.e. healthy bacteria—during pregnancy reduce their child’s risk of developing allergies. Unfriendly flora can also predispose babies to Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), of which allergies are just one potential outcome. Other health problems associated with GAPS include autism, learning disabilities, and a number of other psychological, neurological, digestive, and immunological, problems.
As reported in a Reuters article: “Since allergies and asthma both spring from hypersensitive immune responses, several trials have set out to assess the effect of probiotic supplements on those conditions…
[The] team analyzed the results of 25 trials of supplements given during pregnancy or within the first year of a child’s life. All of the studies compared mothers and babies randomly assigned to take probiotics with those given placebo supplements. Participants were given probiotic doses daily, and in some cases more than daily, for a few months to a year. The trials tracked whether kids went on to test positive for common allergies – such as peanut or pollen allergies…
Babies who were exposed to probiotics in the womb and received supplements after birth had a 12 percent lower risk of allergies in the following months and years than kids in the comparison groups. But allergy risk was not reduced when babies were started on probiotics after birth only.”
How Allergies Are Related to Poor Gut Health
A condition known as “leaky gut” occurs when gaps develop between the cells (enterocytes) that make up the membrane lining your intestinal wall. These tiny gaps allow substances, such as undigested food, bacteria and metabolic wastes that should be confined to your digestive tract to escape into your bloodstream – hence the term leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome can be a contributing factor to allergies, which can help explain why children with healthier gut flora have a reduced risk of developing allergies. Even more significantly, pathogenic microbes in the baby’s digestive tract can damage the integrity of his or her gut wall. This can allow all sorts of toxins and microbes to flood his or her bloodstream, which can then enter his or her brain and disrupt its development.
Breastfeeding helps protect your baby from this abnormal gut flora, which is why breastfeeding is so crucial to your child’s health. No infant formulas can do this.
Leaky gut is also associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, as well as celiac disease. Once the integrity of your intestinal lining is compromised, and there is a flow of toxic substances “leaking out” into your bloodstream, your body experiences significant increases in inflammation.
“Healing and sealing” your gut has been shown to help alleviate allergy symptoms. The key lies in altering your diet to eliminate offending foods, such as grains and processed foods, and introduce healthier ones that will support a proper balance of bacteria in your gut. To restore gut health, and prevent leaky gut from occurring, eating traditionally fermented foods is essential.
Fermented Foods Can Help a Baby Avoid MAJOR Health Problems
Providing abundant probiotics in the form of fermented foods is one of the most powerful ways to restore a baby’s beneficial gut flora.
Raw organic grass-fed yogurt is well tolerated by most infants and children. It’s best to make your own yogurt at home from raw organic milk, and start with a very tiny amount (I get my raw organic milk from www.gazegillorganics.co.uk in bulk and freeze it). Once yogurt is well tolerated, then start introducing kefir. If you have any problems with dairy, you can substitute vegetables fermented with yogurt culture or kefir culture. Avoid commercial yogurt as these are laden with sugars that feed pathogenic bacteria—the exact opposite of what you’re looking for. If you don’t want to make your own, make sure you get a good plain organic yogurt and add your own fruit.
To learn more about introducing fermented foods to your newborn, I recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book, ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’, which has a large recipe section for fermenting your own foods at home and using them to benefit all members of your family. If you have a baby with a severe condition, then the addition of a high-quality probiotic supplement might be needed.
There have been more probiotic studies involving adults than those with children, and even fewer with infants. Unfortunately, precious little research has been devoted to the study of probiotics for neonates, especially extremely low birth weight neonates (ELBW), but scientific studies thus far are very promising. One study in particular, published in BMC Medicine in 2011 by the Department of Neonatal Pediatrics in Nepean Hospital along with several other Australian hospitals, brings us closer to important evidence-based guidelines for the use of probiotics with preterm neonates.
That said, probiotics have been shown to provide a number of benefits to infants and children. For example, daily supplements of probiotic foods may reduce a child’s risk of eczema by 58 percent, according to one study. Another study found that a daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri can help improve colic.
Probiotics Prove Beneficial for Non-Gut Inflammatory Disorders as Well
Other recent studies confirm the importance of your gut health for health problems such as psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome. One such study, published in the journal Gut Microbes, is interesting in that it’s the first study showing how a single probiotic strain can influence your systemic immune system. As reported by Medical News Today:
“The mucosal immune system protects the internal mucosal surfaces of the body such as the gastrointestinal, urogenital and respiratory tracts. These internal surfaces act as a barrier to the outside world for the internal tissues of the body, which are then further protected by the systemic immune system. There is some convincing evidence that probiotics, or gut-friendly bacteria, influence the development and maintenance not only of the microbial balance inside the gut and the mucosal immune system but also the systemic immune response.”
The probiotic used in the study is called Bifidobacterium infantis. Three separate randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials were included in the study, which assessed the effects of the probiotic on one gastrointestinal and two non-gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders.
In related news, another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis improved the efficacy of standard treatment for chronic periodontitis (scaling and root planing) by 53 percent. According to the featured article:
“By the end of the 12-week study 53 per cent fewer sites (surfaces on teeth) were in need of surgery in patients with deep dental pockets and supplemented by Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis , compared to the placebo group… After the intervention period it was also concluded that 67 percent of the patients in the placebo group fell into the high-risk category for disease progression, while the corresponding figure for patients supplemented by Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis was only 27 percent.
Probiotics have also been found to influence the activity of hundreds of genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner. Researchers have documented beneficial probiotic effects in a wide variety of disorders, including:
|Inflammatory bowel disease||Irritable bowel disease||Constipation and diarrhoea|
|Colon cancer||Eradicate H.pylori infection||Vaginal infections|
|Cirrhosis of the liver||Hepatic encephalopathy||Eczema|
|Rheumatoid arthritis||Depression and anxiety||Weakened immune system|